Bumper plates have never been so popular – and there’s never been a wider range of options.
Today we’re covering the different types of plates out there, some of the key brands, and what you should look for to get the best from your home gym investment!
- Types of Bumper Plates
- Why we don’t recommend buying competition plates
- Bumper Plate Buying Considerations
- Best Bumper Plate Brands & Models
- Rogue Fitness
- Fringe Sport
- Rep Fitness
- Bumper PLate FAQs
- How Much Weight Should I buy?
- Should I Buy a Pair of Weight Plates or a Weight Plate Set?
- Can Bumper Plates be Dropped on Concrete?
- Why are Bumper Plates Out of Stock?
- How to Store Bumper Plates?
- What Do the Different Bumper Plate Colors Mean?
- Are Bumper Plates the Same as Olympic Plates?
- What is IWF Certification?
- Can You Mix Bumper Plates and Steel Plates?
Types of Bumper Plates
Bumper plates come in a few varieties – and they’re set out based on factors like materials, quality, and how closely they’re calibrated. Competition bumper plates are the most exacting, for example, usually being rated to 0.0005% of their total weight.
Competition Bumper Plates
Competition bumper plates are the highest quality. They’re built for perfect weight accuracy at the elite, world level.
There’s no compromise when your plates are Olympic quality. Though, that does bring significant cost: you’re paying for levels of calibration and qualities of material you might not need or benefit from.
Competition plates are amazing, but you might be paying for far more than you need.
Training Bumper Plates
Training plates are the majority of bumper plates for home gyms. They offer a lower standard than competition plates using more economical materials and construction.
There’s a wide range of qualities, designs, materials, and specs for training plates. They’re the majority of what we’ll discuss today.
Technique Bumper Plates
Technique plates are light bumper plates that are designed for beginners to Olympic weightlifting.
These plates are the standard weightlifting diameter (16″) so that they bring the bar to the right place on the shin. This is where you should start if you want to get into snatches and cleans – or anything else that might require dropping from overhead.
Change or Fractional Plates
Fractional or change plates aren’t actually bumper plates. They’re the small, metal plates that are used to make up the smaller jumps between weights.
These plates are small and designed to be used with other, larger bumper plates. That way, they can be made out of metal since they’re not going to contact the floor directly.
Why we don’t recommend buying competition plates
We don’t recommend buying competition plates because they over-deliver for almost everyone.
The cost of competition plates is significantly higher even though most of us aren’t going to see any real benefit to competition plates over training plates.
They’re a considerable expense for a home gym that look amazing but don’t perform any better in everyday use. The profile of the plate also transfers significant force through the floor in a way that lower-density rubbers won’t.
Equally, they’re very hard and don’t tend to bounce, which can cause some real noise and floor-wear problems. If you’ve not got a top-quality platform, competition plates just aren’t a smart purchase.
Bumper Plate Buying Considerations
When you’re shopping for bumper plates, there are a lot of things to consider. Fortunately, we’re spoilt for choice nowadays with more options than ever.
Let’s look at the priorities you should set out for your bumper plates and what separates the amazing from the good from the okay.
Construction & Design
Bumper plates have a range of designs and constructions.
At the top end, we have a 3-tier piece of equipment with a metallic inner ring, a rubber mid, and a plastic hard-wearing outer. This is the construction you get on competition plates. It combines durability with reliability – it won’t chip or wear and is usually closely calibrated to weight specs.
2-tier plates are a little simpler: they are dense rubber with a metal plate inner that is used to add weight. In both the 2- and 3-tier plates, the metal plate fits onto the cuff of the bar to provide a reliable inner.
The final plates are single-tier: a continuous plate of mid-density rubber. These plates tend to be very thick since they’ve not got a metal plate inside them. They also have a metal ring in the inner that contacts the bar, but it doesn’t extend into the plate itself, compromising durability.
There are better and worse examples in each of these designs – but you generally want more tiers. The more, the better durability and the lower the risk of catastrophic decay, chipping, and wear.
Shore Durometer Rating
The shore durometer is a test that tells you how resistant your plates are to compression without deforming or indenting. This matters because it’s a shorthand for their durability when being dropped and contacting a platform or floor.
Bumper plates are designed to be dropped, so this is a huge part of them working. 3-tier plates have the highest Shore rating, with each tier down being a decrease, due to the kinds of materials used.
A higher shore rating will be great if you’re planning on lifting serious weights – heavier weights produce faster drops, which produce harder landings. You need a higher shore rating for 200kg clean and jerks than you do for 100kg or for a 200kg deadlift.
Good plates don’t need a warranty, but it’s always a great assurance of quality – and the peace of mind that your plate provider is covering any risks.
You already know how this works: more warranty cover is better. The more years you’re covered for, the less you have to worry about damage and the better quality it usually ensures.
Rubber Type & Density
The main part of rubber type is density. Higher density rubbers are usually tougher, have higher shore ratings, and produce thinner plates at the same weight.
Consider that buying plates could be a 10-year purchase. You don’t just need them now but will need them to work as you get stronger. And some low-density plates seriously limit your options when you’re working above 180kg, simply because they don’t fit.
Rubber type will also affect the bounce pattern of your plates.
The amount of bounce doesn’t make a huge difference to bumper plates. The only time it really matters is when you’re dealing with a specific type of flooring.
You want more bounce on plates that will be used on a plain floor since the bounce is a good way of preventing excessive wear on the plates or ground. If you’re using a platform, this is less of an issue.
There’s definitely a sweet spot when it comes to bounce: you don’t want a bar bouncing back up at you after a lift, but you’re buying bumper plates for a bit of bounce.
Plate Width & Sizing
Thick plates are a real pain when you’re getting strong. There are bumper plates with low-density foam or rubber composites that are prohibitively thick.
If you’re an average-sized man, you can easily exceed the bar-capacity of around 16″, which can cap out around 180-200kg, depending on how you load.
Whatever your strength levels now, this can rapidly become a problem as you get stronger. Buy for how strong you will realistically be – not how strong you are now, nor how strong you’d like to be.
Best Bumper Plate Brands & Models
Eleiko produces the best bumper plates. If money was no factor, this would be our recommendation due to the history of quality and the plates’ reliable durability.
Eleiko plates from competitions live out their use for decades – because they’re top quality.
However, money is a factor – and Eleiko plates can be expensive. They’re the premium buy, but that comes with a price-tag that just doesn’t make sense for a lot of home gyms. You don’t need to buy top of the line for everything all the time.
IWF training plates are top of the line. 3-tier, perfectly built to comply with competition standards and used in training halls worldwide when competitions come around.
They’re the rolls Royce of plates, but they also have a huge price tag. This is the best kind of plate you should ever buy for a home gym, with legendary durability and quality.
Do we recommend them? Usually not. Most people will never feel the difference but will definitely feel the difference in cost! They’re also not the best for lower-quality platforms, so make sure you’ve got the floor for lower-bounce plates.
Eleiko’s sport training discs are gym quality – they’re well-constructed 2-tier discs with a high-density rubber and a hard-wearing central disc. This provides a reliable, effective design with great durability and wear while maintaining a healthy amount of bounce.
Sport training are the plates we recommend from Eleiko as their upper-mid level offering. They come in both black and colored options, offering you the complete range of aesthetics to taste. The colored plates will cost a premium, but they look fresh enough that you might want to pony up for the classic Eleiko look.
XF is the Eleiko response to the cheaper, low-density bumper plates available on the market. It takes the usual Eleiko approach to quality and tries to make it more appealing to a wider market.
It’s a single-tier plate made out of lower density composites and offered at a much lower price. You’ll get 200kg on a bar with these plates, and they’ll make for a softer landing with better durability than many other lower-density plates.
They’re still more expensive than your standard economy bumper plate. You’re only getting a year warranty, which reflects the lifeline before chips and wear become likely.
Rogue has a great reputation when it comes to bumper plates. You’ll see them everywhere through their popularity with CrossFit, and their plates are good for this purpose. Still, they don’t quite carry the quality and venerable history of Eleiko.
These are hugely popular for their service and blend of quality with value, however. Rogue are among the best US domestic brands and have gained a strong reputation.
Rogue plates also range from competitive to economy, but they skew towards affordability somewhat.
Rogue’s training and training 2.0 series’ are comparable to the Eleiko training plates. They’re a cheaper alternative for those who want all the luster and appeal of quality, at a better price and with better domestic shipping.
They’re comparable across most metrics, offering a good balance of bounce and outer durability. The training 2.0 plate is a harder version, with a focus on actual weightlifting on an appropriate standard platform – not the best for dropping from overhead to a concrete floor.
As before, training plates are the gym standard and may be more expensive than you need for a home gym.
These are a higher quality single-tier plate with consistent high-density rubber. They’re a good balance of economy and quality, bearing some of the training plate’s hallmarks but without the extra tiers and metal inner plate.
The contact against the bar will be lower durability, and the overall material selection is cheaper. The result is a saving of around $5 per kilogram – which is a huge deal when you’re buying a complete set of home gym plates.
HG2 are an economy plate without the durability or thickness issues that tend to face cheaper plates.
Rogue has a few single-tier composite plates on the market, and they offer entry-level experiences.
Hi-temp and mil-spec plates are made of these lower quality materials that are softer and more likely to chip and wear over time. They’re lower quality than the Eleiko XF and run into similar problems of limited weight capacity on a standard Olympic bar.
These offer a slightly lower price than the HG, but only at around $5 per 20kg, which is perhaps not a worthwhile saving for a home gym. The risk of having to replace them might not outweigh the reduced lifespan and limited weight use.
Vulcan is a well-respected economy brand. They offer a lower quality of materials and specs than Eleiko or Werk San. Still, They are an excellent option for home gyms and smaller gym setups.
We like Vulcan because they’re catering to most people. They’ve got the mix of quality and economy that makes them a popular and well-liked brand, with a solid handle on customer care and their economy approach.
These are the top of Vulcan’s line – a 3-tier plate coated in urethane with a high-quality inner.
They’re slightly more expensive than the Rogue plates with a slightly coarser finish. The material quality and durability seem to stand up to the comparison, with a high-spec construction and a standard, low-bounce build.
They’re a good product, but we’re not sure that we’d choose these over the Rogue plates at the price point. The finish is coarser, and they’re around $5-10 more expensive per plate, which we don’t think they justify.
The standard bumper plate is a simple 2-tier system with a lower quality contact on the bar than the urethane bumper.
They’re around the same hardness on the shore meter, with a high-quality forged steel inner. However, the inner ring contacting the bar lacks some of the quality and durability you’d get with a training disc.
It’s a great home gym choice because it’s around $1.25 per kilo cheaper than a rogue training plate, but around $0.75 more expensive than the HG. The quality, construction, and offering of colored plates in this range all make it a great choice if you’re unsold on either entry-level or training plates.
Vulcan’s Alpha plate is like a higher quality version of the low-density economy plates we’ve looked at already – but with 2 major differences:
- They’re not going to offer the same savings, at around $10/kg
- They’re higher quality than your usual econ plate
This makes them a bit confused since they’re at the same price point as the classic bumper plate but a much softer, lighter-wearing plate. The main benefit is the 25% reduction in noise, which we’re pretty sure you’ll get with any soft plate.
They’re better quality than most fleck plates on the market. Still, at the same price as the normal bumpers, they’re not offering anything special. Fraying of the materials is common and is even present in the Vulcan advertising material:
Fringe Sport occupies a similar space in the market to Vulcan, which made it hard to talk about them without covering some of the same ground.
If you’re in the market for bumper plates for your home gym, you might find yourself in the same place, comparing their offerings.
The fringe sport training plates are a great product in their own right – they’re well-constructed and offer the quality you expect from a 3-tier bumper plate by now.
Their wear and quality assurance do seem to be spotty compared to market alternatives we’ve mentioned, though. The product’s wear and durability is good but runs into problems more often than Rogue’s offering or the Vulcan Prime plates.
The finish of the colors delaminates and peels easily, while some rusted plates have slipped through the cracks. These are dealt with well by Fringe and their customer service team, but it’s the kind of QA problem that can make the difference in a market as competitive as this.
They’re also not cheap – even compared to the black and color training bumpers of competitors. It’s a hard sell.
Fringe 2-Tier Bumpers
These are the mid-tier offering, including a 2 tier build with high-density rubber and a metal inner. As with the Vulcan bumper, the inner contact on the bar isn’t going to be as durable since it’s tacked in and not integral, like in their training plates.
These are also more expensive than their competitors, as is the case across the fringe sport line. A pair of 20kg plates is around $12 per kilo, which makes them a competitor to the Vulcan bumper plate, which are actually colored.
They’re good plates with durable builds and a soft, dead-bounce design. They’re just not justifying the mark-up compared to other econ plates – nor are they at the integral quality we’d look for with training plates.
Fringe Economy Bumper Plates
These aren’t the best economy plats we’ve ever seen, by quality, but consistently price at or above their competitors. It’s a difficult sell when the market has many alternatives. The Vulcan ALPHA competitors are around the same price but have a stronger offering and higher density.
Rep Fitness are emerging from their early stages as a white label company into something more defined. Their offerings in bumper plates reflect their success in the past. Their ability to scale up has been a real benefit to the economy of their products.
They don’t have an integral 3-tier plate, so we’re looking at their offerings and how they sit between others on the market.
Rep’s 2-tier plate with a hard-wearing finish and a medium-low bounce rating. They’re made of solid materials and are interesting because they’re priced between an econ and a standard 2-tier plate, which is a great economy offering.
These are perfect if you’re between an econ and 2-tier plate, costing around $6-8 per kg, which is excellent value for bumper plates. They’re thinner than econ plates and thicker than training plates but offer excellent quality for the price.
The 6-12 months warranty is short, but our first-hand experience says these are a pretty good plate and withstand use well.
These are the economy offering from Rep, and they’d be good competitors on the market if it weren’t for the fact that their 2-tier bumper plates are actually cheaper right now.
The hi-temp plates are pretty standard, with a soft bounce and lower sound production. That’s the main reason to purchase these since they’re thicker and lower quality than the bumper plate alternative Rep Fitness brings to the market.
They’re good, but while they’re more expensive than their black 2-tier alternatives, they’re a distant second place!
Bumper PLate FAQs
How Much Weight Should I buy?
That depends on who you are – and how much money you have to spare.
Let’s take a quick look at what counts towards the amount of weight you should buy:
- Training experience: more experience means you’ll need more weight
- Age: being younger will mean more long-term weight demand
- Weight/height: bigger humans get stronger and need more weight
- Sex: men tend to need more weight than women due to faster muscle/strength gain
- Effort: how seriously are you invested in training? It’s a significant investment.
- Workouts: functional fitness requires fewer plates than, say, weightlifting or powerlifting
- Budget: if you can afford it, buy more – a surplus is better than falling short
You should buy the most weight you can justify for the seriousness and need you have in training. We said it above, but it counts here: buy plates based on what you will realistically achieve – not what you lift now or would like to lift.
Should I Buy a Pair of Weight Plates or a Weight Plate Set?
Almost everyone should buy weight plate sets. It will save money in the long-run, and you’re going to struggle to make effective progress if you’ve only got two pairs of weight plates.
The only real exception here is very small people who may get away with 10kg and 15kg plates, but even this limits progression very early on.
Can Bumper Plates be Dropped on Concrete?
It depends on the bumper plates – but usually, the answer is no.
You want to control any lowering onto concrete due to the brittleness of the material. Home concrete floors are not designed for absorbing this kind of force, and even bumper plates don’t eliminate the risk of cracking and fragmenting your floors.
Why are Bumper Plates Out of Stock?
Bumper plates are often out of stock. During 2020-21, they’ve seen significant demand due to lockdowns. Gyms being closed has increased the number of people lifting at home.
This meant demand overwhelmed supply, and many suppliers were selling on pre-order. This has made tracking between supply and demand difficult for months to come.
How to Store Bumper Plates?
Ideally, you’d store bumper plates on a plate rack or pin. You usually want to keep them somewhere cool and dry since moisture can speed up plates’ degradation.
Avoid keeping weight plates anywhere disposed to extremes of temperature. If you have to (e.g., in a garage), make sure to insulate your weights with a blanket or similar.
What Do the Different Bumper Plate Colors Mean?
Bumpers exist for Olympic weightlifting. The colors are coded to their weight so that the weights can be easily figured out at a glance and to make sure they’re even in competition:
- Red: 25kg
- Blue: 20kg
- Yellow: 15kg
- Green: 10kg
- White: 5kg
The fractional plates use this same color coding but are divided by 10 (e.g., red fractional plates are 2.5).
Are Bumper Plates the Same as Olympic Plates?
It depends on the context. “Olympic” refers to the width of the hole in the middle of a plate, which is 2″, as opposed to what is sometimes called “standard” 1″ holes.
Weight plates can be made of anything and technically be “Olympic plates.” However, bumper plates are the only kind of plates that should be used for Olympic weightlifting.
It’s complicated, but it’s all down to the context. Unfamiliar observers might call bumper plates Olympic plates due to their use at the Olympics.
What is IWF Certification?
The IWF is the International Weightlifting Federation. As the people who designed the bumper plate, they have been certifying what kinds of plates can be used in competition and are “up to scratch.”
IWF certification refers to being designed within the tolerances or to the standards of the IWF. This applies to barbells and plates alike.
Can You Mix Bumper Plates and Steel Plates?
There isn’t much of a reason to do this in the first place. But if you want to avoid buying an entire set of bumper plates and you’ve already got some steel ones, there are ways of mixing them up on a single barbell.
You just want to make sure that the steel ones have the same weight but a smaller diameter. That way, the rubber plates will hit the floor first and give you satisfactory noise cancellation and floor protection.
Bumper plates represent a significant investment. They can – and should – last you for years to come. You need to make the choice that fits this timeline and your budget.
Don’t overspend on a competition set if you’re not going to be using it for years to come. Equally, don’t buy plates that aren’t going to stand up to your needs. There are quality options for every price range, and it’s a purchase that will pay off relative to quality in the long-run.
The bumper plates market has never been so good, and we’ve outlined some of the best options for various price points. Bumper plates can be one of the best purchases you ever make – so take the time to get it right!