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How to Build a Weightlifting Platform
Greg Everett
February 2 2015

About 100 years ago, I posted an article about how to build a lifting platform on a slope. It was something I had to do at the time, so I figured I’d post some instructions while I was at it. Now years later, I’ve been asked more times than I can calculate how to build a platform—I’ve written out instructions in emails and website comments so many times I could have written this article a thousand times over.
First of all, platforms are and have been available to purchase for years from a number of equipment manufacturers. I have yet to see and use one that I would want in my own gym, especially for the exorbitant prices they go for. Building your own platform(s) is pretty easy and far less expensive, and, at least in my opinion, produces a better platform to lift on anyway.
How you build your platform will depend somewhat on where it’s being placed and what else is going on around it. For example, many CrossFit gyms prefer lifting platforms sunk flush into their rubber flooring to keep that space available for multiple uses. This is a good solution in these cases, but it’s not exactly a platform in the conventional sense of the word. The other option is an actual dedicated, raised platform.
Raised Platform
The raised, dedicated lifting platform is the ideal lifting surface if allowable in your gym. Its advantages are better force absorption for dropped weights, meaning less wear and tear on both the equipment and floor underneath, better noise reduction for your stupid neighbors, and it creates a clearly-defined lifting area for the athlete. The disadvantages are the greater cost of materials, time to build, and the fact that it disrupts floor space for other uses.
The traditional lifting platform is 8x8 feet. This is a convenient size because standard sheets of plywood and the like are 4x8 feet, and this is enough space for anything a weightlifter would need to do in training, even with a squat rack on one end of the platform. 
Build the base of the platform with two layers of inexpensive 3/4" or 1/2" plywood—these sheets can be low-grade, as they won’t be seen or lifted on directly; they just need to create a base of support and absorption. Lay two 4x8 sheets side by side along the long edges, with the seam between the two running front to back. Then lay the other two sheets plywood on top perpendicularly (the seam between them running from side to side). Screw these sheets together along all edges and through the middle areas—you can’t use too many screws here. You can glue instead, or glue and screw, but I prefer not to because it prevents disassembly of the platform for moving or repair later. Lots of screws may be a pain to remove later, but you can remove them, and they’ll keep the sheets lying flat against each other.
Next, you need to place your top sheet to create the lifting surface. Many people use an unmodified 4x8 sheet of plywood or MDF here, which will work, but the plates on the bar will be just barely outside the edges. I prefer to trim this top sheet down to 3’6” to add a little more space for the bumpers to land on rubber. Cut if you’re going to, and lay this sheet in the middle of the platform—don’t attach it yet.
I like using ¾” MDF on the top—it’s far less expensive than plywood of the quality you need for this application, and it’s heavy and naturally flat, so there’s less of an issue of it bowing up in the middle. If you use plywood, you need a quality sheet with a perfectly flat, smooth surface on at least one side.
Now we need to add the rubber landing surfaces along each side of the lifting surface. You can buy this rubber from multiple sources—the best are as horse stall mats from ranch supply companies or as rolled rubber sheeting. Buying “fitness” matting is unnecessarily expensive. Buy rubber with a smooth, flat surface at least on one side—I can’t stand platforms with diamond plating patterns on the rubber. It makes the bar bounce unpredictably and hard to get set up in the exact position you want when lifting. Other rough surfaces are hard to clean and get disgusting in short order.
If you’ve trimmed your lifting sheet down to 3’6”, you’ll need to cut two pieces of rubber 27 inches x 8 feet. If you’re leaving the wood 4 feet wide, the rubber will need to be 2x8 feet. This is where additional expense and work comes into play—you can buy rubber in 4-foot widths, which can be cut in half to create your two 2-foot wide pieces if you go with a 4-foot wide lifting surface. If you opt to use a narrower lifting surface, you end up with a leftover piece of rubber 21 inches wide that you can’t use on the platform without having seams. Is it worth it to go narrower? I think so—you can use the extra rubber for other projects, or for on the floor between multiple platforms.
Once you have the rubber cut, lay it on the platform along the outside edges of your lifting surface. Get these three pieces aligned and snugged up tightly against each other, then screw the wooden top sheet down. Again, you can glue it if you don’t even plan on replacing it or moving the platform. Screw along the edges and countersink the screws.
Finally, screw the rubber down—I only screw the corners and a few spots on the outside edges. This is enough to keep it tightly in place, and you then have no screw heads where the bumpers will be dropping, so you won’t damage them.
If you need to increase sound-dampening, you can add a second layer of rubber (and an equally thick wooden layer under the top sheet to keep the lifting surface flat). This rubber can be underlayment, which is less expensive and more absorptive. Keep in mind that this will reduce the noise somewhat, but dropping heavy weights will be loud no matter what you do if the lifting surface is stable and hard as it should be.
Flush Platform
Building a flush platform is very simple, but depending on how you do it, it can be easy or a nightmare. Its advantages are its simplicity, lower cost and the ability to use the space in multiple ways mentioned above. Its disadvantages are limited force absorption and protection of the underlying floor, less noise reduction, and no clearly defined lifting area to keep lifters contained.
First, decide what dimensions you want for the actual wooden lifting area. Often these are somewhat smaller than a traditional platform—for example, 4x6 feet. Buy a sheet of wood that’s the same thickness as your rubber flooring. Remember, for this to work well and be safe, these layers have to be identical in height—you don’t want a raised edge that toes and heels can catch on.  If you’re using plywood, you’ll need to shell out good money for a quality sheet that has a smooth, consistent surface and won’t warp easily. MDF is another option, which is convenient because it’s heavy and naturally very flat, as well as considerably less expensive than quality plywood.
Cut the wood to the desired dimensions and lay it on the floor where you want to sink it. Once you have it perfectly positioned, trace its edges carefully with a pencil, or if you’re brave, you can score the rubber immediately with a utility knife. In the latter case, be careful and be sure that you’re scoring in immediate proximity of the edge.
Pull off the wood and finish cutting the rubber. I recommend trying to angle the cuts slightly inward/downward—that is, the bottom of the rubber should be cut very slightly wider than the top. This will allow the wood sheet to fit in tightly along the top edges but slide in all the way easily and not cause the rubber to bunch.
The wood should be affixed to the floor in some way to prevent its shifting. I have made a flush platform in one gym in which the wood was not attached to the floor and worked fine, but it was based on luck of a good piece of wood, perfectly flat, smooth floor, and very precise, tight cuts. I don’t recommend relying on this. You can use some construction adhesive in spots along the edges and through the middle to prevent the wood from bowing up in the center, or if you have the tools and the patience, you can use masonry screws into cement flooring; if you’re going to screw it down, make sure you countersink the screws adequately so the lifting surface is perfectly flat.
Finishing the Wood
I prefer leaving the lifting surface unfinished. As long as it’s kept clean—dusted and very lightly mopped regularly—it will be a solid, non-slippery surface, even with MDF. Varnished surfaces tend to be slippery, so why spend all that time and money and brain cells finishing your platform when it doesn’t work as well anyway? Some people mix very fine sand into the finish to create a slightly rough surface… again, a lot of additional work unnecessarily in my opinion.
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Chris G
February 5 2015

Once again...awesome info!

Curious, how often do you end up replacing the MDF? We are in a relatively humid environment and non-AC facility. Keep going back and forth between just spending a bit extra for a hardwood ply for the lifting surface.
Greg Everett
February 5 2015
Chris -
We have the same MDF on our main 6 platforms that we've had since day 1 about 7 years ago. The edges are chipped, but the surface itself is totally fine. Plus with MDF, if you do have to replace it, it's dirt cheap, unlike good plywood.
Haven W
March 16 2015
Greg - I have 90% of my lifting platforms built. I trimmed the top sheet of MDF down 6" like you recommended and I screwed that down along the front edge and back edge. I'm assuming you didn't lay any screws along the side edges of the MDF where plates will be dropping. As for the rubber sides, did you find 8' long mats or did you cut a 6' mat and then cut a smaller 2' mat? I'm wondering what to do about the seam between the 6' piece and 2' piece. Thanks!
Greg Everett
March 17 2015
Haven -

I use 8' mats so there are no seams. If you use a 6' mat, put the seam toward the back of the platform and just screw the corners. It will be fine, it just won't look as nice.
Mark M
April 7 2015
Hi Greg,

How much width do you recommend having around the platform to avoid hitting things if/when the bar bounces a little bit sideways? I have a garage that's 5mx2.7m, if I put the platform running down the length of the garage a squat rack will go nicely at the end of it but I'm a bit concerned that I might hit the walls!
Greg Everett
April 7 2015
Mark -

Well, if you're a sketchy lifter, more room is better, but really you shouldn't need much or any space outside an 8' wide platform - always guide the bar down rather than just drop it from full height and it won't take strange bounces.
April 23 2015
Would using two layers of horse stall mats reduce the noise/vibration ie. 1 layer plywood + 2 layer stall mats ?
Greg Everett
April 23 2015
Sam -
2 layers of rubber will definitely dampen the noise and impact more - that's discussed in the last paragraph of the raised platform section.
Joe Kolarz
May 22 2015
I used MDF board for my top sheet, problem I have is if I catch some of the MDF board with a weight plate the board dents. Any suggestions ?
Greg Everett
May 22 2015
Joe -

Quit dropping the plates on the wood. It will dent and chip if it's plywood too, but the difference is that it's a lot less expensive to replace a sheet of MDF than good ply.
Joe Kolarz
May 22 2015
Thanks, guess I'll just have to be more careful
Would you suggest not doing dumbbells on the platform then ?
Greg Everett
May 23 2015
Joe -

No, I wouldn't do anything but weightlifting on them.
June 12 2015
Great article -- great information.

How "portable" does a raised platform end up being. Would you be hesitant to, say, lift it up and store it on its side against the wall each night? Would it come apart easily?

Thanks again.
Greg Everett
June 12 2015
Robby -

Not very portable. Very heavy, but also not rigid enough to easily lift and tilt. If you want to be able to do that, I would build a more rigid frame and expect to hate your life every time you wanted to raise and lower it. Rigging it with pulleys to a wall would be the easiest way to go.
September 2 2015
Do you have your platforms directly on the concrete or base flooring?
Directly on concrete floor.

Greg Everett
October 3 2015
Greg thanks for the info! I have hardwoods in the gym on the 2nd floor and was wondering if it would be a good idea to build a lifing platform so I don't screw up my new hardwood floors? The subfloor was built out of engineered web trusses on 16" centers with 1" x 5" pine subfloor, then 3/4" oak hardwood.

I am planning on installing a 3/8" rubber flooring over the entire floor then thinking about building an 8x8 plaform out of 3/4" or 1/2" plywood and then use 3/4" oak flooring that I have left over. What's your thoughts on this?

Probably a good idea. Rubber over the hardwood first is key, then the more layers of wood on the platform you can do, the better.

Greg Everett
January 18 2016
What thickness of inexpensive plywood do you recommend for the base of the platform? Thanks.
The ones we have in the gym now are 1/2" thick.

Steve Pan
April 13 2016
Thanks for your excellent article. I read your comment that you typically use a 1/2" plywood base under your platforms. Is there any advantage to be gained from using thicker pieces of plywood for the base, for example 3/4" or 1" thick?
Sure. More protection of the surface under the platform and very slightly more sound deadening. But in my opinion, not enough of either to warrant the additional expense.

Greg Everett
Brian Johns
June 6 2016
Greg, where did you find 4x8x3/4" rubber mats? They are very elusive and when I do find a retailer they are textured... Could you point me in the right direction?

Ranch supply store in northern CA - but I've looked a couple places recently and haven't found any, so they may be an obsolete size these days (I bought ours 8+ years ago).

Greg Everett
Brian Johns
July 30 2016

A follow up... sells custom size rolls of 1/2" rubber mats, not cheap either, but very high quality
August 26 2016
thanks for sharing the info.
I was wondering why not using MDF for the base layers too?
2 reasons: 1, MDF is very hard, whereas plywood is a bit softer. So for absorbing force for the protection of both the equipment and floor, ply is better. 2, MDF won't hold screws as well as ply, so an all-MDF platform will pull loose more easily with use.

Greg Everett
January 28 2017
You're the man! Can you expand on the technique for actually cutting the rubber? I can't imagine how long it would take to hack away a thick stall mat with a utility knife, especially for outfitting a whole gym. Thanks!
It’s really not that bad. You need to keep a sharp blade in the knife, and you can periodically hit it with some WD40 or even just water to lubricate it a bit. But the real trick is not trying to hack it at all—just make multiple relatively light, smooth passes. It will cut through rubber quite easily if you’re not trying to cut through the whole thing in one pass. Once you have it scored well, you can slide something (like a board) under the cut or just to the side of it, which will spread the cut open slightly and reduce friction on the blade. I’ve put together several gyms over the years with this method—up to 5,000+ square feet of flooring, not just platforms—and it’s fine.

Greg Everett
Larry Yang
March 9 2019
Great resource. When screwing the base layers together, does that require pre-drilling countersinks?
If you use drywall screws, they'll countersink on their own. No need to pre-drill anything.

Greg Everett
April 11 2019
This article is great, thanks!

If I wanted to add an extra layer of rubber (such as underlayment) in addition to my stall mat, would I put it underneath the stall mat or on top? Alternatively, should I just put the underlayment under the whole platform instead (or both)? The primary goal is noise reduction and the platform will be on cement in my garage
Put the underlayment under the stall mats - it will be a rougher surface and much less wear-resistant, so you don't want the weights being dropped directly on it. No need to put it under the whole platform - where you're standing/lifting is not going to experience any big weights dropped on it, so it won't be a source of noise.

Greg Everett
April 13 2019
Thank you for the fast response! One more question: since I'm only going to be making a 6x8 platform and would have extra underlayment, is there any downside to doubling it up? So I'd have a stall mat on top and then two 12mm layers of rubber underlayment underneath (and then the plywood base). I'm trying to minimize noise as much as possible.
The more softer padding you have, the more it will sag and break down over time, so the more you'll end up with low spots where weights have repeatedly landed. It may not be a big enough problem to worry about, but I'd suggest simple things like attempting to drop the bar in somewhat different spots each lift.

Greg Everett
July 28 2019
That is very informative post about How to Build a Weightlifting Platform. Thanks for posting that blog...
Matt H
July 28 2019
I’d like to build a platform for my garage; however I still need to park a car in the same area. If I park a car on the platform every night am I just asking for a warped platform, or could it handle the weight?
If the platform is just plywood/MDF/rubber laid flat on the concrete, it'll be fine - just watch out for dripping fluids from the car.

Greg Everett
Sei K
August 9 2019
WOW! This post has all the information I wanted. Thank you so much for sharing such helpful tips. I'm going to build one for myself
November 9 2019
Hi Greg,
in case of flush platforms (like CF gyms), which thickness would you use for MDF and mats ? are 2 layers of mat possible in this case or rubber floor tiles are needed to have the appropriate thickness for good force absorption ?
Ideally if you're dropping big weights, 3/4" mats. If you're pretty confident the concrete is thick and solid (of you just don't care about possible cracking), you can probably get away with 1/2".

Greg Everett
Adam marcik
December 16 2019
Hi Greg,
Thank you for the great article. I will build an 8x8 platform following your instructions above but I have squat rack with a footprint of 4x4 (Rogue sml 2). I want to put this on the platform. Do you think I will have enough space for the lifts? This is not a power rack so in some sense the empty space is about 6x8 except the legs of the rack will be there too. Thank you in advance..
Adam - Will you be able to move the rack on and off the platform?

Alyssa Sulay
Adam Marcik
December 17 2019
Hi Alyssa,
Unfortunately, moving the platform on/off every day would not be ideal because it is pretty heavy.
January 4 2020
How well do the platforms protect the floor below? i have indian stone in my back and i will be a dead man if i break any :P don't want to build on, drop a weight once and then cry, any advice or experience?

I would do something way more extensive if you have to absolutely ensure no damage to the floor underneath. If you have well-layed, high-strength concrete, you're fine... anything but that, you're risking cracking. The old school way was to build up a tall frame (6" deep or so), build the middle lifting area solid, then the sides fill with carpet scraps or sand, then a sheet of rubber over it. Lifting on it will be a bit odd because the plates will find low spots, but you don't have a lot of options.

Greg Everett
Zachary Robinson
April 26 2020

I’m looking to build a raised platform that I can also secure my rack to. I have a Titan Fitness T-3 and I am unable to bolt directly to the concrete. Would this platform system be sufficient to bolt to or would you recommend a different set up? Thank you
May 7 2020

what type of wood should base layers of plywood be? I have been searching for plywood and there are a lot of different types; birch, pine, beech etc. Which one should i pick? I'm from Europe so the standards might be different here.
May 13 2020
I saw your comment about not using MDF under the platform because it's harder and doesn't hold screws well. I would imagine that fall-a-particleboard is likely a bad choice as well. What about OSB/Strand Board?
Particle board would be the worst - MDF would be better. OSB is not as good as higher quality plywood, but a 3/4" sheet works fine. 1/2" and 5/8" are a bit tougher since you just can't get as much screw penetration. I've used OSB under platforms and it's been mostly OK, but definitely screws pull out here and there.

Greg Everett
Jess Walton
June 15 2020
Very late to this post. But, I live in Ohio which is somewhat humid in the summers, my whole gym platform is made with 3/4 MDF (5 pieces in all) as that was all my local stores were carrying that was decent. I understand this may deteriorate over time, but if I put a dehumidifier in my garage and ensure water doesn't come under the boards, should this platform last me at least a couple years?
Jess - We use MDF boards for our platforms in my gym in Oklahoma and they have lasted us a few years so far.

Alyssa Sulay
July 12 2020
Do not use drywall screws. Unlike wood or deck screws they aren't designed to withstand the load or forces at play here and will snap and break quite easily by comparison.
July 31 2020
For a garage with some cracks in the concrete, close neighbors, and a goal of flush platforms, would it be appropriate to lay down a base layer of stall mats, then a second layer of mats with MDF or plywood inserted? The dropping area would have two mats, and the wood would end up with one mat underneath. Or am I just buying extra mats for no measurable benefit?
Marty T
September 1 2020
Greg, i cant seem to find 12 - 19mm (sorry Aussie measurements) would 3mm be ok for the base?
3 mm won't do anything and you'd be unable to attach anything to it unless using all adhesive. You'd need to layer a good 8 3mm sheets to get something solid (that would be about 1").

Greg Everett
October 14 2020
Greg, will this platform provide enough protection for tile flooring? I would be using a double layer of stall mats as suggested in the article.

Also, would using oak for the center lifting surface be a bad idea?

Thank you
It will protect a well built concrete floor pretty well, but the floor will take a serious pounding. I would definitely not trust it if it's critical you get zero cracking. If you have a "real" floor, use crash pads. Oak is fine just don't finish it with anything that makes it slick.

Greg Everett
November 8 2020
How long approximately do you curses it taking to make this platform? Thank you!
Teresa - It really depends - it could be a little time consuming, but once you have all the wood and mats cut it shouldn't take too long to put together. It's really prepping the materials that can take a bit.

Alyssa Sulay
November 18 2020
Hi - wondering if you’ve seen anyone build two 4’x8’ platforms and put them in a line to create the 8’x8’. Working with limited garage space and would like the option of moving part of the platform regularly to accommodate non-lifting floor exercises.
The issues are the platforms sliding apart in something like a split jerk, or catching a toe or heel on the seam. In either case, you're looking at potential for injury. So if you can figure out a way to prevent those, it would be fine.

Greg Everett
Huw Ohri
April 21 2021
Hi Greg, have you seen something similar with a power rack bolted down to one end? I wanted to do this to avoid bolting my rack down to the floor.
Nitya Puzari
May 17 2021
Does 12 mm plyboard will be good?
Sal M
October 28 2021
Hey everyone! Great information here, I am a competing powerlifter and this is a big need for the sport. I did find an easy way to get my flooring
Their lead times are great! 4 weeks?!
Razan Atari
December 13 2023

Thanks for such a helpful article.

I’m working on building a couple of platforms for my gym right now, but I have a question.

My gym has a lot of plywood but not all of them are cut to 4x8. Some are extra pieces from other things. Let’s say the bottom layer was made with 2 pieces of 4x8 plywood that are both 1/2”. Would it be a problem to construct the second layer with (2) 4x6 and (2) 4x2 pieces of plywood? Basically to try to use up the extra pieces that we have or would that affect the strength of the platform and we should just buy new plywood that is 4x8?