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When building a home gym, most people don’t spend much time choosing the correct weight plates.
Sure, you need a good barbell and weight bench when building a home gym, but the weight plates are just as important, if not more so.
A good set of weight plates is one of the best investments you can make, and there’s a wide range of styles and options that work well with different strength training goals. Whether you’re a powerlifter, CrossFitter or simply someone who enjoys lifting heavy stuff, a good set of weight plates is essential for your training.
We’ll share our top picks, tell you which style to look for and help you find the perfect weight plates for your home gym.
If you like your weight plates to include handles for easy loading, the Force USA Olympic Weight Plates are a fantastic option. The handles allow you to easily and safely transport your weights, and you can even use them as standalone weights without a barbell. Standard bumper plates are often very tough to hold in one hand, making them difficult to use for any exercises without a barbell.
There are three handles on each plate, each with a textured surface for better grip and safety. The rubber coating provides a sleek appearance, while protecting against rust and damage from accidental dropping.
The plates range from 2.5 pounds all the way to standard 45 pound plates, so whatever your strength needs may be, you’ll find a plate that works for you.
Purchase Force USA Rubber Coated Olympic Weight Plates
For those who want durable metal plates and don’t need any rubber coating or shock absorption, we recommend the Synergee Standard Metal Plates.
These old-school steel plates have a subtle matte black finish, cleanly marked with easy-to-read font in both pounds and kilograms.
They’re thinner than standard bumper plates, which is great for when you need to load more than four plates per side. They may not have the grip or shock absorption of rubber plates, but this tried-and-true old school design is perfect for anyone who won’t be dropping and slamming their weight plates on the ground.
Purchase Synergee Standard Metal Weight Plates
While most weight plates are going to be close to the claimed weight, they won’t always be perfect. You may find a one to two pound difference on heavier plates, for example.
For competitive lifting, this variance is unacceptable, so calibrated weight plates were created. Calibrated plates are designed to be accurate within 10 grams, and they usually have a very thin design. Competitive lifters often use seriously heavy loads, so the thinner plates allow a standard barbell to be used with far more weight than bumper plates allow.
These calibrated steel plates were specifically designed to meet the needs of competitive powerlifters, and we recommend them for any serious lifters who don’t practice Olympic lifting. Olympic lifts are usually dropped from shoulder height or above and require special plates designed to bounce. Using these steel plates that aren’t designed to bounce could quickly damage the plates and your barbell.
Purchase Titan Fitness Calibrated Steel Weight Plates
If you’ve ever trained in a commercial gym, you’ve probably noticed that lighter plates often have a smaller diameter than heavier ones.
For most exercises this is perfectly fine, but for any lifts that involve the barbell on the ground, this size discrepancy significantly changes the movement. If the bar is several inches lower than it would be with a standard 45-pound plate, that increases the range of motion, which can alter your form and technique in a bad way.
By using bumper plates, you’ll be able to have the same bar height every time, even if you aren’t using 45-pound plates.
The Fringe Sport Bumper plates are made of a high-quality rubber, specifically designed to absorb the shock of dropping a barbell, with minimal bounce. They’ll allow you to perform your favorite Olympic lifts, even if you’re only adding 10 pounds to each side of the bar.
Purchase Fringe Sport Bumper Plates
Weight plates can be expensive, but we know that not everyone has unlimited funds to build a home gym. For those on a budget, the REP Fitness Old School Iron plates are high-quality, stylish and durable enough to last for years in any home gym.
These iron planes are coated with a matte finish to help prevent rust and excess plate damage. The deep lip on each plate provides extra grip to help you safely lift and move your plates.
The lip is only on one side, not both, which makes them a little cheaper, even though they are very high-quality weight plates for the price.
Purchase REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates
Anyone who regularly does CrossFit or any Olympic lifting knows that bumper plates are essential as you’re dropping the bar from above your head over and over. Standard metal plates would damage your home gym’s floor and bend the barbell, so high-quality bumper plates are key to protect your equipment.
The Rogue Echo Plates are built to last, featuring virgin rubber and stainless-steel inserts. Each weight is carefully designed to minimize bounce while absorbing impact, and the weights are within one percent of the claimed weight, which is a high accuracy rating for bumper plates.
They aren’t the cheapest, but Rogue specializes in Olympic lifting, and these are some of the best bumper plates on the market.
Purchase Rogue Fitness
For a denser, extra-sturdy plate, urethane is a solid option. Urethane is a type of rubber, designed to be denser than most common rubber materials. These bumpers use German urethane, designed for maximum durability with a very low bounce.
These are designed to withstand all kinds of dropping and slamming, without bouncing all over the place and causing you to lose control.
The only drawback is that urethane is known to be slippery, making it a good idea to lift with chalk, as sweaty hands can find it tricky to handle these plates.
Purchase American Barbell Pro Bumper Plates
So you’ve decided to upgrade your weight plates, or maybe you’re purchasing your first set… but how do you choose?
Well, the first thing to consider is how you’ll be using them. If you plan on dropping the weights frequently, doing things like Olympic weightlifting, you’ll want to use bumper plates. These are designed to be bouncy and absorb the shock from the ground. If you’re dropping a barbell that doesn’t have bumper plates, you’ll likely end up with a bent barbell sooner rather than later.
Bumper plates are also designed to be a uniform size. While standard metal plates tend to increase in size as the weight goes up, all bumper plates are the same diameter regardless of the weight. This helps you use the proper form, even if you’re not lifting enough to use the standard 45-pound weight plates.
However, bumper plates can be on the thicker side, depending on the manufacturer, and they’re often more expensive.
If you’re not going to be dropping your weights, you can use standard metal plates. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, these are the plates you’ll usually see at most gyms, with 45-pound plates being the heaviest, and 2.5 or five-pound plates being the smallest.
Now, if you’re really strong, and compete in powerlifting, you’ll likely want steel plates. They’re often thinner, allowing you to load more weight on each end of the barbell. With bumper plates, you’re often limited to four 45-pound plates per side. Thinner steel plates will allow you to lift heavier weights without running out of space.
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Weight plates are usually made of steel, while bumper plates are usually made of rubber or urethane. If you’re dropping your plates and want a little bounce, be sure to choose a good pair of bumper plates.
If you’re not going to be dropping your weights, or prefer the thinner style of metal plates, stick with steel or iron plates.
Weight plates don’t only vary in size, they can also come in different shapes. While all bumper plates are perfectly round, some metal plates are made with up to 12 sides. Some prefer these flat edges to keep the barbell from rolling away. Keep in mind, the plates may spin as you lift, and if you set down a barbell with uneven edges, it may move a bit.
Shaped plates often have handles, allowing for easier loading and unloading of the bar, something most bumper plates lack.
Nearly all weight plates should be designed to fit a standard Olympic barbell, but be sure you’re not buying smaller plates intended for thinner barbells, as those do exist.
When choosing the design, this mostly comes down to how you’re using your weight plates. If you’ll be lifting heavy loads on a barbell, you’ll likely want round plates that are made of metal if you’re not dropping the weight, and rubber or urethane if you will be dropping the weight.
While many plates don’t have handles, most standard iron plates have a lip that allows you to get a better grip when loading and unloading your plates. Bumper plates are usually completely smooth and have the least grip, so if you want a plate with a handle, you’ll want to stick with metal plates.
All plates will be quite durable if you’re taking care of them. In general, it’s best to avoid dropping your weights—this can cause the most damage to them. If you do plan on dropping your weights, avoid metal plates. Dropping metal plates can quickly damage the plates, the barbell and the flooring—bumper plates can be much easier on your equipment.
Otherwise, with standard use and care, just about any weight plate should last a very long time.
Finally, consider your budget. While some weight plates are cheaper than others, they’ll all require some level of investment.
As you get stronger, you may need to buy more weight plates, so make sure you’re considering your future plans as well if you’re choosing expensive plates. The weight plates in our list range from 2.5—45 pounds, so keep in mind that with a standard barbell, you’ll need at least two of each weight to keep things balanced.
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The most commonly seen weight plates range from 2.5-45 pounds. Some specialty plates designed for serious lifters may reach 100 pounds per plate, but this isn’t common.
With the right care, iron weight plates will last a lifetime. Excess dropping or outdoor use may cause them to become damaged faster, but with indoor use and minimal slamming or dropping, they should last decades.
This depends on what you’re looking for! If you lift at home and simply need to add some weight to your barbell, without any serious powerlifting or Olympic lifting, you can get a pair of 45-pound plates for under $150. However, a full set will cost more, and if you want bumper plates or calibrated competition plates, the costs can run much higher.
While not common, with excessive dropping, weight plates can eventually crack and break.
Many weight plates include a coating to protect against rust, and as long as you’re keeping your weights clean, you shouldn’t deal with much rust. However, if the protective layer wears down, or you leave your equipment outdoors, they can certainly rust eventually.
Choosing the right set of weight plates can be overwhelming, but our guide will help you choose the style you need, tell you what to look for, and provide our top picks for the best weight plates in 2022.
Whichever you decide, you’re sure to find a high-quality set of weight plates on our list!
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.
Matt is a writer, author, and online fitness coach based out of San Diego, CA.
The Best Weight Plates for Home Gym Powerlifting – Sports Illustrated