If you don’t buy bumper plates, you’re going to spend more money on replacing your broken floor and barbell. Bumper plates are an essential alternative to iron plates for training to put weight on the bar without destroying your home gym.
Today we’re going to look at training bumper plates for CrossFit, Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and normal strength training at home. We’ll cover everything: competition bumper plates, budget bumper plates, and everything between.
Let’s get started looking at weight plates and the Best Bumper Plates necessary for your home gym…
Weight plates: Bumper Plates vs Iron Plates
The most obvious difference between bumper plates and iron plates is the high density rubber of virgin rubber bumpers. This softens any contact with the floor, which is why people typically use bumper plates for CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting (which they were invented for).
In short, the difference is that one will bounce and the other will destroy anything that it lands on. Bumper plates offer a safer, more sustainable home training experience that saves you money in the long run.
Are Bumper Plates better than traditional Iron Plates?
If money was no object, bumper plates would always be better than iron plates for most people. Bumpers offer a softer landing, better health for your barbell, and roughly the same amount of weight on the bar. They’re more durable and don’t rust, typically.
The difference is that some budget bumper plates are too thick to fit the same amount of weight on the bar. Equally, they’re going to be far more expensive compared to iron plates. Cheap bumper plates are still typically more expensive than high quality iron plates per pound.
The best bumper plates outperform cast iron plates and steel plates in every area – except cost. Even budget competition bumper plates are a massive mark-up, while some of the lower quality options like rogue echo bumper plates and recycled rubber have some functional downsides (like not fitting enough weight on the bar!).
Training Bumper Plates vs Competition Plates
Training bumper plates are exactly what they sound like – bumper plates designed to be everyday training plates. These are typically lower quality plates than you’d see in competition, but also considerably cheaper.
Competition bumper plates are finely crafted as the top of the line, highest quality option on the market. This makes them unnecessary for most purposes – while training plates may use recycled rubber, virgin rubber, and you can even find crumb rubber bumper plates for CrossFit.
The balance of quality and cost doesn’t make sense for competition plates unless you have a lot of money and like the best of the best. Competition plates also have a different dead bounce with the higher density rubber, and may not be as friendly on your floors. Some are even coated in a plastic, which makes them hard-wearing but makes them land harder.
Competition plates will allow you to get more weight on the bar, but other thinner plates on the market are just as effective. Urethane bumper plates are a good compromise and offer a great hard-wearing outer, as long as you have steel inserts to maintain weight even with long-term plate degradation.
In short, competition bumper plates don’t justify their price while training plates are designed to balance quality with price. Competition plates are beautiful and high quality, but they don’t perform the role of training plates nearly as well, and you can get all the features (raised lettering, colored Olympic plates) without the extra cost.
The Best Bumper Plates on the Market
The best bumper plates are probably the Rep fitness bumper plates or fringe sport bumper plates. These offer excellent quality plates at a lower price than many others, while still being thinner plates than the rogue echo bumper plates, for example.
Anyone with weightlifting experience will tell you that Eleiko bumper plates and ZKC bumper plates are the best bumper plates on the market for premium quality plates.
However, if you’re buying bumper plates, you may want to look at cheaper options to get the best value for money. You don’t need to pay more money just for raised lettering and competition calibration, when you’re using them for training in your garage or basement.
The best bumper plates are somewhere between the cheapest bumper plates (crumb rubber plates) and the most expensive option – premium bumper plates like competition standard bumper plates from Eleiko.
Bumper Plate Buying Guide: How Do You Judge Bumper Plates On the Market?
The best bumper plates are defined by their value for money. We figure that out by looking at the price and benefits you get for it – things like plate thickness, virgin rubber or recycled rubber, thickness, color bumper plates or black bumper plates, and then the rubber density and bounce rate.
Let’s look at each factor in making the best bumper plates, and see how they work – from Olympic plates to crumb bumper plates.
Thicker bumper plates are cheaper, but also more difficult to use. They rapidly take up space, limiting the weight on the bar. This is a problem for more experienced and stronger trainees – Olympic bars typically only allow around 200kg (including the Olympic bars’ 20kg weight) before it’s full.
This is a lot of weight, but not enough to last a lifetime in strength training as a normal sized man or larger woman. This is a limitation with any rubber bumpers that don’t include a stainless steel insert, such as the crumb rubber of rogue mil-spec, or the thicker virgin rubber of rogue echo bumper plates.
Thinner plates are better for the price – you can put more weight on the bar and they typically have better dead bounce performance. That means more weight, less damage, and better comfort during heavy lifting. Worth the investment!
High density rubber Bumpers: Minimal bounce vs Floor safety
The density of your bumper plates’ rubber is an important consideration. High density is typically better for thin-design and better durability, but the harder your flooring material, the more bounce you need inherent in your training plates. That usually means lower density and wider surfaces.
If you have a high-quality platform you can get minimal bounce plates (like budget competition bumpers), while harder surfaces require a bouncier plate to reduce impact forces. The trade-off for these low density training plates is that you’ll typically fit less weight onto the bar.
Stainless Steel inserts and fixtures
The stainless steel inserts of a bumper plate ensure that it weighs the right amount over time. The rubber bumpers may degrade but the insert ensures your 25kg plate is always roughly 25kg, even as the outer chips or wears.
This is a massive upgrade to the durability and longevity of weight plates. Bumper plates without a steel insert are typically easy to break – especially around the inner rim. In colour plates without an insert, you’re likely to struggle with impact and the detaching of parts from one another, shortening product lifespan.
Spending $100-200 for metal inserts can be a huge money-saver in the long term in order to get the best from your money over time. It is likely to save you replacing green 10kg/25lbs plates and 15kg/35lbs plates, saving you serious cash eventually.
It’s better to get black training bumper plates with a steel insert rather than color bumper plates without a steel insert. This is a question of function vs form, and function always wins out.
Color Bumper Plates
Color coded Olympic bumper plates are great for knowing what’s on the bar, but it’s a frivolity most of the time. There’s no real advantage to this kind of spend if you’re looking for training plates in your own home.
The colours are useful on competition bumper plates because they let the loaders see – at a glance – what weight is on the bar. For home training, however, this is no real use. The same is true of raised lettering, which is another nice touch that you’re paying a premium for.
Competition bumpers always have these features, but they really aren’t worth the mark-up for everyday training plates.
Dead bounce: Minimal bounce bumper plates
Minimal bounce is a mixed blessing, and what you need is a level of dead bounce that suits your home gym and flooring. A platform (like the Eleiko platforms) will provide some bounce of its own, while horse stall matting or other thick dead bounce materials will absorb force.
Bumper plates offer a range of ‘bounce rates’ – and you typically want more bounce than competition bumper plates but less than crumb rubber bumper plates. Urethane bumper plates typically have the best bounce rate, while rubber bumpers also have a good rate (and less bounce with more density).
Bumper Plate Set FAQ: What Do You Need to Know When Buying Bumper Plates?
When buying bumper plates, it’s most important to understand your personal needs, what the purpose of a bumper plate is, and how the two pair up. The best bumper plates are the ones that suit your needs, and putting that at the front of your mind will save you money and stress.
Let’s look at the most common bumper plate questions, as well as variations, including:
- Competition bumper plates (and the price of competition plates)
- How they relate to metal plates
- The most and least expensive types of bumper plates on the market
- What the steel inserts do
- Mixing bumper plates with cast iron plates
Are competition bumper plates worth the price?
No – competition bumper plates are not worth the price for most people.
They’re higher-accuracy weights that have raised lettering and a stainless steel insert specifically calibrated to be within very fine tolerances of the weight they claim to be. For example, competition Eleiko bumper plates are within 0.001-0.01kg of their given weight.
Bumper plate weight is not as important enough to justify the 20-50% mark-up that comes with buying competition bumper plates. They’re more expensive for benefits that are only relevant on competition day, and traditional rubber bumper plates will be fine for training use.
Competition plates are expensive, while training bumper plates are cheaper. Recycled rubber plates are cheaper yet, with crumb rubber plates being the most budget-friendly. This is the general spectrum of quality to economy we look at when buying rubber weight plates.
What is the purpose of bumper plates?
The purpose of rubber plates (bumper plates) is to reduce damage to the floor, bar, and plates when the weight plates make contact with the floor. Using steel plates (like in most commercial gyms), this would cause damage to the floor in your home, especially in garage gyms where rubber plates are necessary to avoid damaging concrete.
Bumper plates also allow you to use exercises like the snatch, clean, jerk, push press, and variations in your training. These are only possible with bumpers and offer new ways to exercise and develop power and sport-specific strength.
Can you mix bumper plates with iron plates?
Yes – you can mix bumper plates with iron plates, though this isn’t a good idea for overhead lifts or Olympic lifting. Large high quality bumper plates are perfect for deadlifts, where they are likely to lift your metal plates off the ground and prevent impact.
However, make sure you’re using high quality bumpers, as they will be bearing the impact of all the weight on the bar. This means you cannot use 25lbs rubber plates and 45lbs+ iron plates on the same bar. You’ll snap or bend the lighter, thinner bumper plates.
Do you need bumper plates for CrossFit?
Yes – you need bumper plates for CrossFit, especially if you’re looking to get the best from your training and develop the Olympic lifts. Other plates – especially iron plates, but also steel plates – will be in appropriate for barbell cycling and developing 1-rep performance.
You need to be able to comfortably drop the bar during a snatch or jerk gone wrong. If you can’t, you’re going to put yourself and your home at risk. Bumpers are rubber weight plates built specifically for that purpose, and they offer a better training experience as a result.
Do you need bumper plates for deadlifts?
You don’t need bumper plates for deadlifts, but they can still be useful by reducing the noise against the floor and contact of metal plates on concrete. You can also use a mixture of metal plates and bumpers for deadlifts, where the dead bounce of 1-2 high quality bumper plates will absorb tons of force but doesn’t cost as much as a full set of Olympic bumper plates.
Using 25kg/55lbs plates will let you make the best use of your metal plates without the normal problems of noise or damage. This might be the most cost-efficient way to use bumper plates for your deadlifts.
What’s the difference between bumper plates and normal, iron plates?
Bumper plates have dead bounce, where they will absorb the force of impact – while iron plates are brittle and will take damage if dropped. Cast iron weight plates are also particularly brittle, which means they may chip, snap, or degrade rapidly if they are dropped.
This makes bumper plates a must-have for CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting, for home gyms that need more floor care. This is for overhead exercises, for example, such as the snatch and clean and jerk. They’re also useful for reducing the wear and tear on your bar, which will age rapidly using iron plates due to the impact and rattling metal-on-metal contact of iron plates.
The best bumper plates are the Rogue training 2.0 plates – because they’re the perfect combination of quality and affordability that you need. They’re a compromise between standard bumper plates and competition bumpers with all the aesthetic flourishes and functional benefits you need for your money.
This list is packed with the best bumper plates for all kinds of prices and purposes, however, and each of them is a great competitor within its price range and type of bumper plate. If you end up buying any of these items, you’ll leave happy with a much more versatile home gym setup.
Still too complicated? Here’s our simple take: make sure your bumper plates match your:
- Flooring type
- Training needs
- Expectation for their lifespan and performance
If you can do these 4 things, then you’re in for a great experience. If not, just choose the Rogue Training plates and thank me later!
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