There are a few types of weight plates out there and it can get confusing what is what exactly. Bumper plates are a special type of weight plate that deserves a bit of your attention. In this article, we’ll figure out what they are, who needs them, and if your home gym could benefit from bumpers.
Bumper plates are a type of weight plate that’s made out of rubber instead of steel. They are designed to handle being dropped from overhead without getting damaged. Steel plates can break when dropped from such heights repeatedly. For most home and garage gyms, rubber-encased steel plates are better.
In the rest of this article, we’ll go into the exact differences between steel and bumper plates, as well as their pros and cons, and who benefits from using them. Finally, we’ll guide you through the process of choosing steel or rubber weights for your home or garage gym.
- 1 What Are Bumper Plates?
- 2 Pros and Cons of Bumper plates
- 3 Who Can Benefit from Bumper Plates?
- 4 Do You Need Bumper Plates For a Home Gym?
- 5 FAQ
What Are Bumper Plates?
Bumper plates are a specialized type of weight plates commonly used in activities like Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit.
Unlike traditional steel plates, which are predominantly designed for adding resistance, bumper plates are designed to withstand impact when dropped from a height. Normal steel plates can’t handle repeated drops from overhead.
Do you need some bumper plates? Find the best set for your garage gym in this article.
Bumper plates are primarily made from rubber, offering a cushioned surface that helps absorb the shock of impact when weights are dropped. The rubber construction also minimizes the noise and vibration that steel plates have during lifting.
The rubber material used in bumper plates varies in density and composition, contributing to the plates’ distinct characteristics. High-quality bumper plates are usually made from better rubber which lasts longer. Different rubber densities are also used to impact bounce. This is how much a plate bounces after dropping.
Most bumper plates will have a metal insert around the inner hole. This makes it easier to slide on and off the barbell and protects the rubber around the hole, which would otherwise wear out quickly.
Bumper plates come in the same weights as standard weights but their sizing is a bit different.
Steel weights usually have a different diameter and thickness depending on the weight. Bumper plates keep the same 450mm diameter from 10 lbs. to 55 lbs. The dimension that changes is the thickness. 10 lbs. bumpers range from 0.83″ to 1.05″ thickness. 45s range from about 2.4″ to 3.25″.
So while the diameter stays the same, the thickness varies a lot. Not only between plates with different weights but also between models and brands.
Bumper plates have a consistent diameter across different weights because that keeps the bar at the same starting height during lifts. This standardization is particularly crucial in activities like Olympic weightlifting, where barbell height and technique play a significant role.
You can often see a few plates that are smaller on a bar with bumper plates. These are called ‘change plates’. This is to fine-tune the weight on the barbell. They’re a smaller diameter because you don’t have to lift the bar to put them on or take them off. They’re usually not made from rubber but steel.
The primary purpose of bumper plates is to facilitate safe training in exercises that involve dropping weights from above your head. A good example is Olympic weightlifting, where athletes do lifts like the clean and jerk and snatch. On those lifts, you have to drop the bar instead of lowering it down slowly. This is safer if done right but also preserves energy for the next lift.
Bumper plates are made for drops like this. They not only protect the plates themselves, it’s also better for the bar and the floor which also don’t like repeated drops.
In CrossFit workouts, where time-based circuits and high-intensity intervals are common, as well as Olympic-style lifts, bumper plates enable quick transitions between exercises by allowing athletes to drop the weights without having to worry.
Pros and Cons of Bumper plates
Who Can Benefit from Bumper Plates?
For the right person, bumpers are a must-have to do their lifts while others don’t need them. Here’s who can benefit from using rubber weight plates.
In summary, anyone who does lifts involving dropping weights can find value in using bumper plates. They are also quieter to use but there are other ways to quiet down your lifts if that’s the only concern.
Do You Need Bumper Plates For a Home Gym?
The decision to use bumper plates in a home gym depends on the type of workouts you plan to do and your preferences. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether you need bumper plates for your home gym:
1. Workout Type:
If your workouts involve Olympic lifts like the snatch and clean and jerk, or other movements where you may need to drop weights from a considerable height, bumper plates can be beneficial. They provide a safe way to practice these lifts without worrying about damaging your floor or equipment.
For most non-Olympic lifts, you don’t need bumper plates since you shouldn’t drop the bar on most of those exercises. Slow eccentrics are better for muscle growth anyway so setting the weights down slowly actually gets you more from your training.
Even for deadlifts, you don’t really need to use bumper plates. Dropping from below the hips is something steel plates can handle fine provided you have decent gym flooring. And again, setting the bar down in a controlled manner is better since you get better muscle development anyway.
In competition it’s a different story but who has official competitions in their garage gym?
2. Noise and Vibration:
Bumper plates are designed to absorb impact and as a side effect produce less noise and vibration when dropped.
If you’re concerned about noise disturbances in your home or potential complaints from neighbors, bumper plates could be a solution.
When compared to bare steel plates, bumpers are much quieter. When compared to rubber-encased steel plates, the difference is much smaller. Bumpers are still a bit quieter but it’s not a huge difference. And you can make a bigger difference in noise for much less money than buying a set of bumpers by using other tactics.
It also depends on the exact bumper plates. They can be made from different materials. Harder bumpers have less bounce but are noisier. Hi-temp rubber bumpers tend to be the quietest.
The width of bumper plates also changes the noise a little. Since they are wider than steels, the impact is spread out over a larger area which reduces the intensity of the impact noise.
3. Floor Protection:
If you have a sensitive or delicate flooring surface, such as hardwood or tile, using bumper plates can help protect your floors from potential damage caused by dropping traditional steel plates.
However, anyone doing any type of serious weightlifting, Olympic or otherwise should have good gym flooring in place anyway. Good gym flooring helps protect the equipment, and floor underneath but also has benefits for noise, grip, and hygiene.
Bumper plates tend to be more expensive than traditional steel plates. Consider your budget and if the extra costs are worth the benefits. Keep in mind there aren’t only benefits to bumper plates. There are some drawbacks as well. There’s a reason (or multiple) why commercial gyms rarely have this type.
6. Space Constraints:
Bumper plates tend to be larger in diameter and thicker than standard steel plates. Make sure you have enough space in your home gym to accommodate enough bumper plates.
And space in your gym is not even the most important consideration. Also, think about the space on your barbell and storage pegs. Bumper plates are much wider than steel ones so you can fit only about half the weight on the bar.
Steel plates actually last longer than bumpers if treated right. If you don’t drop the bar from overhead, steel plates last longer. Rubber degrades over time, steel does not unless you leave it outside in the rain.
If you do drop the bar from overhead, bumper plates will last longer than steels but they still don’t live forever. You get about 3-5 years out of the average set of bumpers with intense use. Longer with light use but still not as long as steel plates.
In most home and garage gyms, rubber-coated steel plates combined with a good gym floor are all you’ll ever need. This setup will last longer and be cheaper.
Only if you intend to do Olympic lifts or CrossFit are bumper plates necessary.
Are Bumper Weights Lighter Than Steel Plates?
Bumper plates are made from rubber which is less dense than steel. So when comparing plates with exactly the same volume, bumper plates will be lighter. However, to compensate for this, bumper plates are larger than steel plates and are available in the same weights.
Are Bumper Plates Bigger Than Steel Plates?
Since rubber is less dense than steel, a bumper plate will be larger than the same-weight steel plate. Bumper plates are often larger in diameter as well as thickness.
Do you need bumper plates for deadlifting?
Bumper plates are not necessary to deadlift. Steel plates are perfectly sufficient, especially if you’ve got good gym flooring or even just a few rubber tiles to absorb the impact.