Have you noticed that when someone wipes down a barbell they just used, they never wipe down the plates?
For a fleeting moment I considered wiping down any barbell that I was about to use.
Then I realized that I could catch something from an unwiped plate, so I decided what the heck, I’m not going to bother wiping down bars.
You’ll agree that it’s a lot easier to disinfect a barbell than it is a weight plate.
The bar is suspended on a rack, making it super easy to clean. You just slide your sanitizing rag across it a few times.
But a weight plate?
You’d have to wipe all around its edge, then on both flat sides where hands and fingers could make contact.
It’d be cumbersome: Removing the plates from the bar you just used, setting them on a bench or the floor, and then turning and flipping them about to get all the areas that you touched.
Actually, it’d be best to re-rack the plates first and then disinfect.
This way you wouldn’t risk contaminating them with a virus from your fingertip by handling them after you did all that wiping.
You’d need two rags: One to wipe and one to keep the plate from spinning while it was on a peg.
Imagine doing this if you’re using four, 45-pound plates on each side of a barbell or even more on a floor leg press machine.
Imagine wiping all the plates you’d be using during a workout; that could be a LOT of plates.
There are two options for those who want to disinfect the weight plates during a gym workout.
The first option is to spray the plates with a disinfectant. But this would still be time consuming, because if you truly want to disinfect, you’d have to make sure the spray hit every area where your hands were.
If you’re wanting to disinfect weight plates prior to using them, you’d have to spray the entire plate.
The second option is to wear surgical gloves when handling plates.
However, you’d have to remove them every time you’re ready to do a new exercise.
If you want to add more plates, you’d have to put the gloves back on, then take them off, and so on.
This would require a new pair of gloves each time, because the proper way to remove gloves that could have come in contact with COVID-19 is to carefully peel them off inside out.
There’s no efficacious way to disinfect everything you plan on touching at a gym.
And if you wipe the plates, this is no guarantee that the next person who uses the barbell knows which plates you wiped down.
You may have used, for instance, two 35-pounders. The next person may reach for two 35-pounders — a pair on a different peg that you had not worked off of.
So how do we fix this dilemma?
How about respecting your gym’s rules for masks and social distancing to minimize spreading and contracting an infection?
This includes choosing weightlifting stations with discretion.
I was using the Hammerstrength seated row equipment. Ahead of it was an incline bench press station.
Four pieces of equipment down from that was a second incline bench press station — where nobody was even remotely near.
Yet a man chose the one right by the Hammerstrength equipment I was using. WTF. This is not social distancing; no reason he couldn’t have used the station further from me and around nobody else!
If you’re supposed to wear a face mask the entire time you’re inside the building (save for drinking fluids, changing masks, blowing your nose or taking some much-needed recovery gulps of air while facing a wall corner), then respect that rule and wear the doggone mask.
If this means modifying your workout if you feel suffocated while wearing the mask, then do so.
In short, the rules of wearing a mask and social distancing during workouts are doable.
If everyone employed these practices, there’d be much less risk of becoming infected from handling weight plates or a barbell.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.