Author Topic: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?  (Read 1100 times)

a_scanner_brightly

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DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« on: November 05, 2019, 11:37:42 AM »
I'm building out a home gym and plan to get pretty heavy doing StrongLifts 5x5.  I've been paying a gym a monthly membership fee for the last year to test out resistance training and my life and yup, I think it's going to stick.    So time to build a home gym for sick efficiency gains.

One downside: the price for everything I've found of decent quality seems pretty reasonable, except for plates.  if you've ever priced this out you may have noticed weight plates are surprisingly expensive.  Typically more than $1/pound new.

I don't really mind paying retail for the smaller weights (2.5s, 5s, 10s and 25s) but if you need 4x 45 pounds plates you're easily looking at more than $200 just for those last four.

It's true that watching Craigslist (and FB Marketplace) is a good way to capitalize on consumer suckas whose ambitions are larger than their willpower, but pickings are pretty light right now for failure home gym equipment.

I notice people on the internet on a budget make their heavier plates out of cement for basically under $10.  This is appealing to me, especially because I can use leftover cement to touch up stuff around my property so it's really a win in many ways.

The only downsides I expect are

(1) consistent weights: it's a little harder to get consistent weights on each plate because mixing cement involves some amount of water which evaporates.

(2) I also expect they won't be as durable and will wear away quickly after a year or two of barbell rows and barbell deadlifts.

I think the solution to both of these problems is to just make a large batch of them.   This way I can select the ones that are closest to 45 pounds and also identify some to keep around as spares if the primaries break.  It'll still cost a small fraction of the price of buying them new.

In the meantime while lifting cement plates I can watch Craigslist for deals on relatively indestructable metal ones.

Surely someone here must have tried this.  How did it go for you?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 11:44:47 AM by a_scanner_brightly »

JLee

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2019, 11:54:23 AM »
That sounds like a massive pain in the ass. Are you going to build forms, mix/pour/cure concrete, then grind / polish them to be smooth on the outside, install a metal sleeve so they'll slide nicely on / off a bar, and then make spares for when they inevitably break?  I would craigslist proper plates and call it a day.

a_scanner_brightly

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2019, 01:02:06 PM »
I don't think they need to be polished, and for the forms you can use a large plastic flower pot and stick a short piece of 2" PVC pipe in the middle.    It honestly doesn't seem like that much work.



swashbucklinstache

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2019, 03:31:52 PM »
I'd be moderately more concerned with them breaking over time if you ever drop them or fail a rep. Check online too if they ever crack over time or similar even without a traumatic event, as you wouldn't want that with weight overhead. I've seen some with a hard plastic casing to address some of this but overall I'd say you're probably better off spending $200 on craigslist and not worrying about it - that's only a few months of gym payment anyway.

JLee

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2019, 03:40:44 PM »
I'd be moderately more concerned with them breaking over time if you ever drop them or fail a rep. Check online too if they ever crack over time or similar even without a traumatic event, as you wouldn't want that with weight overhead. I've seen some with a hard plastic casing to address some of this but overall I'd say you're probably better off spending $200 on craigslist and not worrying about it - that's only a few months of gym payment anyway.

You can get them brand new for $200 (Amazon) -- probably much less on the used market.

lthenderson

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 07:09:19 AM »
I've seen some with a hard plastic casing to address some of this

I used to have a set with the hard plastic casing. The casing cracked within about a year and eventually the concrete inside started failing as well so we tossed them.

NorCal

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2019, 09:53:58 AM »
This is WAY outside my realm of expertise, but a few thoughts I had:

1. Sounds like a cool project!  Let us know how it goes.
2. Try putting some type of rebar or metal screen in the forms.  From what I know about concrete, this makes a huge difference in concrete's durability and longevity.
3. I wonder if there's some type of wax or other coating you could put on the concrete after it sets to give some minor protection from drops?  I imagine a little bit of impact protection would make a difference for longevity, although it certainly wouldn't protect it forever.
4. You probably won't have the issues with weight differences that you expect.  Drying concrete actually has nothing to do with evaporation.  It is a chemical reaction. Of course, I haven't done much work with concrete, so this is just a guess.

Cali4en

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2019, 10:41:10 AM »
It sounds like a cool project and I'd be very interested to see how they come out if you end up doing it.  That being said, you might also consider watching the sales if you have a store like Dick's or Academy or such near you, particularly since we are nearing Black Friday.

There are semi-regularly sales for 300 lb sets (2x45, 2x35, 2x25, 2x10, 4x5, 2x2.5, 45 bar, cheap clips) for $150ish.  You can keep the bar as a beater for landmines or such, but you can also flip it fairly easily for $40-$50 on Craigslist unless you are rural.  So you end up with 255 lb of decent plates for around $110 or so.

We did that on two sets and the tolerances on them aren't bad at all.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2019, 01:02:27 PM by Cali4en »

GuitarStv

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2019, 10:42:12 AM »
I'm very into DIYing exercise equipment - built my bench from 2x4s and an old door, built uprights for squatting from 2x4s cemented into buckets of concrete, and built a pull-up bar from a bit of steel pipe and some scrap lumber.  My gut reaction is that this is a bad idea.

Concrete weights will:
- Be too thick, so you won't be able to load the bar as heavily when your weights increase over time (important when you're doing deadlifts)
- Scratch and possibly damage your bar because of it's roughness
- Be likely to crack if they're ever dropped.  Or even put down hard.  This is probably not a safety concern while you're lifting, but if you ever notice a crack in one it would not be safe to continue using them (if there's a crack they could break . . . and a chunk falling off while you're squatting heavy could unbalance you and lead to serious injury).

Steel plates will:
- Be cheap to buy used (50 - 70 cents an lb is common when buying used, and better deals exist)
- Last forever
- Be close to impervious to wear
- Be the weight they're supposed to be
- Be stackable on your bar with other plates (important when you're doing deadlifts)
- Be possible to sell on the used market if you ever need to get rid of them



There's just no upside to building concrete weights.  Other stuff makes a lot of sense to build, but the actual weight plates themselves are already pretty cheap and will be functionally way better than anything you can cobble together out of concrete.

fixie

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2019, 05:08:09 PM »
I had some plate steel water-jet cut for cheap.  You may find somebody where you live.

-fixie

Cali4en

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2019, 06:37:17 PM »
Quote
I had some plate steel water-jet cut for cheap.  You may find somebody where you live.

That's a cool idea.  If you don't mind my asking, how much was it and how did they come out?  Did the shop provide a cut/cad plan for the plates or did you supply the design?  Seems like you could do cool stuff with grips and whatnot with water jet cutting, but maybe not.

BTDretire

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2019, 11:26:37 AM »
I have a local metal scrap yard, that has tons of iron.
If you have one, you may be able to get sheet iron
at a cheap price. I tour mine on occasion just to see what the have.
Actually we have two locally, I tour both.


kenmoremmm

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2019, 03:23:46 PM »
maybe you could go to a countertop place and get some used marble/granite/quarts and cut to fit (octagonal shape). these would have to be much more durable than concrete. and cheap. they have odd sizes that are basically useless to them, so i bet they're free oftentimes. or, find people giving those away on CL.

if actual weight doesn't hit 45lbs (or whatever you want), then drill some holes until you hit target weight.

salty_monk

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2019, 01:09:24 PM »
I'd want some wire mesh or something in it to re-inforce the concrete if I was making these.

ROF Expat

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2019, 08:04:34 AM »
If you are dead broke and cement plates are the only way you can lift, go for it.  And kudos to you for not letting poverty get in the way of getting strong.  If you aren't broke and plan to stick with lifting (and even if you're not), I'd spring for real olympic plates, and even consider getting a pair of 45 lb bumper plates as well. 

You can buy cheap, but perfectly usable CAP barbell 45 lb. plates from Walmart.com for under a dollar a pound with free delivery to your house.  This is a good deal for something that will essentially never break or wear out.  You won't have to carry, mix, and pour cement to make some kind of substitute that probably isn't going to hold up to deadlifting, snatches, and cleans.  Also your home gym won't look like something from the Flintstones.  If you lift for many years, the cost of having the real thing will amortize down to almost nothing.  If you don't lift for many years, you can sell them for pretty close to what you paid. 

What kind of surface are you going to be lifting on?  If you are on a wood platform or rubber platform (as you should be), it wouldn't surprise me if concrete takes chunks out of it at some point.  If it is something harder, you risk breaking your concrete plates.  How accurate do you think you'll be able to make your plates?  It isn't so important that your 45 lb plates weigh exactly 45 lbs, but it is important that they be close in weight from one side to the other.  Lastly, if you are planning on lifting heavy, I think you will find that the extra width and possibly sloppy fit to the bar are going to be a problem.  If you planning on deadlifting over 405 (which can happen very quickly if you are serious about your lifting), you'll have at least four of these hunks of concrete on each side of your bar, and that just doesn't sound like a great idea to me.   

BTW, if you are interested in Stronglifts, you might also want to check out Starting Strength. 

Whatever you do, good luck with your program!  I gave up on gym memberships about 14 years ago to lift heavy at home.  It was the best investment in my own health and sanity that I ever made. 


fixie

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2019, 09:27:53 AM »
Quote
I had some plate steel water-jet cut for cheap.  You may find somebody where you live.

That's a cool idea.  If you don't mind my asking, how much was it and how did they come out?  Did the shop provide a cut/cad plan for the plates or did you supply the design?  Seems like you could do cool stuff with grips and whatnot with water jet cutting, but maybe not.

I often work with local water jet shops for work and they can cut all manner of materials and dimensions.  I supplied the drawings, but the shops I know of use both the CAD software and the programs that create the cut paths, so any good shop will help you with a simple circle with a hole in it.  Usually you pay a price per pound/dimension of material and the tooling fee, so that will vary quite a bit.  When I had the circular plates cut(with a single hole) it was for some heavy sign bases.  It will come out EXACTLY to dimensions(within a few thousandths) called out in the drawings.  You can calculate the weight per plate/material pretty easily.  The rate($)/unit will decrease the more you have cut, so it is difficult  to say what YOU will pay.  I had 3 sign bases cut that were:
16 inch x 3/4 thick mild steel plate @ $12 per plate.  I don't think I had a discount but I DO use this shop quite a bit.  I hope this answered your questions!
-fixie

nereo

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Re: DIY cement Olympic barbell plates?
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2019, 09:41:33 AM »
Agree that concrete is not a very good way to go..

I once worked with someone who was heavily into the crossfit sphere - she used a bunch of truck rotors that she got from a salvage yard.  Solid metal and much cheaper than new plates.

...me though, I'd fall under the "buy it once, buy it for life" in this particular circumstance.  The risks and effort involved with concrete don't seem to weigh out (pun intended) over the longer term.