Deadlifting with Small Plates
You want to deadlift using small standard plates but the small plates mean the bar is too low to the deadlift. What do you do? You simply place the weights on blocks to bring the bar up to a more standard deadlift height which is one that matches where the bar would be with Olympic plates.
First of all, there is nothing wrong with simply deadlifting with the bar lower but the stress on the lower back is greater and many trainees would lack the mobility to do it properly. And if you plan to make a switch to an Olympic barbell and plates, later on, you don’t want to have to readjust to the new height.
If you are handy with wood you can build blocks to place the weights on. However large phone books work very well. You can use smaller magazines as shims so that each side is of equal height and the bar is level. You may want to use a level to ensure this. The paper has just enough give to keep the plates from rolling around on it but not so much that it’s height changes significantly from one rep to the next.
An Olympic plate is 17 and 3/4 inches (45 cms) in diameter. This places the midpoint of the bar at 8.875 inches (22.5 cms) so just build your blocks or use your phone books to place the mid-point of your standard bar at about nine inches or a tiny bit less and you should be fine.
Keep in mind that even so-called Olympic plates can be a problem in terms of diameter with off-brands (read cheap) sometimes having a diameter of something like 40 cms instead of 45. This will not be much of a problem if you use all the same brand of plates but if you have mixed brands of cheaper plates, which is fine, you may want to measure them to ensure that their diameters match. Unmatched plates, of course, are only a problem if you mix the plates on opposite ends of the bar so that one side sits higher than the other. Just be sure to even things out.
Smaller Olympic Plates
When you first begin to deadlift you may be forced to use lighter weight Olympic plates that are not the same diameter as your 45 pound Olympic plate. Although some facilities have bumper plates that are all the same diameter regardless of weight most gyms and home workout setups will not have this benefit. Again, in this case, you can use the same process as above. It is up to you how exact you want to be in getting the bar to a ‘standard’ height. In a commercial gym, you may not have a lot of choices as to what to place the bars on. Some people suggest using an aerobic stepper, which is fine. But be aware that the gym may frown on your dropping big weights onto their plastic steppers.
Irregular Olympic Plates
While I’m on the subject a high-quality Olympic plate has a tolerance of +/- 2%. That means that the weight of the plate will never vary to more than two percent higher or lower than it is marked as. But cheaper plates can be quite irregular and it is common to find 45-pound plates which weigh 50 pounds! More common are one to two-pound variances. At first, while the weights are low you may not notice an uneven bar but training with an uneven bar over time can become a big problem. So weigh your cheap plates and mark them with their real weights, making sure to always load the bar evenly. You may need to have a way of microloading to even out the weights if yours are very irregular. It’s still cheaper to buy a whole set of nice fractional plates than to buy professional Olympic plates so don’t hesitate. But there are many methods of do-it-yourself microloading as well.
Now, if you train at home need a good sturdy Olympic barbell for deadlifting, to replace the standard bar that you’ve been using, I’d recommend a 7 foot Body Solid Barbell. I have used several Body Solid products for many years, including a barbell, and they are very heavy duty and well built for home use. These types of cheaper bars are fine for any person needing a good barbell for a home gym and for general strength training and powerlifting needs. Should last you many, many years. But for actual Olympic lifting where you might drop the bar from a height (with bumper plates), you’d need a more expensive bar.