How to Build a Weightlifting Platform | The Art of Manliness

    Garage gym.

    It’s been exactly a year since I started working out in my garage gym and I love it. going to the gym is just a trip to my garage and I never have to wait for equipment.

    For the past year, I’ve been lifting a piece of 1/4″ rubber mat. served its purpose of providing traction and protecting my garage floor from heavy weights falling (in a controlled manner) to the ground. but I have never been completely satisfied with it. lowering heavy weights to the floor was still incredibly loud on those mats. also, the way i set it up, my squat rack was not anchored to the floor. the only thing keeping it from tipping over when lifting a heavy barbell were two 55-pound protective discs that rested on the rear legs of the rack.

    I had been exploring solutions to these problems for the past few months, and one that came up time and time again was to install the type of weightlifting platform that most strength gyms use. so i texted my friend and trainer matt reynolds, owner of barbell logic online coaching, to ask what that entailed. he replied that it was super easy and pretty cheap, and offered to come to tulsa from his house in springfield, mo to help me build one.

    After a trip to home depot and an hour of work, I had a sharp looking, highly functional weightlifting platform in my garage gym. It offers numerous benefits for my strength training, which I’ll detail below, and I’ve really enjoyed using it.

    For garage gym athletes interested in doing the same, here are step-by-step instructions on how to build your own weightlifting platform.

    the benefits of a lifting platform

    protects your garage floor. If you have a garage gym, this is probably the main reason to build a platform. lowering and dropping weights on a concrete floor covered only with a rubber mat can cause damage. this happened to matt at her first house, where she had a garage gym that was covered only with hard rubber mats. he did heavy barbell and strongman training which involved dropping a lot of heavy weights to the ground. when it was time to move in, he discovered a cement floor riddled with cracks and holes from years of impact. he had to do an expensive and time-consuming concrete repair job.

    a lifting platform eliminates this problem. It has a layer of thick chipboard or plywood and a layer of thick rubber matting between the floor and the plates.

    protects your computer. dropping weight onto a hard floor (even covered with a rubber mat) not only damages you, it can also damage your equipment. The extreme force that occurs when you drop or lower weight onto a concrete floor can damage bumper bars and bumper plates. a platform lift absorbs some of that force, prolonging the use of your home gym equipment.

    makes lifting safer. A platform makes lifting safer in several ways. First, it allows you to easily bolt your rack to a stable surface, ensuring it stays in place during all of your lifts. As mentioned above, prior to my platform, the only thing I had to anchor my squat rack was two 55-pound skid plates that rested on its rear legs. it worked, but my rack was always pretty wobbly when I was doing pullups or repositioning a heavy barbell during squats.

    yes, I could have anchored the shelf to my garage floor, but I didn’t want to drill into it, and anchoring to concrete can be tricky. With a platform, securing your squat rack to a stable surface only requires a few lag screws and you don’t have to drill any holes in your garage floor.

    The other way a tail lift makes lifting safer is that it provides a flat, even, hard surface for you to lift on. with the old mats i was using i would sometimes find lumps under my lifting area because things somehow ended up under the mats. plus, sometimes I had to put the rugs back in place to eliminate the gaps between them. no longer a problem with the tail lift.

    Feels better. A platform not only makes lifting weights safer, it also makes lifting weights feel better. First, the force absorption that a lifting platform provides can make deadlifting a bit more comfortable. try lowering a 475-pound barbell to a concrete floor; even with a controlled throw, he sends a shock through his arms that isn’t very pleasant. a lifting platform reduces that a bit.

    Standing on a platform also feels better than standing on the garage floor. I wouldn’t think it would feel much different than standing on a concrete/carpeted floor, but it feels more even and level. And there’s something special about being a little off the ground!

    makes lifting quieter. One of the downsides to having a garage gym is that it can be terribly noisy when loaded weights hit the ground when you deadlift or perform Olympic lifts. With just a 1/4″ hard rubber mat, every time I lowered a 405 pound barbell during a deadlift, the noise it created could be heard all the way across the house. this was especially a problem when working out early in the morning, as my kids’ rooms are right above the garage and sometimes the sound would wake them up.

    The platform’s thick rubber horse stable mats combined with the wooden base definitely reduce the amount of noise when lifting. it won’t remove all the noise, but it will muffle it.

    it just looks great. I admit it. one of the reasons I wanted a tail lift in my garage is that they look great. the smooth piece of maple plywood with john l. Sullivan stamped on it, framed by the black barn mats, indicates that this is an area where strength is forged. I’ve had the platform in my garage for a few weeks now and I still stop to admire it every time I pass by. fool? maybe. but anything that gives you a psychological boost and helps motivate you to exercise is a good idea in my opinion.

    how to build a lifting platform

    Building a tail lift is relatively inexpensive and ridiculously easy. it cost me $170 and it took me and matt just an hour to build it. below is how to do it. When you’re done, you’ll have an 8′ x 8′ platform.

    note: a lifting platform will raise you two inches off the ground. make sure you have enough space above you to accommodate that. The last thing you want is to put up a platform and find that you don’t have enough height in your garage when your plates go through the ceiling on a ceiling lift.

    update: aom reader robert heffern put together this cad of the project if you want to use it.


    • (4) 4′ x 8′ pieces of 5/8” thick osb/particle board
    • 1 piece of 3/4″ thick smooth maple or oak plywood
    • box of 1 1/4” construction screws
    • (4) 3 1/2″ Lag Screws (used to screw rack to deck; make sure diameter of screw fits holes in rack legs)
    • (8) washers
    • (2) 4′ x 6′ 3/4″ thick horse stall mats (I got mine from tractor supply co.)
    • total material cost: ~$170

      Note: If you don’t have a van to haul your full-size particleboard and plywood pieces, you can rent one at Home Depot (and most other big-box home improvement stores) for $20.


      • electric drill
      • box cutter with many blades
      • chalk line
      • straight edge
      • mounting the platform

        place the first layer of particle board

        Particle Board laying on the Floor.

        Decide where you want your deck to go because once it’s there, it’s hard to move without unpinning the squat rack. Place two pieces of particle board next to each other. make sure there is no space between them.

        place the second layer of particle board

        Particle Board laying on the Floor.

        Lay the second pieces of plywood on top of the first layer in the opposite direction you laid the first pieces. i.e. make it perpendicular to the bottom layer.

        this is how it looks finished:

        Particle Board laying on the Floor.

        Screw the particle board

        Men Screwing Particle Board Together.

        Using your drill, screw the two layers of particle board together. be generous with the screws; the safer, the better. put one in each corner and then a few screws on all sides of your pop-up platform.

        place and screw the particleboard next to the wood

        Man Measuring Plywood.

        It’s time to place the elevation surface! take your piece of plywood and place it right in the middle of the particle board. you should have two feet of particleboard on each side of the plywood (this is where you’ll put the rubber matting). once you have it in place, screw it to the particleboard deck with construction screws.

        measure and cut the first rug

        Man Measuring Mat.

        Take one of your horse’s stall mats and measure and mark a line that is right down the middle lengthwise (the 2′ mark). this will divide the rug so you have two 2′ x 6′ pieces.

        Use a chalk line to draw a straight line on the mat that you will use as a guide for cutting.

        Man Cutting Mat.

        Using your box cutter, cut a score line on the mat along your chalk line. For more straightness when cutting, you can use a straight edge to guide the blade along the chalk line. matt just freestyled it and it came out fine.

        once you make the mark, you will need to raise the mat up on a sawhorse or something similar to a trash can to finish the cut.

        place the first mats and ensure

        Take the freshly cut 2′ x 6′ strips of matting and lay them on each side of the maple plywood, starting at the front of the deck. they should fit snugly into the space where the particleboard is exposed. there will be a rough edge where you made the cut. we laid the rough edges of each piece in front of the maple plywood, so that we had a nice, clean look along the edge of the deck. screw the mats to the particle board below.

        You will be left with two 2′ x 2′ squares of exposed board on each side of the deck. next, we’ll cut rug squares to fit those spaces.

        measure and cut your second rug

        Man setting a Mat.

        good. let’s fill in those exposed 2′ x 2′ particle board squares with some more mat. To do that, we’ll take our second mat from the horse barn and cut it in half like we did the first. that will give us two pieces of 2′ x 6′ mats. remove one of them, we will only work with one.

        Take one of those 2′ x 6′ mats and measure and mark a spot 2′ down from the top. this will create a 2′ x 2′ square. cut it.

        repeat the process again so you have a second 2′ x 2′ square.

        You’re probably thinking “what should I do with this leftover rug?” great question cut it all into 2′ x 2′ squares and put them somewhere in your gym. you can stack some on top of each other and stand on them to perform deficit deadlifts. Or you can create two stacks to mine blocks. boom!

        place the second mat pieces and secure

        Placing and Adjusting the Mats.

        Lay out these mat pieces and screw them to the particle board with construction screws.

        almost done! you just need to screw the squat rack to the platform.

        bolt frame to deck

        Man bolting Rack to the Platform.

        It’s time to bolt the rack to the deck. place your rack near the rear of the lifting platform, on top of the plywood lifting surface. you can put it flush with the back or leave a little space between the back edge and the shelf.

        Once you have the shelf lined up properly, drill a pilot hole for the lag bolts, as shown above.

        Man Tightening the Bolt of the Rack to the Platform.

        once you’ve drilled the pilot holes, screw the lag bolts through the holes in the “feet” of your rack, using a socket wrench. be sure to place two washers between the screw head and the rack. repeat for the other three corners.

        finished product

        Garage GYM.

        look at that. isn’t she a beauty? a platform lift that saves floor space and reduces sound in less than an hour. the maple wood in the middle gives you something solid to stand on, while the mats on the sides provide a cushion for your barbell weights.

        you have function; now it’s time to add a small shape. the barbarian knight flag in the background is already blowing the mood (you can get yours here). but the platform itself needs one last finishing touch.

        the piece de resistance: john l. sullivan logo

        Vinyl logo on Plywood.

        A popular thing for people to do is put a vinyl logo on their tail lift to give it a personal touch. I, of course, put none other than john l. sullivan on mine. getting a vinyl logo is easy. you can upload and order a custom one at quick signs. It costs around $30 and applying the logo is easy.

        Closeup of the vinyl logo on Plywood.

        In case you’re wondering, I haven’t had any issues with the logo peeling off after lifting for a few weeks. matt has a strong reynolds logo on his deck that he’s been putting up for years and it’s still going, well, strong. Also, there is no problem with the logo making the lifting surface slippery.

        before and after

        Garage Gym Before renovation.

        Garage Gym After renovation.

        There you have it. how to build a weight lifting platform for your home garage. I hope you found these instructions useful. i would like to thank matt reynolds for making the trip to tulsa from springfield, mo to help me put it together, and his work continues to help me with my profits!

        Until next time, get strong and stay manly.

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