Worried about damaging or even breaking weight plates? Is it possible to break them and what does it take if it is? Those questions will be answered in this post.
Can weight plates break? Yes, metal and rubber weight plates can break although it isn’t common. The biggest reason plates break is a sharp impact. To prevent damage it’s good to lower your weights in a controlled manner and have good gym flooring.
It’s good to understand a bit more about why plates can break and how to prevent this. Keep reading to find out.
Can weight plates break?
Yes, a quick Google image search reveals that it’s certainly a possibility. There are quite a few pictures on there that show broken weight plates. On several bodybuilding and weightlifting forums you can also find examples of broken weight plates. So that already shows us weight plates aren’t invincible.
The majority of weight plates in home and commercial gyms is made from steel. This steel can be bare or wrapped in some kind of rubber. Less common are bumper plates, these plates are entirely made from rubber.
Since they’re usually made of steel (except bumper plates), they are strong but breaking them is still possible if the conditions are right. Even rubber bumper plates have their limits although they can handle a bit more abuse.
Most people will never reach the limits of what their weight plates can handle before breaking. As long as you use your plates for their intended purpose, they should last decades. Of course some people abuse their equipment a bit more than others.
Are broken weight plates common?
Now you know it’s possible to break a weight plate, you might be wondering how common it is and if it’s something you should be worrying about.
I have personally never broken a plate and have never seen one that is completely shattered. I have on multiple occasions seen damaged and cracked plates in commercial gyms. Usually people treat things that they haven’t paid for with a little less care than their own equipment. I never drop a barbell with weight plates from more than a few inches high (on purpose).
So completely breaking a plate is not very common as long as you treat them with a little bit of care. Of course other types of damage can also occur and they are more common.
Common damage to weight plates;
- Cosmetic damage. Dings and scratches. This doesn’t impact the functionality of the plates in any way.
- Rubber coating peeling off. Looks ugly and they might get a bit lighter but the plates are still usable.
- Inner rings coming loose. On plates that have inner holes with a ring, these can sometimes come loose. It’s sometimes possible to repair this or use the plate without the ring.
- Chips. Bare metal plates can get chipped without completely breaking. This makes them lighter and can cause sharp edges. Sharp edges can be filed down but the weight is hard to compensate. Short of taping the chips back on, you can still use them on lifts where bar balance isn’t important like a T-bar row.
- Cracked. More extreme damage is a cracked but not shattered plate. It’s better not to use these anymore.
You might have seen some of these types of damage in your local gym. Often the plates are still being used so it’s not a big deal.
Shattered plates do happened from time to time but the vast majority of the times it’s because of simply treating it too harshly and/or dropping them in the wrong way. Of course there can be a manufacturing defect that causes the plate to break with normal use but that isn’t common.
So if you treat your plates in a normal way, breaking them isn’t a concern. More on that below.
What can break or damage a weight plate?
So we know it’s a possibility but not super common. What do you have to watch out for so you don’t break yours? When do plates break and what can you do to prevent this?
The top reason why plates get damaged is dropping them. From the hips like on a deadlift or even from overhead like on many Olympic lifts. This just creates such an impact, not much can stand up to that over time. It might go well for a while but your equipment won’t last for many years.
Another way to damage them is when changing plates. Often you take them off one by one and they form a pile on the floor if you’re not too tidy. Banging two plates against each other in the wrong way can certainly cause damage.
How much dropping and impact your specific plates can take depends on the quality but most importantly the type. There are different types of plates and they can handle different things.
Types of weight plate
Roughly there are three types of weight plates;
- Cast iron plates
- Iron plates with rubber or other coating
- Bumper plates
Cast iron plates. Iron is very strong. And if you drop the weights they won’t crack and shatter like a piece of glass. If you don’t have proper flooring under the spot the weights hit the ground, you’re likely to see a damage floor quicker. Over time however the many impacts will start building up fatigue in the material and make it weaker until it cracks.
How quickly that happens depends on the quality of your plates and your flooring. The more force your floor absorbs, the more hits the plate can take before it becomes too weak.
Rubber coated plates. The rubber on the outside does absorb some of the force of a drop or impact. The core is still cast iron so they’re not too keen on taking big hits. The rubber coating helps prevent doing damage to your floor and also your equipment. If you’ve got a good floor that can absorb a lot of force, you can get away with dropping from deadlift height but the plates will still start to tire and possibly crack over time.
Bumper plates. These plates are made to be dropped. Even from overhead like many Olympic lifts require. However, over time they can still fail if you do that. That is because they are made to be used in combination with a proper floor. And even with a good floor, you can’t expect them to last forever if you drop your weights often.
How to NOT damage your weight plates
Since the most common way to damage plates is with a big impact, there are a few things you can do.
- Don’t drop the bar with plates. Lower them in a controlled manner. There is a reason why most gyms won’t allow you to drop weights. There is pretty much no equipment that stands up to that kind of abuse.
- Have gym flooring or deadlift pads in the place where you drop the weights to soften the blow
- Get the right plates for what you intend to do
- Have a plate tree so you can store plates safely while you’re not using them.
- Don’t drop plates on top of other plates while changing weight on the bar.
What is a weight plate tree? A weight plate tree is a small piece of gym equipment with several pegs to store weight plates on. The shape and size can differ between models. Most weight plate trees have 5 to 7 pegs so you can sort your plates by size. Bigger and smaller plate trees also exist.
Do weight plates fit all barbells? No, not all weight plates fit all barbells. There are weight plates with 1” and 2” diameter inner holes. Barbells can have 1” or 2” diameter sleeves. If the weight plates’ hole matches the barbell’s sleeve, it fits. A 2” diameter weight plate can fit on a 1” barbell with an adapter. A 1” weight plate is never going to fit a 2” barbell.
Can Barbells bend? Yes, barbells can bend for several reasons. The biggest reason they bend is if they are lifted with too much weight on them. How much weight a barbell can handle really depends on the bar. Some are much stronger than others. Another reason is dropping the bar on something with weight loaded on it. For example if you’d drop a loaded bar on a bench, there is a good chance it’ll bend.
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