Is it possible to break a weight plate? And is this the case for both bumper and steel plates? Nobody wants to accidentally break their expensive gym equipment so here’s what you can do to prevent spending extra money on replacing your weight plates.
Metal weight plates can chip, crack or break from sharp impacts, usually caused by dropping the weights on a hard floor. Bumper plates are made to be dropped from overhead but will still wear out over time. Using a good gym floor greatly reduces the chance of breaking weight plates as well as lowering the weight in a controlled manner.
In the rest of this article, we’ll go into what exactly breaks weight plates, how you can keep yours in good shape for many years, and which types of damage are cause for concern.
Can Weight Plates Break?
Iron Weight Plates
Metal weight plates can break under certain conditions. A quick Google image search can show you that it’s certainly a possibility. There are quite a few pictures on there that show broken weight plates. Weight plates are strong but they can be damaged, crack, and broken.
The majority of weight plates in home- and commercial gyms are made from steel. They might have a rubber or polyurethane casing but they’re steel on the inside.
Since they’re usually made from steel, they are strong but breaking them is still possible under the right conditions. Usually, a sharp impact is what damages or weight plates. Dropping something hard and heavy on the plate or dropping the plate on a hard floor is what usually does it.
Once a metal plate breaks, it’s pretty much game over and should be replaced. If you have a welder, it’s worth a shot (remove any casing first) but most people are better off replacing the plate.
Loading a chipped or broken plate on the bar will cause imbalances and can lead to injuries from uneven loading, not to mention the sharp edges on the surfaces that broke.
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Bumper plates are a bit different. These plates are entirely made out of rubber, except for the ring around the inner hole. That means that they don’t break like metal plates but they can wear out in other ways.
It’s not uncommon for the metal ring around the hole to come loose. It’s possible to fix that with some epoxy glue though.
However, bumper plates do wear out over time. you can’t just keep dropping them and expect them to live forever. They can start cracking over time with many repeated drops. It’s quite rare that a whole piece just breaks off a bumper plate though.
When bumper plates start cracking, you can sometimes fix it with some epoxy. That’s = not a permanent fix but can certainly expand the lifespan of the plates for a while.
Bending Bumper Plates
It’s important to mention something about bumper plates that makes the lighter plates vulnerable.
Bumper plates all have the same diameter. That means the thickness differs. Heavier plates are thicker and vice versa. That means the heavier plates are more rigid and stand up better to being dropped.
Thinner, lighter plates can bend more easily under impact. They can fold over which is clearly very bad for their longevity.
45’s and 35’s don’t have this problem, 25’s and lighter often do. If you only have a 25-pound or lighter plate on your bar, try to avoid dropping it. It shouldn’t be that difficult since it’s not very heavy anyways. A light plate combined with a 45-pound one is fine to drop since the 45s will take most of the impact.
Is Breaking Weight Plates Common?
Most people will never reach the limits of what their metal weight plates can handle before breaking. As long as you use your plates for their intended purpose, they should last decades. Yes, the rubber casing might start chipping off but that isn’t really that much of a concern.
Bumper plates wear out with heavy use and have to be replaced at some point. Besides use intensity, the quality of your bumper plates has a big impact on longevity. Cheap bumper plates can wear out in 3-4 years with heavy use while high-quality plates can last up to a decade or even more.
From my personal experience, I’ve never encountered a completely shattered plate, and I’ve also not broken one myself. However, I’ve seen damaged and cracked plates in commercial gyms. Often, items that aren’t owned tend to receive slightly less careful treatment than personal equipment.
Type Of Weight Plate Damage
Plates can break but there are some other things that could go wrong with them. Not all damage and wear are dangerous and warrants replacement of the weight but some types do.
It’s important to note that completely breaking a plate is relatively uncommon, provided you handle them with a modicum of care. Other forms of damage are more prevalent.
Common Types of Weight Plate Damage Include:
You might have observed these types of damage in your local gym, where plates often continue to be utilized without significant issues.
While instances of shattered plates do occur sporadically, they are primarily the result of excessively rough treatment or incorrect dropping techniques. Naturally, manufacturing defects can play a role, although they’re not common causes of breakage through regular use.
In essence, as long as you treat your plates with reasonable care, the prospect of breaking them shouldn’t be a major concern. Further details on proper handling can be found below.
So if you treat your plates in a normal way, breaking them isn’t a concern. More on that below.
How To Prevent Weight Plates From Breaking
Breaking weight plates can happen but it isn’t a common occurrence. And with a little care, you can prevent it from happening pretty easily. What do you have to watch out for so you don’t break yours?
The most common way to crack or break cast iron plates is by dropping them. Dropping non-bumper plates from overhead is a good way to destroy them. Dropping the bar from hip height like during a deadlift is usually OK but it really depends on the surface underneath.
Also, be careful with how you store your plates and how you handle them when taking load off the bar. Just throwing them all in a pile raises the chances something goes wrong. Staying organized and putting plates on a plate tree helps keep them safe.
How much dropping and impact your specific plates can take depends on the quality but most importantly the type. Bare metal plates are the most vulnerable, followed by rubber-encased plates while bumper plates are the least vulnerable.
How To Keep Your Weightplates Safe
Here are 10 guidelines you can follow to keep your plates in good shape and crack-free.