Even if you’ve done your job in teaching your athletes not to spin and grind your barbells in the cradles of your squat racks, wearing of the bar’s knurling from repeated placement and removal from the rack is inevitable. Some gyms are fortunate enough to have a collection of beater bars that can be used for squatting, allowing the nicer bars to be used exclusively for the classic lifts. Most gyms are not so well equipped and have to use the same bars for just about everything. When you spend as much as $800 on a bar, the idea of the knurling being worn down in exactly the place your lifters are gripping it to snatch is not a pleasant one.
While we do have some beater bars in the gym, our lifters typically squat on the same bars they snatch and clean & jerk with. We are fully equipped with Werksan barbells and squat racks, neither of which are cheap. While I like the Werksan squat racks, I do have one complaint—the cradles are bare metal and not particularly forgiving against the bars. Recently I decided to actually do something about it instead of just cringing every time I watched an athlete rack a bar.
I found some sheet LDPE (low-density polyethylene) that worked perfectly for the application. This is a tough but soft and flexible plastic that is easy to cut and inexpensive. I also found an adhesive that appeared to be appropriate. Below are links to the materials I used:
First I measured the basic size and shape of the squat rack cradle. I had some drywall joint tape that happened to be about the same width as the cradle, so I simply laid it in the cradle’s curves and cut it to length. Using this as a template, I cut the LDPE pieces for all of our racks with a utility knife. If you have racks with flat-bottomed cradles instead of curved ones, this whole process will be much easier—at this point, just cut a piece to cover the bottom of the cradle.
I then sanded one side of the LDPE, making sure to get the edges completely, and sanded the cradle as well, then wiped everything clean to ensure better bonding surfaces.
With the adhesive I used, it’s suggested to apply it to only one surface, so it went on the rack cradles. I ran a bead around the edge first, because it will likely receive a lot of abuse and I don’t want it to start peeling, then filled in the rest. I placed the LDPE in the cradle, first pressing it in place and then shifting it around a bit to ensure good adhesive coverage (the adhesive I used also apparently bonds better with a little initial movement).
With painter’s masking tape, I taped the LDPE tightly in place in the cradle so it would remain in position and in complete contact while drying. I found it easiest to place the first piece of tape in the bottom of the cradle with the most severe curve and then work out to either end from there to ensure the LDPE was flat and tight.
After the adhesive dried for about 24 hours, I removed all the tape and used a utility knife to trim the edges and make them approximately flush with the metal of the cradle, less for appearance than to eliminate edges that could be caught accidentally and used to peel up the plastic.
So far, the plastic has remained bonded tightly and both the barbells and my adrenal glands are very appreciative of the improvement.