Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

How to Safely Handle the 45s

by Mark Rippetoe | December 29, 2020

handling plates safely barbell training

The bread and butter of barbell training is the 45-pound cast iron plate. They were invented in the United States decades ago, they are not kilos, all black iron gyms have them, and they are the standard by which strength is measured. A “five-plate squat” is 495, a “three-plate bench” is 315, and that's pretty strong. But if you drop them on your feet, you get hurt, maybe pretty bad. So they have to be handled correctly.

A 45-pound plate is 17.5 inches in diameter and 1.25 inches thick. The reasons for these dimensions and the general geometry of the plate were decided a very long time ago, and I was not there so I don't know exactly why. The diameter probably allowed for ground clearance between chest and bar if you dropped a snatch. Dunno. But everybody making plates for the actual training market has adopted these standard dimensions. The handling lip is the most important part of the plate – of the 1.25-inch thickness dimension, the lip is about ¾-inch of that thickness. It permits the plate to be picked up and carried safely. A modern competition set has 25kg plates that are one inch thick with a skinnyass little lip – they are not designed for handling ease, but for getting huge weights on the bar for suit-and-wraps lifters to do quarter squats.

The standard 45-pound handling lip permits the plate to be taken from the plate rack with one hand, flipped into both hands, slid onto the barbell sleeve, removed with both hands, and placed back on the plate rack with one hand – if it's done correctly. Plates are safely handled face-out from the plate rack and face-in onto the bar. This way, four fingers are under the lip, not one thumb. This means the plates on the plate rack are face-out, and the plates on the bar are face-in. Looking at the plates, you can read them on the plate rack, and you can't read them on the bar.

If you handle the plates this way, you're far less likely to drop one, a memorable event in any gym. Don't be remembered this way.

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