When shopping for weight plates, it can get a bit complicated. One questions many people have is how many plates of each different weight you need to be able to load your bar efficiently. Let’s do some research and find out.
How many weight plates do you need of each weight? A good basic set of weight plates contains;
- 4x 1lbs./0.5 kg
- 4x 2.5lbs./1 kg
- 2x 5 lbs./ 2.5 kg
- 4x 10lbs./5 kg
- 2x 25lbs./10 kg
- 4x 45lbs./20 kg
Including the barbell (44 lbs.) that’s a total weight of 338 lbs./153 kg. This combination provides enough resistance for beginners to early intermediates and allows you to load the bar with any weight with 2 lbs. increments.
Below I’ll go into more detail why you need those weights and amounts if you’re interested.
Weight plates for your home gym
Weight plates come in different shapes, sizes, qualities and most importantly; weights. That last one is the focus of this post. How many of each different weight do you need?
First, why do you need different weights? The simple answer; to be able to progress slowly. Strength and muscle gains are made when you consistently add weight to the bar. If all you have is 45 lbs. plates, the steps between the weights is way too big.
In the beginning you might be able to make big steps but after a while, you can’t progress so quickly and you have to make small steps. That’s why you need plates of different weights. When you’ve got the correct selection of weights you can increase the weight in small steps, all the way up to the total amount of weight you’ve got in you gym.
Which different weight plates exist?
Before telling you which selection you need, let’s look at which different weight plates actually exist. You don’t need all of those, but this is just to show how many choices you’ve got.
Keep in mind that there are plates that are Kilogram based and plates that are in pounds. Sure, many plates have both pounds and kilograms stamped on them. But since the conversion never results in a rounded number, they’re always slightly off.
Kilogram based weight plates
- 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25
Pounds based weight plates
- 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.25, 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35, 45, 55, 100
Again, you don’t need a pair of all of these available weights. You can get away with just a selection. Which ones do you need? First you have to make a choice if you’re going to go with plates that are in lbs. or kg. Sure you could mix and match but that just makes things more complicated than they have to be.
Which weights do you need?
Here is which weights and amounts you need as a good base.
This is a good starting set that will allow you to load the bar with 1.25 pound increments.
For the metric readers;
If you need more weight, just add more 20kg/45 lbs. plates.
The more advanced you are, the smaller the increases in weight will become. At that point it actually becomes more important to have the smaller denominations. When you’re a beginner, you can get away with adding 2kg./5lbs. to the bar (combined weight of two plates). More advanced lifters could get more progress with a 1kg/2.5lbs. increase because 5lbs. is too much but they still want to lift heavier.
How much weight do you need for a home gym?
How much weight do you need in total? You might think it’s as simple as getting the amount of weight you can lift. Yes, it’s true that you need at least that much weight but there are two reasons why you actually need more.
The first reason is that you want to be able to progress without having to buy new plates every week. Buy a set that will last you for a while. If you’re an experienced lifter you’ll know your numbers and how much weight you need and how fast you progress. I’d buy weights that cover you for at least a year.
Having to buy new plates every time you want to progress is not fun and you might end up with a mix of different types of plates and that just doesn’t look great.
If you’re a beginner you might have no idea how much weight you need. Around 300 lbs. is a good starting place for most people. It might take a while before you can use all of that weight but if you progress steadily every week, you’ll be surprised how much weight you can lift after a year. Starting with a 300 lbs. set also helps with the next reason you probably need more weight than you think.
Bar loading efficiency
The second reason is that you’ll have to load the weight in a very inefficient way.
If you just have the total amount you can lift, that means you’d have to load all the weights in your gym on the bar. Taking a look at the chart above, you can see that there’s a total of 16 plates. Imagine having to load all those plates every time is no fun at all.
Efficient bar loading means that you have the fewest possible amount of plates on the bar. That means you want the heaviest plates on the bar without going over your intended weight. In some cases that results in you needing more of the heavy (20kg/45lbs.) plates so you can make the loading more efficient.
For example, if you want to lift 225 lbs., you could do it like this;
That way you need to load 10 plates. Loading and unloading 10 plates just takes much longer than it should.
You could also do it like this:
That way you only have to load 4 plates. This makes loading the bar way more efficient.
So, for that reason, you actually need more weight than you can lift, especially the heavier plates. Having an extra pair of 45 plates makes loading the bar much more efficient.
How accurate are the numbers on weight plates? All manufacturers specify a certain tolerance for their products. IWF Competition certified weight plates have the lowest difference between the indicated and actual weight with a difference of at most 15 grams. Good quality plates can have a difference of 1-2% on heavier plates and up to 3% for lighter plates. Cheap weight plates can have even bigger tolerances.