Something you’re likely to come across in any commercial gym is people dropping weights. There are usually signs up specifically saying “do not drop weights” and it’s usually frowned upon to the same degree as not re-racking your weights.
Look at Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting though, and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not only accepted that you can drop the weights but also advised for certain lifts. This is a confusing scenario, especially when training at home.
Can you drop weights? Will it damage them? Why should you drop weights?
In this article, I’ll cover when it might be best to drop weights alongside any damage it might cause and safety precautions that need to be kept in mind.
Can You Drop Weights
Dropping weights is not recommended as it increases the risk of injury and can impact other nearby people during your workout session. It’s not considered safe for anyone in the area because dropped weights increase the risk of injury from falling objects or weight-related trauma.
Most weightlifters know that dropping weights is dangerous and can lead to injury which is why they do so in a controlled environment, but many people still drop weights in their workouts without proper consideration for how, why, or when you should drop weights!
Why You Should Avoid Dropping Weights
There is a divided (or confused) opinion as to why, when, how, or where you should drop weights – a lot of factors I know – because there are times when it may be necessary but also times when it is very much unnecessary!
The primary reasons why you should not drop weights are the risk of damage to equipment and property or the risk of injury to yourself or other gym members. We’ll cover when you should drop weights shortly but if you’re reading this, chances are you’re not a seasoned weightlifter and should not be dropping weights in most situations.
Therefore, the main reasons why you should avoid dropping weights are:
- Risk of injury to yourself or other gym members
- Risk of damage to equipment and nearby machinery
- Don’t have the knowledge or training experience to safely drop a weight
- Risk of damage to the floor if you are not using a suitable lifting platform or drop pad
- It’s considered poor gym etiquette and is considered to be rude by other members
When Should You Drop Weights
Though dropping weights is not recommended, it can be done on flooring made of rubber, when using lighter plates, or when training on a dedicated weightlifting platform.
Some weightlifters will drop weights in their workouts, even though it is not recommended, as a way to eliminate the eccentric contraction (lowering phase) of a lift during certain exercises. During certain lifts it’s also safer to drop the weight than it is to try and lower it in a controlled manner.
This example is most notable for heavy overhead lifts where trying to control the weight on the way down can be significantly more dangerous than safely dropping the weight. There’s also an occasion where you can’t safely lower the weight because you fail a lift. During a clean and jerk or snatch, if you fail a lift, you need to be able to drop the weight from a safety perspective.
Not every lift will be successful so this is an incredibly important factor to consider when training in a commercial gym. Even in a home gym, dropping the weight without having pre-planned for it could result in damaged equipment nearby or even injury.
In the case of Crossfit and Olympic lifts, it’s commonplace to drop the lift as it not only helps reduce central nervous fatigue (eccentric lifts are quick to tax this), but it’s also done in a controlled manner, not for ego.
The video below shows a drop test for a barbell as it’s key requirement for high-quality Olympic barbells but what you won’t see is people doing this with incorrect equipment.
Is It Rude to Drop Weights
It’s not considered safe for anyone in the area when dropping weights as it increases the risk of injury from falling objects or weight-related trauma. For an average gym-goer, dropping the weight is usually done in an uncontrolled manner which can lead to the weights bouncing away in any direction.
It’s likely that those nearby are at risk when dropping weights as you have no control of the trajectory once a weight has been dropped. It’s also considered poor gym etiquette and quite rude to drop weights in a commercial gym.
Most people will drop weights to satisfy their ego and draw attention to the weight they’ve been lifting but unless you are training in a specific weightlifting gym or on a dedicated weightlifting platform, it’s considered both rude and dangerous to drop weights in a commercial gym.
Can You Drop Iron Weights?
Iron weights can be more damaging to the flooring because they weigh more and cause cracks in the flooring. Dropping iron weights can damage yourself or the people around you if the weight were to slam down onto your foot accidentally. It could also damage any devices or other equipment nearby.
Dropping iron weights should be avoided even on the appropriate flooring as they still may damage anything underneath a pad or rubber floor covering. The risk of these hard, heavy plates injuring you or damaging the environment or people around you is too significant.
The other consideration to keep in mind is that iron plates do not have shock absorption. Bumper plates and Olympic weightlifting plates are designed specifically to be dropped and absorb impact. With iron plates, this is not a factor and you can break both the plate or barbell when doing this.
One thing people do to mitigate this is to combine iron plates with bumper plates but even then, you’re likely to damage the weights and the bar as a result.
Can You Drop Rubber Plates?
Dropping rubber plates is less dangerous than any other type of plate because they will bounce off the flooring. If weightlifters are on rubber floors or using rubber plates, then dropping the weight is less dangerous.
Hence weightlifters should drop weight only if they’re on rubber floors or using rubber plates. Because rubber plates bounce, there is an additional safety concern to keep in mind when dropping them. Be sure you are in an area that isn’t crowded in the case that your rubber plates bounce back up and begin to roll.
As mentioned earlier though, you can also use a drop pad or deadlift platform which absorbs most of the shock and bounce.
Can You Drop Dumbbells?
Dumbbells come in a variety of weights and sizes. Lighter dumbbells can be easily dropped without causing much damage to the flooring underneath (though there is no real reason or benefit to dropping them). Still, heavier dumbells will surely cause a lot of damage to the flooring beneath and may even result in injury.
If you drop dumbells, make sure that they are not too heavy for the surface on which it is dropped, as this will lead to damaging the flooring below or causing other people injuries because of tripping over dumbells.
If your dumbbells have a rubber coating over the plate, they may be less damaging if dropped, but if there is an exposed metal plate, be sure not to drop it unless there is a rubber pad underneath you.
Can You Drop Bumper Plates?
Bumper plates are weight plates, typically made of solid rubber or urethane, with a thickness similar to weightlifting bars. Weightlifters use them in place of traditional metal weight plates because they provide increased protection against injuries for both the lifter and those nearby when dropped from overhead.
Bumper plates are made specifically for Olympic style lifts or exercises where you will intentionally (and in a controlled environment) drop the weight. Therefore, not only can you drop bumper plates but from a safety perspective, these are the only type of plates you should drop.
What Flooring Can You Drop Weights On?
Weightlifters should never drop weight on the ground if they’re not using rubber plates or weightlifting on rubber floors. A better option is to lower weights down slowly and bounce off the flooring before unloading their weight, as this will make it less dangerous for weightlifters and weightlifting friends.