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Building A Lifting Platform on a Slope
Greg Everett

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You want an outdoor weightlifting platform. Maybe indoor space is limited, or maybe you just want to boost testosterone with 20-rep squats in the sun. But for some silly reason, the folks who built your facility were concerned with water drainage and the area in which you want your platform is sloped. Sloped weightlifting platforms, it turns out, don't work well.

I ran into this problem when building a weightlifting platform for NorCal Strength & Conditioning. Overcoming the slope turned out to be pretty simple.

Following is a simple guide to building a weightlifting platform on a slope. If you don't have a slope and just want a platform, simply omit the timber support structure.

You will need:

  • Plywood – (4) 4' x 8' sheets ¾" thick CDX grade
  • MDF – (1) 4' x 8' sheet ¾" thick. Find a quality piece.
  • Timbers – (9-12) 4 x 4 deck pressure treated deck timbers.
  • 2 x 3 – (1) 8' pine.
  • Matting – Horse stall mats ¾" thick. You'll need 2 2'x8' pieces. Typically the mats come in 4' x 6' sections, so you'll have to do some cutting and pasting.
  • Drywall screws - 1 ¼" and 2"
  • Level
  • Drill/Electric screwdriver (if you're not Amish)
  • Circular Saw (if you're not Amish)
  • Water sealer
  • Paint brush

1. Seal the Wood

Get this over with right away because it's the most heinous part. Paint a coat or two of water sealer on the plywood and MDF. Make sure you get the edges and let it dry completely before screwing the sheets together.

2. Figure Out the Slope Particulars

You'll need to determine the slope of your surface before you can cut the timbers. There are elegant mathematical methods of doing this, but if you're like me, you're far too impatient to even consider them. Instead, we'll just use our gear to figure it out.

Lay one of your 4 x 4 timbers longitudinally over the slope. Place the level on it and shim the low end until the timber is level. Measure the gap between the ground and the bottom of the timber at the low end and there's your rise for the 8' run.

3. Mark and Cut the Support Timbers

Because we want water to be able to drain underneath the platform, we need the edge on the high end to be elevated as well as the low end. How much we can elevate it will depend on the slope we're on.

Measure the rise you found at one end of a 4x4 timber. Draw a line from this mark to the opposite corner of the other end of the timber – we now have the slope marked on the side of the timber. Unless your slope is greater than 4" over 8', this will leave some timber to provide our elevation for drainage. (If your slope is greater than 4" over 8', you'll need to use different support timbers)

Cut one of the timbers along the line you've drawn, lay it cut-side-down on your slope, and check its levelness. If it's off, you messed up. Fix your mistake before cutting the remaining timbers.

When all your timbers have been cut, you'll be left with some thinner pieces. We'll use them to add some extra support. Align each with the main timbers so the thicknesses match and mark them where you'll need to cut to get rid of the excess.

4. Build the Support Frame

Lay your cut timbers on your slope where you want your platform positioned because moving the assembly will prove difficult. You can use the pine 2x3 as a straight edge to align the ends of the timbers.

Once the timbers are arranged correctly, screw the 2x3 to the ends of the timbers at the low side of the slope.

Lay the short timbers alongside the main timbers to provide a little extra footing at the points at which the most force will be received.

5. Lay Down the Plywood

Now that we have the timber support frame laid out, lay two of the plywood sheets on top running lengthwise with the slope. Then lay the other two plywood sheets on top in the opposite direction. Square away all the edges and screw the sheets together and to the support timbers.

Note: You can assemble the plywood platform before laying it onto the frame, but be warned that an assembly of 4 sheets of ¾" plywood is a fairly cumbersome item to maneuver.

6. Lay Down the MDF

Lay the sheet of MDF lengthwise down the center of the platform, aligning the ends with the plywood edges with 2' on each side. Screw it down to the plywood.

Note: If you prefer a narrower lifting area, cut the MDF and mats accordingly. My suggestion is cutting the board to 3' 6" wide and the mats to 2' 3" wide each. I use MDF because it's a smooth, hard surface that needs no finishing, and is relatively inexpensive, so it can be replaced when needed without too much of a hit to the wallet.

7. Lay Down the Matting

Measure a 2'x8' section of horse stall matting for each side of the platform. Use a utility knife to make the cuts. Cutting is easiest if you first make a light score along the line you intend to cut, and then continue making light cuts within it. You can also spread the mat around the cut to allow easier blade travel by sliding a length of wood underneath just to one side of the cut.

Lay the matting along the sides of the platform snugly and screw it down.

8. Rejoice

Your platform is done now. Go grab something heavy and get to lifting.


Keep the platform covered with a waterproof tarp when not in use. The wood is sealed, but it's not sealed that well, and particle board does not get along with water.

You may want to replace the particle board occasionally because it will likely chip and/or experience some water damage, replacement is inexpensive and easy to do.

Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, head coach of the national-medalist Catalyst Athletics weightlifting team, publisher of The Performance Menu, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion and masters American record holder in the clean & jerk. Follow him on Facebook here and and sign up for his free newsletter here.

More from Greg Everett

Catalyst Athletics   Performance Menu


ryan 2010-12-30
Can you get away with 1/2" plywood covered with 1/4"?
Greg Everett 2010-12-30
Ryan - On a cement slab, yes. On a structure like this, I wouldn't.
Ben 2011-02-11
Do I need to be careful with the type of water sealer used on the ply board/MDF? I know you have to be careful not to make it slippery.
denis 2011-09-10
hello Greg, i have some problems with English language. Can you make some pictures to the article?
Greg Everett 2011-09-12
Denis -There are photos but they went missing when we rebuilt the site. They will be back up as soon as we can find them.
Great Caesar's Ghost 2012-05-14
The suggestion to use drywall screws for an outdoor project is bad. They're called "drywall" screws for a reason, and there's a reason you don't see much drywall outside. You do however see a lot of decks outside, and they sell these things called "deck screws".
Tom 2013-03-13
How did you make the diagonal cuts on the 4x4's?
Greg Everett 2013-03-13
Handheld circular saw.
Tom 2013-03-15
Thanks for the reply. Seems like a tough cut requiring a pretty large diameter circular saw but then I don't have much experience with these things nor do I have the tools. Any suggestions on how I could get it done?
James Hitch 2013-12-30
Estimated cost?
Will 2014-05-25
Do the 4x4 timbers cover the entire area below the surface or are they spaced out? It's hard to tell without the pics, but if they cover the entire surface that's a lot of 4x4s
Steve Pan 2014-05-26
Will -

They are spaced out but concentrated where the feet to reinfoce the areas that will take force. Under step 4 there are two pictures of the timbers on the bottom.
Will 2014-05-28
Thanks Steve. I'm planning on doing this for my garage to make it as level as possible. Btw I cannot see the picture for some reason. It shows a little blue box with a "?"
Kenny 2014-06-11
Just an FYI for anyone cutting horse stall mats: Using a jigsaw makes the task about 1000% times easier and faster.
Nick 2015-01-04
Hi Greg,
Thanks for this post (as well as all of your others). I'm looking to build a platform to use indoors and on a flat concrete surface. I assume that the construction you would recommend would be the same, I just wouldn't need the timbers. Do you still use MDF for the lifting surface on your indoor platforms or is there something else you would recommend? I'd prefer not to have to replace it over time...
DL 2015-01-05
So without the slope just start at step 5?
Steve Pan 2015-01-05
DL -

That is correct.
Greg Everett 2015-01-05
Nick -

Yes. I like MDF primarily because it's inexpensive relative to good plywood and it also will lie perfectly flat, which helps. I have always used MDF on the platforms in our gym, the only exception being the 4 newest ones I built for our new location; however, I only used plywood for those because I had to use 1/2" rubber and couldn't get my hands on 1/2" MDF at that time. We've had the same MDF top sheets on the other 6 platforms, jerk block platform and pulling block platforms for over 6 years without needing to replace them. The edges are chipped of course, but it doesn't affect function at all.
Nick 2015-01-06
Thanks Greg, that is really helpful and probably saved me a bunch of money (unless I decided to go with an oak plywood purely for aesthetics).
Greg Everett 2015-01-08
Nick -
Forgot to add that I prefer also to cut the top sheet to 3' 6" wide rather than the normal 4', as it gives a bit more of a buffer zone for the bumpers to hit rubber. This makes it more costly due to the rubber widths and not being able to use exactly half of a 4x8' sheet of rubber, but worth it in the long run in my opinion.
Brian 2015-01-14
Greg - thanks for posting these plans and your many other articles. I recently moved and started my own gym at home and need a platform, but don't have the space for and 8x8 platform. Any thoughts on scaling it back to 6' in length? Should still be useable right?
Greg Everett 2015-01-15
Brian -

Usable but a bit sketchy with split jerks. Just be smart about missing lifts and don't die trying to save a lift that's going into the wall.
Kevin 2015-01-19
I have planned to use these instructions to build outdoor fitness platforms on a trail for doing sit-ups and push-ups instead of lifting. Do you think this can be used for that? Also we probably won't cover them up in tarps so could you advise some stronger- more durable materials?
Greg Everett 2015-01-21
Kevin -

I would talk to a landscaper - they'll be able to give you much better info on building durable decking on uneven and unstable ground.
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