Do you need the best weight plates? After all, it's just a heavy disc you slide onto a barbell. If that's what you think, you're wrong, big time! These home weights are more sophisticated than that, and some can even be used as a standalone weight, making the humble weight plate one of the most versatile home gym gear you can buy today.
You might exclaim, "But all weight plates and discs are essentially the same, right?" Wrong, again! They differ in size, weight, colour, shape and materials, substantially affecting how they can be used. There's nothing more frustrating than buying a 2-inch weight plate for your 1-inch barbell sleeve. Returning those heavy puppies can be physically and financially draining.
It's equally as annoying when you invest in solid steel discs that mark a wooden floor and make a hell of a racket when you are, in fact, looking for something more stealthy. Similarly, the smooth surface of an Olympic disc is not particularly conducive to curling or pressing. If you fancy a bit of that, particular discs have rubber handles precisely for that purpose. After all, what is the point of having the best barbells if you add crappy plates to them?
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Best weight plates to buy right now
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Manufactured from a high tensile rubber, these Eleiko training discs (retailer link) are built to withstand a beating yet come with competition-level features, such as the raised coloured numbers and markings for easy weight identification. Eleiko makes some of the highest-level fitness equipment out there, but it tends to come at a price. On the upside, it’s of the highest quality, and these discs are no exception. Just bear in mind they are sold individually.
Mirafit’s Competition Olympic Bumper plates adhere to IWF standards, which means they are accurate within +/- 10g of the stated amount. This is likely useless to most readers, but it does mean the quality of craftsmanship is excellent. On top of this, each plate is deliberately narrow, meaning you can load more onto a standard barbell, while the large chrome-plated steel insert ensures the weight retains its shape after numerous drops and bangs. Perfect for the serious platform and powerlifters out there.
Suitable for anything from deadlifts to Russian twists, lunges and even curls, the Again Faster Tri-Grip Rubber Weight Plates proves a versatile workout partner, with the ability to easily hold during workouts. Unless you're desperate to perform Olympic lifts and need weights that are perfectly balanced from every angle, it's hard to justify not getting these tri-grip rubber plates. The +/- 3% weight tolerance is good enough for most home gyms, and the fact that the plates can be used for other exercises than just barbell lifts make them super versatile workout partners.
Nothing looks more badass than people deadlifting steel weight plates. And these extra thin plates from Mirafit don't just look sexy and highly functional. The extra thin construction allows powerlifters to fit even more plates on the bars; no more excuses for not pushing yourself hard enough! Considering the steel construction, they can cause much damage if dropped and make a hell of a racket when in use. If you don't mind the clatter – or have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you can use and don't care about the neighbours – you will be rewarded with premium plates that feature laser-engraved weight markings and logos. Also, there’s something quite Schwarzenegger about pumping iron with metal.
These thick bumper plates are made from compressed recycled rubber and are said to have been tested with 50,000 drops showing zero breakage. As well as being fully compliant with IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) standards on plate dimensions, thanks to the softness of the material, the BLK BOX Heavy Duty Impact Bumpers offer impressive sound dampening and shock absorption, too. Please bear in mind that these plates are sold individually and that the heaviest, 20-kilo plate is 120 mm thick, so you won't be able to fit loads on a barbell sleeve of those. In return, you can rest assured that these bumper plates are the last plates you'll ever have to buy, thanks to their resilience.
How to choose the best weight plates for you
Your primary considerations should be sleeve diameter (as mentioned in the intro), the material they are made from, the weight and the general shape and design.
It’s worth researching what kind of barbell (or dumbbell, if opting for smaller plates) you own or plan to buy. Full-size Olympic barbells, which you’ll often find in the gym, have 2-inch sleeves, so they won’t be able to hold smaller studio discs, which come with a 1-inch diameter hole in the centre.
Rubber weight plates are typically covered in a urethane coating, and although they don’t smell particularly pleasant when new, they protect floors from damage when dropped and, on the whole, are easier to handle.
Some rubber plates come with grips or cutouts around the edge – often called tri-grip plates – so you can use them for targeted exercises such as bicep curls and shoulder raises.
Solid steel powerlifting plates tend to pack more weight into a smaller surface area, so they are perfect if you plan on loading the bar up to its maximum rating, but they are noisy and prone to rust if left outside.
Finally, ensure you note whether the weight plate you are buying comes in a pair or a single item. A single bumper disc tends to be pretty useless regarding barbell training!
What are the different types of weight plates?
Studio, Home or Standard Discs
These typically come with a one-inch diameter, so are only suitable for those smaller barbells with a corresponding sleeve. Found in all manner of shapes, sizes, materials and colours, they are generally good for lower weight/higher rep exercises or for compact workout zones, as they don’t take up as much space.
The most common in commercial gyms, Olympic plates feature the larger 2-inch diameter that corresponds with the standard 5 or 7ft weight lifting barbells. Modern variants are often made from rubber, to help limit damage to floors when dropped, but can still be found in old-school steel or metal.
Competition variants often have a metal ring around the hole, to help the disc keep the shape and rotate around the bar sleeve when performing classic compound lifts, like snatches or the clean and press. On the other hand, technique plates lack this metal ring and are, on the whole, more basic and often come in much lighter variants.
The colour of an Olympic plate is also significant and not just for show, as they generally correspond to a recognised code that denotes the weight.
These are often the most expensive, as official IWF Competition rules stipulate that the plate needs to be accurate to +0.1% and -0.05%. The precise construction makes them perfect for competition but perhaps a bit OTT for the home workout.
These are extremely useful for someone looking to get stronger and make gradual progress, as they come in half kilogram steps, typically starting with 0.5kg and ending somewhere around the 5kg mark. It means a bar can be loaded up with a mere 1kg of additional weight, which could be the difference between beating a PB or not.
Weight plates vs bumper plates: what's the difference?
The terms weight plate and bumper plate are often used interchangeably. However, they are two different types of home gym equipment.
Weight plates are discs made of metal and are often used for heavy lifts such as deadlifts and Olympic lifts. They are often narrower than bumper plates, so people can fit more of them on the sleeves of a barbell. The plates are often used for Olympic training and competitions as they are calibrated to have very little weight deviation (accuracy within 10 grams).
Bumper plates are generally made of rubber and are thicker than weight plates. These are better for training and make less noise, making them ideal for home workouts. Unless you want to look hardcore by lifting a barbell loaded with cast iron plates in your garage gym, we advise you to buy bumper plates instead. High-quality bumper plates from premium manufacturers such as Eleiko and Rogue are almost equally as accurate as weight plates.