WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BUMPER PLATES AND BUMPER PLATE MATERIALS
When outfitting a home gym with versatile and purposeful equipment, look no further than a barbell and weight plates. Since 1928, barbells have remained one of the most effective tools for building muscular and athletic bodies, and they’ll be used for centuries to come.
Despite ongoing innovation and advancements in modern-day fitness equipment, the barbell remains one of the most popular and effective exercise tools for the home gym. Barbells genuinely are the most effective way to lift heavy loads safely. Timeless exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and rows.
The traditional barbell weighs 45 pounds (20kg) without any additional weight. Adding weight to the barbell is done by using weight plates. Weight plates are generally found in two different forms: iron and bumper plates. Both options are an effective way to load a barbell (and therefore challenge) exercises. In most situations, the weight on each side of the barbell will be the same. A small handful of barbell exercises incorporate asymmetric loading to challenge one side of the body more than the other.
Before bumper plates became mainstream, iron weight plates were the most common loading option for barbell training. Iron weight plates generally come in 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35, and 45-pound plate options. Iron is durable and relatively cheap to manufacture and purchase, but it is susceptible to rust and not conducive to dropping on most floor surfaces. The fact is, iron will destroy a floor if dropped. Lifters have damaged many concrete, tile, and wood floors by dropping a loaded barbell.
Over the years, gyms have transitioned away from iron in favor of bumper-style plates.
This article overviews bumper plates (and how they compare to iron), different options to choose from, along with the best bumper plate on the market.
What are bumper plates?
Bumper plates are barbell weight plates molded in a coating designed to withstand impact when dropped. This plate style has been used with Olympic weightlifting athletes for years to allow the barbell to tolerate floor impaction from an overhead position and minimize damage to the plate, barbell, or the floor surface.
The material options (rubber/crumb, urethane, etc.) differ from brand to brand and vary in durability and quality. Bumper plate material options are discussed further in this article, along with advantages and disadvantages for each. The material and manufacturing of bumper plates are critical to longevity and performance. Consumers must understand that not all bumper plates are created equal.
Benefits of bumper plates include:
- Reduce damage to a home gym floor with another layer of protection
- Safer for Olympic lifts
- Resistant to rust when exposed to the elements
- The functionality similar to iron weight plates
- Quieter when dropped
One disadvantage of some bumper weight plates is an increased width due to the outer coating material. If you plan on lifting a lot of weight, this increase will reduce the number of plates that can fit on the bar sleeve while performing big lifts such as squats or deadlifts.
Weight Plate Options
When it comes to adding weight to the barbell, your body does not care what you choose to slide on the bar sleeve. Iron versus bumper plates, your body cannot tell the difference. Gravity is constant, and weight is weight.
However, your floor cares and wallet care. There's something to be said for purchasing and training with quality fitness equipment with improved durability, performance, and functionality, as this separates good products from mediocre products.
Lifting weights is a fantastic way to improve strength and enhance physical well-being, but it's critical to use well-designed equipment to ensure safety. When it comes to barbell training and bumper plates, you have little room for error. Do not cut corners with quality. The equipment must work as advertised and allow you to focus on your training while reducing the chances of equipment failure.
As mentioned earlier in this article, not all bumper plates are created equal. Features of a good bumper plate include:
- Minimal bounce when dropped
- Conservative width-to-weight ratio
- High-quality material selection to improve durability and lifespan
- Snug fit on the sleeve of the barbell
- Spin/glide on the bar sleeve
Iron Weight Plates
Iron weight plates have been used since the creation of the barbell and remain a popular option.
In general, iron weight plates tend to be less expensive than bumper plates. The cost savings comes with a limitations, however. You cannot drop iron weight plates. Well, you can, but it doesn't usually end well. Taking this idea a step further, even if you're not dropping iron weight plates intentionally, the user must be careful while setting iron back down to the floor. Iron and concrete do not play well together. A 10-pound iron weight plate is enough to crack a foundation. Iron weight plates have damaged many commercial and home gym floors.
One advantage that iron does have is a narrow width. You'll be able to add more weight to a barbell using iron weight plates versus bumper plates. But, unless you're an elite-level powerlifter, this is a moot point since it's doubtful you'll max out the weight capacity of a barbell.
Over the years, as manufacturing processes have improved, the cost difference between iron and bumper plates has narrowed to the point that consumers should closely evaluate the small up-charge (and advantages) of purchasing bumper plates.
Crumb Rubber Weight Plates
Crumb rubber bumper plates have a rougher look and a high bounce. This style of bumper plate is ideal for lifting outside or on surfaces other than rubber gym matting. The high balance characteristics of crumb rubber bumper plates can negatively impact barbell collars and the center rings of the bumper plate. In other words, the bouncier the plate, the higher susceptibility there is for the center rings to become loose. Center ring insert separation could damage your barbell and put you at an increased risk for injury.
The risk of having your barbell bounce into walls and other objects is also something to highlight. In a perfect world, people would be as careful as possible while returning the barbell to the floor, but we don't live in an ideal world, and things do happen. Having a barbell rebound off the floor and into the drywall is tragic.
Crumb rubber plates are also incredibly thick, which means the width of the plate could interfere with your ability to add sufficient load to the barbell. The thickness may not be as much of a concern as the bounce, but it's worth highlighting for folks who plan to lift heavier weight.
Another concern with rubber is the growing number of manufacturers selling bumper plates made from cheap or recycled rubber, full of toxins and foul smells. Rubber is not a scentless material, but some manufacturers sell cheap bumper plates with a repulsive and strong odor coming out of the box. Not to mention a very oily surface to the touch. Some even dump crankcase oil into the rubber plates increasing the smell even more.
Urethane Weight Plates
Urethane is a form of rubber with different chemical properties and tends to outlast rubber while standing up to the sunlight and outdoor environments. Urethane and rubber differ concerning soft and hard qualities. Urethane is generally more rigid than rubber and will resist degradation. From a visual standpoint, urethane bumper plates tend to be much more aesthetically pleasing.
One of the most significant advantages of urethane bumper plates is their durability. Being a harder rubber, urethane isn't as bouncy when dropped. The dead bounce characteristic gives lifters peace of mind knowing the barbell will not rebound back into them or any surrounding walls or equipment.
If you've decided to add equipment to your home gym, purchasing higher-quality equipment that can last a lifetime is worth the investment. As the old saying goes, “buy cheap and you may buy twice”. Purchasing quality equipment one time and using it for a lifetime is well worth the investment.
The best bumper plate on the market: Epic Fitness Urethane Weight Plates
Epic Fitness offers the best urethane bumper plates made with the highest quality urethane available. These plates are molded to perfection and constructed for long-term use. Each plate is molded around a single piece of hard chrome with a 140mm insert.
Epic Fitness bumper plates glide on the barbell like butter, so you can focus on technique execution and making gains. The width of the plates is conservative to maximize loading capacity on the bar sleeve.
Epic Fitness premium urethane bumper plates features:
- Minimal bounce on drop: high durometer urethane
- 140mm inner chrome insert for seamless loading on the bar and reduced friction
- 51mm collar opening
- 450mm diameter for plates 10LB+
- 220mm diameter for 5LB plates
- Matte finish
- Plate widths:
- 5LB Plate: 19MM
- 10LB Plate: 20MM
- 25LB Plate: 40MM
- 35LB Plate: 48MM
- 45LB Plate: 53MM
- 55LB Plate: 58MM
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