Whether you are a home gym lifter, train in a Crossfit gym or train at an Olympic weightlifting facility, something that you’ll be familiar with is the dropping of weights.
It’s usually considered bad etiquette to drop weights in a commercial gym but when training certain Olympic lifts (like the snatch or clean & jerk) it can often be a part of the process and it can also be a safety element. When holding 250lbs+ of weight overhead, it’s easier to drop this in a controlled manner than it is to try and lower it under control!
While dropping weights is often accepted in Olympic lifting or Crossfit, that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s both distracting and can cause damage to the floor – especially for any home workout enthusiasts with garage gym flooring that may not be fit for purpose. One solution to this is drop pads.
Drop pads are specially made weightlifting pieces of equipment and in this article, we’ll cover what they are and show you how to use drop pads for weightlifting.
What are Drop Pads in Weightlifting
Barbell or weightlifting drop pads are heavy-duty blocks made from dense foam with a rubber exterior and are used primarily to absorb the impact from a dropped barbell during Olympic weightlifting exercises. The key benefits of drop pads are to reduce noise and prevent damage to gym flooring.
Drop pads are not for everyone and most Olympic weightlifters don’t actually use them but for the average trainer, they can be incredibly useful to not only reduce noise when training at home or in a commercial gym but also to protect your flooring.
Even with dedicated platforms for weightlifting, repeatedly dropping weights (especially heavyweights) over time will start to cause some level of damage. Bumper plates, heavy-duty rubber matting, and a solid structure can all help to reduce/prevent this but drop pads offer a simple solution to a common problem – noise and damage when dropping weights.
The good thing is they are also incredibly easy to use!
How to Use Drop Pads for Weightlifting
Here is a step-by-step guide for setting up your drop pads so you can continue to live without the fear of damaging your floor or causing unnecessary noise again.
Place the Drop Pads
Place the drop pads onto the platform. The drop pads should be placed a little further than shoulder-width distance. Ensure that there is enough space between you and the drop pads to perform your lifts safely. As a quick test, load the barbell with some plates and place it on the ground in front of the drop pads.
This will give you an idea of how your pads should be spaced depending on the weight you are using and where the weight plates are positioned.
Place the Barbell on the Drop Pads
Another method you can use to measure the distance/placement of your drop pads is to place your weightlifting barbell on top of the drop pads. Make sure that the bushing of the barbell is placed in the center of the drop pad and that both sides of the bar are evenly distributed on the drop pad.
This is a quicker strategy but always ensure the bar is lined up from the position that you’ll be standing during the lift.
Load the Bar
Load the bar using your preferred method of loading.
While loading the weights make sure to place the plates in the center of the drop pads to prevent the bar from rolling off the pads and onto the floor.
Take extra care to ensure that all of the weight on the bar is evenly distributed along the drop pad and not hanging off the edge. Failure to do so could affect your lifting performance and potentially lead to injury.
Perform the exercise/lift as you usually would – this article isn’t designed to give techniques or tips on how to perform the exercises. Just know that as long as you’ve spent the time positioning the drop pads and already know how to safely and effectively drop a barbell.
What Lifts Should You Use Drop Pads For?
Drop pads are ideal for a variety of exercises. Anything that could potentially involve dropping the bar and making a lot of noise. Some of these lifts include:
- Cleans/ clean and jerks/ power cleans
- Overhead press/ strict press/ military press
- Block pulls
Drop boxes should not be used for the following exercises:
- Front or back squat
- Bench press or other bench press variations
Why Use Drop Pads?
Drop pads are a vital tool in helping to reduce the noise caused by falling weights. Their foam structure helps to dampen the noise generated by bumper plates or standard plates as they hit the ground.
Research shows that a dropped Olympic barbell can produce a noise reading in excess of 100db. Many factors will be at play here but it’s important to note that these readings are the equivalent of a music concert and as such, it’s easy to see how this could be an issue for noise control with neighbors and your own household (or training facility).
Not only does the layer of foam help to reduce the noise and vibrations made by a falling weight. More importantly, they help prevent damage to the floor of your gym. Drop pads act as a shock absorber, helping to reduce the potential damage caused by a falling weight.
Not only do drop pads help protect against damaging your floor, platform, or even the foundations of your home, they also help to extend the life of your plates.
Dropping weights onto the floor over time can cause chips, scratches, and even cracking. This is especially the case with weightlifting when weights fall from a greater height compared to other forms of weight training.
Through the use of drop pads, you can extend the life of your weight plates by minimizing the amount of wear and tear that occurs during each workout.
Thanks to its ability to reduce noise and damage, drop boxes are a vital part of any CrossFit box or weightlifting gym. However, drop pads are the saving grace of home gyms, allowing people to train at all times of the day without the fear of waking the children, neighbors or causing unwanted damage to the floor of your house.
But it is not just the safety and cost benefits that drop pads bring that make them a great addition to anyone’s home gym. Drop pads can also be used as a training tool.
Thanks to their design, drop pads reduce the range of motion performed during a lift. This reduction in the range of motion can then be utilized to hone a specific part of a lift that you are having difficulty with.
This technique is particularly useful for beginners. Weightlifting is a precision sport that requires a lot of technique work and drills.
Reducing the range of motion can allow beginners to dial in their technique and slowly build up to performing a full lift.
How Much Do Drop Pads Cost?
Drop pads can be an expensive item. Typically drop pads can range from anywhere between $100 to $200, with the price varying based upon the thickness and size of the pad.
While this seems like a high price to pay, trying to think of it from a different perspective. The cost you pay now for a set of drop pads is far cheaper than replacing cracked plates or paying for having your floor repaired or even the foundations repaired.
Can I Make My Own Drop Pads?
Yes. The home gym world is filled with DIY solutions for every possible trouble you could run into. Making your own drop pads is no different. There are plenty of informative and instructional videos that provide step-by-step instructions for building your own drop pads like the one below:
However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a very labor-intensive process and can be as expensive if you do not possess the right tools and materials.
A common issue that many weightlifters face is noise. Dropping heavy weights is very disturbing for other lifters in a commercial gym – especially those that you wouldn’t consider being “hardcore” lifters – however this problem is even worse when training in a residential home/garage gym.
To not interfere with training or progress, a great option you can use are drop pads. Weightlifting drop pads are designed to absorb shock from dropped barbells which means a reduction in noise and also a reduction in damage to gym flooring.
To use drop pads, you simply set them in place on a weightlifting platform or in front of a squat rack and perform your lift in between these drop pads. The key to using a drop pad is to set them up so that they are positioned underneath the barbell bushing/bearing and weight plates when the barbell is loaded.
These could be out of the budget for most people (initially) but the cost of them can be justified by the reduced noise pollution and also the protection to your floor and weight plates when dropping weights during Olympic weightlifting exercises.
It’s more expensive to replace your floor or weight plates than it is to purchase some drop pads so they can surely be justified for this reason…