How to load a weight bar

Squats, deadlifts, bench presses – it doesn’t matter what lift you’re doing, they all need to be set up right.

By loading your weight bar correctly, you’ll not only be protecting the equipment, but you’ll also avoid any awkward stares down at the gym. And if you train at home, you’ll want to make sure your gear lasts a long time.

Below, we’ll go through everything you need to know to make sure you can set your weight bar up correctly – both on the rack and on the floor. We’ll also go over how to set up your bar for deadlifts.

Choosing the right weight plate

When setting up your bar, first you’ll need to choose the right type of weight plates.

If you’re using a power cage or a squat rack, it’s most likely that you’ll be using an M3 7ft 20kg Olympic Barbell. These are Olympic sized bars and take weights with a 2” diameter.

If you’re using a smaller, standard sized bar, you’ll need 1” weight plates.

Getting the order right

With the bar on the rack, slide on the heaviest weights first. You need to do this to make sure the weight is distributed correctly and that you don’t put too much stress on the bar.

For example, if you’re putting two 10kg weight plates onto one end of the bar, but one weight plate is larger than the other (if it’s a different type) then always but the larger plate on the inside.

When loading your barbell for rack use only, the type of weight plates you use e.g. bumper plates or cast iron plates, doesn’t matter so much. However, we would always recommend that you stick to the same type of weight plate when loading your bar.

You will also need to use a pair of weight bar collars to secure your weight plates in place.

How to load a barbell for deadlifts

When doing deadlifts, there are a few more things to consider when choosing the right weight plates.

This is because you need to take into account the impact of dropping the bar onto the floor.

For deadlifting, you should always use bumper plates.

Using cast iron plates – even if you’re not dropping them very far – is still a bad idea. Not only is it going to be annoyingly loud every time you put the bar down, you risk breaking the weight plates too.

Although there are different types of bumper plates, all of them have a rubber construction which means they’re able to absorb the impact when dropped.

However, there are a few things you need to ensure before you start deadlifting:

  • The weight plates are in the right order – as mentioned above, your weight plates need to be in the right order. That’s the heaviest weight plate on the inside of the bar.
  • Your bumper plates all have the same diameter – most bumper plates follow IWF standards and have a 45cm diameter. Some, however, do not and may have a different diameter. When deadlifting – or just placing your loaded bar on the floor – you need to make sure your weight plates have the same diameter. If you load your barbell with weight plates of different sizes, the smaller weight plates won’t touch the floor when you put your bar down. This puts more stress on the plates which have the biggest diameter, as they’re supporting more weight than they should when being dropped or simply resting on the floor. You could end up damaging your weight plates or even breaking them.
  • You use the heaviest weights possible – so, instead of picking up four 5kg plates (two on each side), you use two 10kg plates on either side. The heavier the weight, the thicker it is. And the thicker a plate is, the greater its surface area. This means the force going through the weight plates is less concentrated. It also means that heavier weight loads aren’t being supported by the thinner, more fragile weight plates.
  • You use the least flexible bumper plates for lighter loads – as mentioned above, it’s best practice to choose two 10kg weights (for each side) over four 5kg weight plates. But what about lighter loads? If you’re deadlifting with a single 5kg weight plate on either end, you want to choose a sturdier style of bumper plate, to make sure you get that level of durability. This means choosing a 5kg Olympic Black Rubber Bumper Plate over a 5kg Crumb Rubber Bumper Plate.

As above, once your bar is loaded, always use a QR collar to secure your weight plates in place.

Loading a barbell - getting it right pt1
Loading a barbell - getting it right pt2

How to load a barbell on the floor

Loading a barbell on the floor can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before.

The easiest way to do it is by using a Mirafit Full Barbell Jack. However, if you’re at your gym and you don’t have one to hand, there are a few things you can do to make it easier:

  1. With your bar on the floor, raise one side up and pull the first weight plate on. Always place the heaviest – and largest – weights onto your barbell first. It’s important that you use bumper plates for any lifts starting from the floor.
  2. Then slide the second weight plate onto the other side in the same way.
  3. Once you’ve got the first two weight plates on, you can rest one side on top of a Tri Grip Weight Plate. This will help angle your bar up so that you can slide the rest of the weight plates on.
  4. Whenever adding plates or taking them back off again, always pull the weight towards you. This will make it a lot smoother.
  5. Once your bar is loaded, secure your weight plates using a QR collar.

As mentioned above, the safest and easiest way to load your barbell when doing deadlifts is by using a Mirafit Barbell Jack. You can also get a Mini Barbell Jack which is more portable and ideal if you’re lifting lighter loads.

If you’ve recently started incorporating deadlifts in your training and would like to know more, check out our feature on the different types of deadlift here.

And if you have a question about any of our weight plates or bars, send us a message and we’ll be happy to help. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook @MirafitOfficial.