Can you put a squat rack on CARPET? Yes, BUT..

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When I first started lifting at home I had a basic ‘Everest’ home gym set up in a spare room upstairs. Once my lifts outgrew the equipment I had to decide if I was going to install my squat rack on the carpet in the spare room – or if I was going to migrate to the safety of the concrete-floored garage. I went with the garage – here’s why:

Can you put a squat rack on CARPET? Yes, BUT...

At a glance…

  • Putting your squat rack on carpet is not ideal as it provides a squishy surface to lift on
  • Carpet is also slippery – the rack may move when racking & unpacking squats
  • BUT if you have to keep the carpet you can work around it
  • Try a deadlift platform on top of the carpet (2x18mm plywood layers + 1x 18mm rubber layer) (and under the power rack) for maximum gym-points!
  • Alternatively if you have no other choice, or it is only a temporary thing, then lifting on carpet is better than not lifting at all!
  • Flat foot racks with weight horns to hold spare plates are ideal for putting on carpet – they spread the load out over a bigger footprint and the loaded weight horns prevent the squat rack from sliding around

Should you put your squat rack on a carpet?

No you should not put your power rack directly on a carpet if you can avoid it.

Carpet is soft and spongey (particularly if laid on heavy underlay) and acts as a great insulator of heat. All of these things are GREAT when you are relaxing inside a house, but not so great if you’re trying to exercise.

This is because when using a squat rack we want a solid foot position, and will likely to be chucking off a lot of body heat, sweat and chalk dust when working out.

Unfortunately carpet is therefore the exact OPPOSITE of what we want under a squat rack with its spongey and insulating properties!

BUT putting your rack on the carpet can make sense occasionally…

While a carpet is not an ideal floor type for a home gym it can make sense to use it occasionally:

  1. No choice – one reason to use carpet is if you don’t have a choice. For example if you are in a rented property and the room you are using is already carpeted it is unlikely to be feasible to replace it without incurring a huge cost to lay the new floor and most likely refit the carpet at the end of the lease.
  2. Easier – if you’re starting out with a home gym then don’t get too bogged down in the details or you may never get started! If you have a room that you are putting your squat rack in and it’s carpeted then it won’t hurt too much to get your first few workouts (or even weeks/months!) done with a carpeted area
  3. Temporary – throughout COVID19 many had to turn to temporary home gyms when the commercial spaces were shut. In this situation – or any other where you may lose access to your regular gym for a period of time (e.g. house renovations) it makes sense to work with what you have available. I chucked a simple CF475 rack on some carpet in a spare room when I was painting my garage – the compromised floor was no problem for a week or so and then I was able to revert back to my preferred set up with the squat rack on a concrete floor later
  4. Alternatives are worse – Carpet is not ideal, but it may be better than lifting outside in the rain or not lifting at all. We need to make sure we do not let our quest for perfection get in the way of actually LIFTING 🙂

The downside to putting heavy gym equipment on carpet

So we know:

  1. Carpet is not ideal for putting gym equipment such as power and squat racks on
  2. BUT there are some circumstances when it makes some sense to do it

If you’re thinking of setting up your rack in this way then there are some downsides to consider before going for it:

  1. Be sure on structural integrity of the floor – unless you are rolling out carpet on a concrete garage floor to put your rack on (hint: don’t do this, stick it straight on the concrete if you can) then your carpet may well be inside your house – possibly even upstairs. The difficulty with internal gyms is knowing how well built the floor is – I personally wouldn’t want to drop a 200+kg deadlift upstairs in a relatively modern timber kit based house regardless of carpet covering in case it damaged the floor or downstairs ceiling! If you are confident the structure can take the load, or if you are starting out and using relatively light weights, it may be less of an issue.
  2. Wear and tear – when I’ve had my equipment inside the wear & tear inflicted on the house has been high – far higher than normal use. Wearing gym shoes inside, heavy metal squat racks leaving imprints or grime on the carpet, general dirt and paint flakes from weight plates as they are rolled or moved around can all dilapidate a carpet far faster than you likely expect
  3. Grip & feel underfoot – depending on your carpet it may be slippier under foot than you would like. A dense, short pile carpet is preferable for the lack of give when standing on it, but if you’re shuffling around on it with a weight on your back it can be a little dicey…
  4. Absorbs sweat – unless it is protected your carpet can absorb various… fluids… Spilt drinks, blood sweat and tears can all damage the carpet so you will need to be more careful than you may normally be to clean up after yourself! 

Workarounds and alternatives to lifting on carpet

There are situations where you simply can’t rip up carpet – either someone else doesn’t want you to (significant other, landlord, or other!) or you simply don’t want to commit that to it.

In these situations there are some workarounds or alternatives to consider:

  • Deadlift platform on top of the carpet – Overall this is the best compromise if you want to put your squat rack in a room that is carpeted. Use a couple of layers 18mm thick plywood on top of the carpet and 18mm crumbed rubber mats on top of that to build a lifting platform. This will provide a pretty solid base to lift on and will protect your carpet from some wear & tear. The platform is also thick enough bolt your power rack down to keep it super stable! The downside is it is incredibly awkward to move around, reasonably expensive to build and it will flatten the carpet pile over time. 
  • Horse stall mats (or rubber mats) directly on top of the carpet – heavy duty rubber mats weight a ton and will eliminate most squish from underfoot. Lay these down then pop you squat rack on top of them instead of directly on the carpet. The downside is that they can smell – which can be more annoying when inside the house rather than garage – and they can mark the carpet if it’s a light shade as they are usually filthy and awkward to clean properly.
  • Plastic or EVA mats – you can pick up plastic floor tiles and lay them on top of the carpet before you put your squat rack on it. This adds a firmer base, BUT depending on the thickness and weight of tile the squish of the carpet will still affect your stability
  • Different location in the house – carpet is generally for internal rooms. Consider a garage or garden gym instead to get the benefit of a stable concrete floor under your power rack and feet
  • Join a commercial gym – a pricey option, but if you can’t lift safely or have to make too many compromises you may be better off joining a cheap commercial gym and getting access to their racks
  • If all else fails, rip it up anyway – yep, if you really want a firm base to put your squat rack on then ripping out the carpet and lifting on hard flooring is best!

Squat rack styles that work best

If you want to put your rack directly on to carpet you will want a flat foot rack – that is one which has lower feet that run the full length of the cage. This design typically doesn’t need to be bolted down and it is therefore ideal for laying on top of carpet.

If possible weight storage at the rear of the rack will help for stability. A carpet is quite slippy so racking and unracking weights can move your power rack out of position – by loading a couple of weight horns up you essentially anchor it down with sheer weight.

The downside to this style of cage is that it is more likely to leave imprints in the carpet when (or if?) it’s removed

Conclusion

Lifting on carpet – while less than ideal for stability and grip – is better than not lifting at all. If your only choice is to set up your power rack on top of carpet then go ahead and try it out. You will be able to lift successfully! However if you want to give yourself the BEST set up with the MOST chance of being future proof, try put your power rack on a homemade deadlift platform or directly on to concrete to keep your footing nice and secure – and minimise the wear and tear on your house!

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