Can Weight Plates Break? Bumper vs. Steel Plates

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.

Metal weight plates can crack or even break from being dropped and sharp impacts.

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.

Need some durable but affordable weight plates? Click here to find which ones we recommend.

Bumper Plates

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.

Bumper plates are made to be dropped from overhead so a single sharp impact is not going to break them. The rubber can handle a lot more than that.

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.

Image of weight plates on the floor

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:

  • Cosmetic Damage: Superficial dings and scratches that don’t impact the plates’ functionality.
  • Peeling Rubber Coating: While ugly, this doesn’t render the plates unusable, although they technically become slightly lighter.
  • Loose Inner Rings: Some plates have inner holes with rings that can come loose; repair or use without the ring is usually possible.
  • Chips: Bare metal plates can chip without breaking completely, resulting in lighter plates and potentially sharp edges. They can still be used if the chips didn’t remove too much weight. You might want to cover the sharp edges with some duct tape.
  • Cracks: A more severe issue, a cracked but not shattered plate is best replaced. It’s only a matter of time before a piece completely breaks off.
  • Chunks Missing: If a large piece of the plate has broken off, get rid of it ASAP. It is now a paperweight at best.

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.

Dropping bare cast iron plates on concrete will at least start chipping both the plates and concrete. However, rubber-encased plates on a good gym floor should be no problem.

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.

Image of a man deadlifting heavy

How To Keep Your Weightplates Safe

Here are 10 guidelines you can follow to keep your plates in good shape and crack-free.

  • Proper Handling: Always lift and place weight plates with care. Avoid dropping them from heights, throwing them, or slamming them on the ground, as this can lead to structural damage.
  • Regular Inspection: Routinely examine your weight plates for signs of wear, cracks, or deformities. If you identify any issues, consider replacing the damaged plates to maintain safety.
  • Storage: Store weight plates in a suitable manner, preferably on a weight plate rack. Avoid stacking plates excessively.
  • Use on Proper Surfaces: Pay attention to your flooring. Flooring with a little ‘give’, such as rubber gym floors or lifting platforms, dampens the impact quite a lot. Deadlift pads are also available if you want to dampen the impact as much as possible.
  • Opt for Encased Plates: Use weight plates with rubber or polyurethane casing. This casing reduces the impact as well as noise. Bumper plates should only be used if you want to drop weights from overhead.
  • Proper Lifting Techniques: Set the bar down in a controlled manner. On some lifts this is impossible but on many, just slowing the bar a little bit before you set it down isn’t hard and reduces the stress on the plates by a lot.
  • Quality: Cheap or low-quality plates may be more susceptible to breaking. Spending a bit more gets you higher-quality equipment that lasts longer.
  • Use Bumper Plates for Drops: If you engage in exercises that involve dropping weights, consider using bumper plates specifically designed for such activities. Bumper plates, with their rubber construction, are better suited to absorb impact forces.
  • Rotate Usage: Distribute the wear across your weight plates by rotating their usage. This prevents constant stress on a particular set of plates.
  • Proper Storage Temperature: If storing weight plates in extreme temperatures, especially cold. Frozen metal is more brittle and thus shatters more easily.

Also read this article about dropping weights.

Image of bumper plates on a barbell
Bumper plates


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

Recent Posts