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If you’re building a home gym, you may be wondering what kind of plates you should buy. The most common types of plates you’ll find are bumper plates, metal plates, and rubber plates.
So what are the differences between bumper plates, metal plates, and rubber plates? Bumper plates are made out of thick rubber or urethane and can be dropped from overhead. Metal plates are made out of cast iron, steel, or chrome and cannot be dropped. Rubber plates are metal plates that have a thin rubber coating. They may have a hexagonal shape and holes for gripping. They also can’t be dropped.
In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between each type of plate, the pros and cons of each, and which plates may be best for you.
Bumper Plates: Overview
Bumper plates are steel plates surrounded by a thick layer of rubber or urethane. They’re most often used by weightlifters and CrossFitters, who frequently drop the bar from overhead while doing movements such as snatches, clean and jerks, and overhead squats.
Bumper plates bounce when dropped, which helps protect not only the barbells from damage but your floors as well. This makes them a good option for home gyms. However, it’s important to note that any weight can damage a floor if you drop weights on it frequently or the floor isn’t strong enough.
The bounciness of bumper plates is measured on a durometer scale, also called a shore scale. It measures the hardness of different materials. A lower durometer score means more bounce while a higher score means less bounce.
Bumper plates come in four different variations: standard (or training) bumper plates, competition bumper plates, crumb bumper plates, and technique bumper plates.
Standard Bumper Plates
Standard bumper plates, or training bumper plates, are made out of virgin rubber. They have a smooth, glossy finish and are usually available in solid black.
Some brands also sell bumper plates that are made out of urethane. In the past, urethane bumper plates were known to break easily. They’re more durable now, but they often come with a higher price tag.
Most standard bumper plates have durometer measurements of 80-90. They’ll rebound a little when dropped from overhead but won’t bounce so much that the bar will travel far away from you.
Competition Bumper Plates
Competition bumpers are certified by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). They have to meet the exact specifications set by the IWF, including weight, collar size, and diameter. They’re also color-coded, which makes it easier to see how much weight is on the bar.
Unless you’re an elite weightlifter, competition bumpers aren’t necessary. They have more of a dead bounce than standard bumper plates, so they’re not ideal for the majority of lifters who train in their home gyms. They’re also more expensive.
Crumb Bumper Plates
Crumb bumper plates are also called MIL-spec or hi-temp bumper plates. They’re made from recycled rubber and are more durable than standard bumper plates. They have a matte finish and a rough texture.
Crumb bumpers have lower durometer measurements. They’re bouncier and less noisy than standard bumper plates. This makes them a good option for home gyms if you’re lifting on a weak floor or you don’t want to disturb your family members or neighbors.
However, because crumb bumper plates bounce a lot, you’ll need to be careful of the rebound when you drop the bar so you don’t hurt yourself or damage other items in your gym space.
Most crumb bumper plates have a 445mm diameter. This isn’t a big deal for casual lifters. But if you’re a competitive weightlifter and want to train with plates that are more aligned to the IWF standards, you should stick with standard bumper plates or competition bumper plates.
Technique Bumper Plates
Technique bumper plates are only available in 5lbs or 10lbs. They’re ideal for people who are new to the Olympic lifts or weightlifters who are rehabbing injuries and can’t lift a lot of weight.
Technique bumper plates have the same width as heavier bumper plates. Some standard 10lb bumper plates bend when dropped if they’re on the bar by themselves, but you don’t have to worry about that with technique plates.
Metal Plates: Overview
Metal plates are made from cast iron, steel, or chrome, although cast iron and steel are the most popular.
Iron or steel plates are most commonly used in powerlifting and are also called powerlifting discs. Although they are susceptible to rust, they won’t chip or break easily.
Unlike bumper plates, metal plates can’t be dropped from overhead. They’re a lot noisier and more likely to damage your floors since there’s no rubber to absorb the impact.
One drawback of metal plates is that they have a smaller diameter at lower weights. This isn’t a big deal for squats, bench presses, or overhead presses. But for deadlifts, you’ll have to use blocks to get the bar high enough for an ideal hip position.
Rubber Plates: Overview
Even though bumper plates are made out of rubber, there are differences between those and rubber plates. When people talk about rubber plates, they are usually referring to rubber-coated or rubber grip plates.
Rubber plates are steel or cast iron plates that have just a thin rubber or urethane coating around them. Unlike bumper plates, rubber plates can’t be dropped. The coating isn’t thick or absorbent enough to protect floors or barbells from damage.
Many rubber plates are hexagonal or have holes for gripping. I don’t recommend these if you’ll be doing a lot of deadlifts because the hexagon shape makes them annoying to set down after each rep. They’re also not as durable for very heavy lifting.
Rubber plates aren’t ideal for powerlifting due to their smaller diameter. A lot of rubber plates also only have a 1” hole, so they won’t fit on an Olympic-sized barbell. However, these plates are suitable for bodybuilding or general strength training.
Related Article: Deadlifting With Hex Plates: How To Do It Properly
Bumper Plates: Pros, Cons, Who Should Use Them
Because bumper plates are built to withstand the impact of being dropped frequently, they are extremely durable. High-quality bumper plates can last for years even with heavy usage.
Due to the thick rubber that surrounds the inserts, they don’t make as much noise when the bar is dropped. This makes them a good choice for lifters who live with others or who live in an apartment building.
Bumper plates are usually more expensive due to the amount of manufacturing time required to make them.
Can’t Fit As Much Weight on the Bar
Bumper plates are wider than metal plates because of the thick rubber layer surrounding them. Anyone who can lift a lot of weight will have a hard time with bumper plates since their size limits how many you can fit on the bar.
Who Should Buy Bumper Plates?
Whether you’re a recreational or competitive weightlifter, you need bumper plates. You can drop them from overhead, so you won’t have to worry about lowering the bar down gently after snatches or jerks.
If you do your CrossFit workouts at home, you’ll also benefit from bumper plates. You can do high-rep deadlifts, cleans, snatches, jerks, thrusters, and overhead squats without having to set the bar down gently under fatigue.
The bumper plates will also save your floors from significant damage if the bar slips out of your hands or if you have to drop it unexpectedly in the middle of a WOD.
People Lifting Weights in Apartments or on a Second Floor
The thick rubber on bumper plates helps absorb shock and noise. Not only will bumper plates protect your floors, but they’ll also be less noisy if you drop the bar.
If you’re looking for a squat rack that can fit in your apartment, check out my article 7 Best Squat Racks for Small Spaces.
Metal Plates: Pros & Cons
Price (in some cases)
Cast iron plates are more affordable than bumper plates, but steel powerlifting discs usually cost more. However, depending on where you buy them, they’re not that much more expensive per pound than bumper plates.
Metal plates are built to last, especially if you don’t drop them from overhead.
Listed Weights May Be Inaccurate
This is more likely to be an issue with low-quality cast iron plates. Machine calibrated cast iron plates or steel powerlifting discs are more precise.
Varying Diameters at Different Weights
If you’re a beginner or rehabbing from an injury and need to do deadlifts at lower weights, you’ll have to use other plates or blocks to get the bar to the proper height for your setup.
More Likely to Rust
Metal plates can rust quickly, especially if they are stored in humid garages or basements. You can still use plates that have rust on them, but it does make them less visually appealing.
Who Should Buy Metal Plates?
Metal plates are best for competitive powerlifters. Bumper plates aren’t used in powerlifting competitions, and it’s beneficial to train with equipment that’s most similar to what you’ll use when you compete. With metal plates, you can also load the bar with more weight.
If you do use metal plates, I recommend building or buying a platform to avoid ruining your floors.
Bodybuilders or Lifters Who Won’t Drop a Loaded Barbell from Overhead
If you’re a bodybuilder or recreational lifter who trains at home, metal plates are a good option. Since it’s less likely that you’ll drop a loaded barbell from overhead or train to the point where you’re frequently failing a lift, you don’t have to worry as much about noise or property damage.
Rubber Plates: Pros & Cons
Even though rubber plates aren’t ideal for powerlifting, CrossFit, or weightlifting, they can be used for a variety of bodybuilding or general strength training exercises. They’re good for beginners, non-competitive lifters, or anyone who likes to lift for general health purposes.
Not IPF Approved
The specifications of rubber plates don’t meet the IPF standards. If you’re a competitive powerlifter, you may want to train with plates that more closely resemble the ones you’ll use in a competition.
Weights May Be Inaccurate
The weights of some cheaper rubber plates may be inaccurate. Some can be off by up to 10%.
Who Should Buy Rubber Plates?
Recreational Lifters or Bodybuilders
Like metal plates, rubber plates are a good option for casual lifters or bodybuilders who won’t be dropping weights from overhead.
Individuals Who Train for General Health Purposes and Don’t Test New Maxes
If you’re a casual lifter and you don’t care about finding new 1RMs, you won’t need the more expensive bumper or metal plates.
Bumper Plates vs. Metal Plates vs. Rubber Plates: 3 Things to Consider
- 1. What kind of exercises you’ll be doing
- 2. Your budget
- 3. Where you’ll be lifting
1. What Kind of Exercises You’ll Be Doing
The first thing to consider when buying plates for your home gym is what exercises you’ll use them for.
If you’re doing mostly squats, bench presses, or bodybuilding movements, you have more flexibility with the type of plate you use. If you’ll be doing cleans, snatches, or you plan on doing CrossFit WODs at home, you should only look at bumper plates.
2. Your Budget
Bumper plates are usually more expensive than metal or rubber plates, but each type of plate is available in a variety of price ranges. How much money you’re willing to spend will determine the quality and durability of your plates.
Regardless of which type of plate you choose, it may be worth it to spend more money upfront on a quality set of plates that will last, rather than having to replace cheaper sets more often.
3. Where You’ll Be Lifting
The location of your home gym will determine what kind of plates are best for you. If you lift in an apartment or on the second floor of your home, you’ll need to be more careful to protect your floors.
And if you have neighbors or share your home with others, you’ll want to be more mindful of how much noise the plates will make when you train.
Can You Combine Bumper Plates with Metal Plates or Rubber Plates?
A question that many people ask when building a home gym is, can bumper plates be used with metal plates or rubber plates?
In general, there’s no harm in combining bumper plates with metal or rubber plates. I do it occasionally in my garage gym, and I’ve yet to damage my barbell, any of my plates, or my floor. But I only do this when I’m lifting at light or moderate percentages and I’m confident I won’t fail a lift. I also never do this when I’m doing a CrossFit WOD.
For movements like bench presses and overhead presses, you can combine bumper plates with metal or rubber plates without any issue. Doing it for squats is okay too, in most cases, but there is a small chance of ruining the bar, plates, or your floor if you don’t have spotter arms and you have to bail.
The collars on your bumper plates can get damaged if you frequently drop a bar from overhead that’s loaded with both bumper plates and metal plates, so it’s not recommended to combine them when doing the Olympic lifts.
In addition to absorbing shock from the floor, the bumper plates also have to absorb shock from the metal plates, which puts more pressure on them and causes them to break down faster.
If you do combine metal and bumper plates, it’s best to not use a 1:1 ratio. So if you have two 25lb bumper plates on each side, you shouldn’t combine them with more than two 25lb metal plates. This will ensure your floors and your equipment are less likely to get damaged.
Related Article: Hex Dumbbells vs Round Dumbbells: Which Are Better?
Bumper Plates vs. Metal Plates vs. Rubber Plates: Product Recommendations
I’ve been using the Rogue HG 2.0 Bumper Plates in my garage gym for about four years, and they are still in excellent shape. They have some scuff marks, but there’s no significant damage that would compromise their performance.
The plates have the standard IWF diameter of 450mm. They’re cut thinner than a lot of other bumper plates, but they’re still wider than iron or rubber plates. This isn’t a big deal for average lifters, but if you’re a competitive lifter who can lift a lot of weight, you may have trouble getting enough weight on the bar.
The Fringe Sport Bumper Plates are comparable to the Rogue HG 2.0 Bumper Plates. They are also made out of virgin rubber, and the 15-55lb plates meet the IWF standard diameter of 450mm.
These bumper plates are about 0.25” – 0.5” thinner than the Rogue bumper plates, so if you can squat or deadlift a lot of weight, these are an excellent option.
The Rogue Calibrated KG Steel Plates are the best plates for competitive powerlifters who train at home. Their weight is accurate to within 10 grams, so you’ll know exactly how much weight you’re lifting.
Due to their thinner cut, you can load up to 700kg on your barbell. This is more than enough for the majority of lifters, whether you’re competitive or not.
The BalanceFrom Cast Iron Olympic Plates are a budget-friendly option for lifters who don’t want to spend the extra money on bumper plates.
For the price, these plates are high-quality and very durable. They’re finished with a black baked enamel finish that helps to prevent rust.
I also like that the weight of these plates is listed in both pounds and kilograms, so you don’t have to manually convert the weight if you prefer one unit over the other.
The Rogue 6-Shooter Urethane Olympic Grip Plates are some of the most accurate rubber plates on the market, with 1% accuracy for the 25-45lb plates and 3% accuracy for 2.5-10lb plates.
The holes make them easy to grip when loading and unloading the bar, and you can also use them for other exercises such as farmer’s walks or Russian twists.
There’s no 15lb plate available, so you may have to use more of the smaller plates depending on how much weight you load on the bar.
The RitFit Olympic Rubber Grip Plates have an iron core and are coated with a glossy black rubber. The handles make them easy to grip when loading or unloading the bar or doing other resistance exercises.
These plates are only available in 2.5, 10, 25, 35, and 45lbs. If you want 15lb or 55lb plates, you’ll need to mix and match them with another brand or type of plate.
For most home gyms, I recommend using bumper plates because they’re designed to absorb shock and are less likely to damage your floors if you drop your weights. There are different variations of bumper plates available, but regular training bumper plates are sufficient for the majority of lifters.
If you’re a competitive powerlifter or you have a platform or strong flooring in your home gym, I recommend metal plates. They’re less expensive than bumper plates, and you can fit more weight on the bar.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.