Dropping a barbell with 20kg plates is acceptable if it’s in the name of your own safety (eg. not getting pummelled by an extremely heavy barbell from overhead) provided it’s dropped onto an appropriate rubber floor 20mm or more thick, even 10kg plates, but never under any circumstance should you drop an empty barbell, or one with only 5kg plates either side.
Why should you not drop an empty barbell? Bumper plates have been designed specifically to absorb impact. This will allow you lower a barbell safely, without fear of damaging the bar, the plates, and ultimately yourself. Barbells, although designed to be incredibly strong and springy, are still made of steel with multiple moving components and do not particularly love the abrupt impact of hitting a floor. Rapid deceleration without rebound and proper energy restitution, has potential to ruin the bearings or bushings inside the sleeves, therefore it is disrespectful to your box owners investment, and it’s also loud and obnoxious! If you can’t perform movements without dropping the barbell let’s face it, you probably shouldn’t be using the barbell at all. Same goes for dropping a bar with only 5kg plates; 5kg plates have a very small surface area making them more prone to splitting when dropped. 5kg Plates should always be used as either a training aid to allow a lifter to start their pull from the correct height (and lower under control), and as a supplementary plate to add weight to a greater stack of plates – at least 2 x 10kg plates on the barbell first and foremost.
Good CrossFit facilities and competitions around the world should enforce a rule of controlling the bar past your shoulder height and only dropping the bar once it has passed waist height. If you can apply that rule to your everyday training your gear will last longer and you’ll never get no-repped in a comp – winning!
Protecting the integrity and longevity of bars is one thing, but dropping bars with 5kg or 10kg bumper plates can also send the barbell flying across the floor (if not dropped evenly) which can be super dangerous to athletes around you. If you’re struggling in a WOD to show control with your bar you should probably consider lowering the weights – your coaches, box owners and fellow athletes will respect you for it.
A couple of other key points to remember during barbell use at your box:
- You should use change plates (also known as incremental plates) to add more weight to your bar, rather than using 2.5kg or 5kg technique plates. Technique plates get destroyed just as quickly when loaded onto the ends of an already heavy barbell as they do being loaded onto a barbell on their own.
- It’s common to graze your shins while keeping the barbell close to your body buuuut it can leave blood and skin on the knurling…gross! If you do bleed or sweat profusely onto a bar, do your mates a favour and clean it after the WOD. Any good box should have cleaning brushes and an appropriate cleaning fluid.
- When spotting someone, particularly in a squat, you should agree before they start what they are going to do if they’re going to fail the lift. It’s best practice to have a person either side at the end of the barbell where you both follow the bar down as they descend, then if they’re going to fail both grab the ends to take SOME of the weight and guide the bar back up with the bar still resting on the athletes back. If you are squatting with spotters either side and you simply bail out from under the bar, your spotters will be left with a heavy weight to hold, which could cause them injury. Stay under the bar while they take part of the weight and guide it back up with them.
Don’t forget, barbells and plates are a fairly pricey investment for any gym or box owner. Quality plates and bars – if used as per warranty instructions – will stand the test of time. If either tool is neglected, not stored properly, not used on appropriate floor, and not treated with respect by athletes, they will fail sooner than they should. It’s in your best interest to respect the gear at your gym – it’s what cool people do.