I get questions all the time about what I use to train for weightlifting. The shoes I wear, the bumpers and bar I use, or what I would recommend for training, or for home gym set up, etc. There are plenty of choices, but in my experience the best options when price and quality are considered are what I try to get.
If you are interested in Olympic lifting, there are only a few things that you MUST have.
Bumpers-Without rubber plates you are going to have a very tough time dropping the weights over and over. Not that the weights or the floors won’t be able to handle it, but the impact of metal weights hitting the bar when dropped will eat through bars quick!.
Bar– A good weightlifting bar will mean you can put more weight on the bar without sacrificing your wrists, shoulders, etc.
Shoes– Weightlifting shoes are more than just nice to have. They give you an essential base of support, and open up your ankles for squatting deeper. Plenty of problems that I see with athletes in the clean and snatch can easily be cleared up simply with some weightlifting shoes.
Platform– While not 100% necessary, they are really nice to have, so I shared with you the way to build a platform in about 10 minutes.
There are plenty of other things that I like to use all the time and keep in my weightlifting bag, but those are all listed as miscellaneous.
Bumpers come in two basic types: Molded, pressed bumpers of rubber, with a small metal ring, or “disc” type with a solid center metal core. Otherwise known as, the kind you have to replace in a couple years or the kind that last forever*. I prefer to lift on disc type bumpers because I am not interested in replacing them every couple years.
*This claim has not been backed by any science.
When it comes to discs you can choose from several brands that are all awesome, Eleiko, Eusaka, Werksan (which I have at the gym), and DHS are all very good brands but each carries a pretty hefty price tag. Each of these brands has gone through the lengthy and expensive process of becoming IWF certified.
In my gym we have had Werksan training bumpers for over 8 years and I have not had to replace 1 single bumper plate, this is 10’s of thousands of drops later, and they have all held up (that’s pretty awesome). I have added some used Eleiko training bumpers as well, and they are definitely awesome, but have heard some problems from other coaches in regards to the construction of the discs and the bolts that hold the discs in place in the center. I have only had those for a bit, so can’t say from experience, but I’ll keep my eye out. For right now, I couldn’t give the Werksan a higher mark.
For my money you cannot beat the quality and construction of Pendlay bumper plates from Muscle Driver. I have a set in my basement gym and they hold up really well. As we find the need for more bumper plates at the gym, these will be the brand that we choose to use.
Olympic weightlifting Bars
This might be the most important piece of the puzzle. I get questions as to whether an Olympic lifting bar is truly necessary or if any normal bar that isn’t bent will work. While it is certainly possible to lift on most straight bars you will be leaving kilos on the platform.
A true Olympic lifting bar is exactly 28mm in diameter (25mm for female lifters), while most bars you find in most gyms are a host of different sizes.
In my mind, there are only
5 4 brands from whom I would buy a bar: Eleiko, Eusaka, DHS, Werksan, and Pendlay. Again the first 4 brands are all awesome and I have lifted on each kind a bunch, but all carry a significant price tag. (EDIT: No more Pendlay as MuscleDriver went out of business. The new Rogue weightlifting bar is also pretty great).
Pendlay has two types that you should be looking at:
This is the bar that we have at the gym and the one my lifters use in training. The bearing bar rotates freely, and has an outstanding knurling. The knurling is the perfect amount of rough, good enough to give you a grip, but it is not a flesh eater. Pendlay nexgen Bushing bar The bushing bar is what I have at home, and while I don’t understand what the hell a bushing vs. a bearing actually is (I do know the bearing allows the bar to rotate more freely). I do know that this bar is legit. It is quite a bit cheaper than the bearing bar, but is more than enough to use to put some serious weight overhead. This it the perfect bar if you want to take your lifts to a little higher level, but not put a ton of money behind it, or if you needed to get quite a few bars at one time. Here are links to the bearing bars: PENDLAY BARS
On the topic of expensive bars, I have lifted with Werksan and Eleiko Bars the most, we have a ton of old eleiko’s that are at the gym, and used to train on werksans. Both are great, and the thing about an expensive bar is that it HOLDS UP. So if you buy one now, it’s likely going to stick around for years to come. My advice then is if you are into weightlifting, buy a good bar now, love it, take care of it, and don’t worry about buying another.
I will go ahead and admit it. I am an Olympic lifting shoe junkie. We have about 15 pairs at the gym that rotate between lifters and I personally have 5 pairs of my own (I wear maybe 3 of them regularly). Some of the shoes that I own are no longer available for purchase (adistar, and adidas ironwork) so I won’t list them here.
These are the shoes that I wear the most often. I wore them at nationals and I will wear them at the American Open this December.
Adidas has been making weightlifting shoes for decades and they know how to get it right. If there is one drawback it is that they only come in one color, a red/orange hybrid, that some people don’t like much.
Nike Romaleos 2
The first iteration of the Romaleos wasn’t a great shoe. They were bulky and made you feel like you were going to fall out of them. The Romaleos 2, however are a really good shoe that feel like almost like equals to the adipower.
Romaleos come in a variety of cool colors, which is a good thing. I own the “Volt” color.
Reebok Oly Lifter
Reebok did a great job with their first try on Olympic lifting shoes. They don’t get as much wear because I like my others so much, but they are perfect for some of the things that the Adidas and Nike shoes are not.
The Reeboks are designed for the crossfit athlete and allow for some pretty free movement in the toebox so that you can pair your snatches with other stuff that is not as much fun (burpees, running, etc). Bonus: You can design them in any color combination.
Rogue Fitness regularly has all 3 of these types of shoes available on their site HERE
You can build or buy a platform, and I chose to do the former in my home gym and I wouldn’t do it any other way going forward.
Building a platform is easy, you don’t need a lot of materials.
5 sheets 4‘x8’, 3/4” plywood (4 lower grade sheets are fine, the top piece should be as nice as you want it to look.
2 sheets 4’x6’, 3/4” horse stall matting
Lay the first two sheets of plywood on the ground with the long sides meeting one another. Lay the next 2 sheets the other direction on top. Secure with screws and/or glue.
Then lay your top sheet down the middle, take a second to center this sheet so that there are exactly 2 feet on either side. Secure this sheet with screws and/or glue.
Split your rubber down the middle length wise with a good utility knife. You will have 4 pieces that are 2 feet wide and 6 feet long. Secure them down on the sides and then cut the final pieces to fill in the small gap you will have at the back edge.
Voila, platform done.
There is debate on whether a belt is necessary in weightlifitng. I choose to wear one when I squat and when I clean and jerk, but not when I snatch. It’s all about preference really and it doesn’t hurt to try one out.
I don’t like much of a belt though. For that reason I wear a Valeo competition VCL belt. This belt is pretty flimsy compared to some of the things you can buy but gives me just enough support on heavy lifts. Keep in mind that in weightlifting competition belts are a maximum of 4″ wide.
It doesn’t hurt that this belt is pretty cheap.
Another DIY project, I make mine from “tubular nylon webbing” that can be found at most outdoor adventure stores. In the climbing section you can usually get this stuff for $1 per foot, and it takes about 3 feet to make 1 pair of straps.
Mine are pictured to the right
Misc: Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are another thing that I don’t leave at home. Even on the road I travel with these. Partly because my old body is well, old. They keep my knees warm and give me just a bit of support in squatting.
For a long time I used the classic Rehband 5mm knee sleeve, but just this summer I switched over to an elite FTS knee sleeve. They come in two kinds, a “heavy” and a “super heavy.” I use the super heavy, but to tell the truth they were super uncomfortable in the first 2 months. So tight that I was dying to get them off between sets. Now that I have had them for 3 or 4 months they have stretched quite a bit and I can wear them almost all the time.
If I were to do it over I would probably just buy the heavy knee sleeves and not have to go through the discomfort of feeling like my legs were falling off. You can check those out HERE
Did I leave anything out that you have to know about? Let me know in the comments below.
Note: I make a small commission on any Amazon links. I provided those links for ease, all of these products are available at different outlets across the web.