Okay, you probably weren't thinking that, but we hope this guide does clear up some confusion and helps you make the best decision when buying bumper plates.
Let's go ahead and jump right in.
What Are Bumper Plates?
Bumper plates are weight plates, designed to be loaded onto a barbell to perform exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
They can also be used independently of a barbell for exercises like planks, wall sits, overhead plate walking lunges, and tricep extensions.
Bumper plates feature almost exactly the same characteristics as iron or steel weight plates, except for a few key differences. First, obviously, they are made of rubber. Second, because they are made of rubber they are wider than traditional iron or steel weight plates you may find.
Almost all other dimensions are the same between weight plates except the plate width. This really doesn't make a big difference for most people because the barbell sleeve is still plenty long to accommodate the weight you want to lift. The only time this may become an issue is if you are trying to lift 600 pounds plus.
Bumper plates typically come color-coded which can make it look like you are lifting a rainbow if you are doing it right.
The general color code is:
Red - 55lbs/25kgs
Blue - 45lbs/20kgs
Yellow - 35lbs/15kgs
Green - 25lbs/10kgs
You will also find 15 and 10lbs bumper plates; however, they are typically black. It is not recommended to drop these weight plates - if they are the only weights on the bar - even though they are bumper plates. This is because they tend to bend and break under the pressure of being dropped plus the additional weight of the bar.
There is another type of bumper plate called training weight plates. These bumper plates are designed to be used when someone is first learning how to deadlift, clean, or snatch. They are normally 2.5 or 5 lbs and are basically the same size as 45lb bumper plates - although width varies. If you've ever seen someone accused of using "fake weights" these are also used in those situations. However, the right way to use them is by allowing the novice lifter to get into the same positions required for lifting heavier weights without the heavy weight plates. Imagine learning a deadlift with 2.5lb change plates. It would be an entirely different movement because of the range of motion requirements.
Why Do We Use Bumper Plates?
To save the planet.
Well, not exactly. But, using bumper plates can save your floor, your bumper plates, and your back.
Plus, many bumper plates use recycled rubber, so hey maybe we can save the planet too.
Well, first off, if you have had to learn this through personal experience, I'm sorry - but, how does using bumper plates save your floor? The simple answer is that dropping steel weight plates on concrete floors doesn't end well.
This can obviously lead to noise issues, cracked concrete floors, and frustrated spouses.
By using rubber bumper plates, the rubber is able to act as a buffer, allowing you to drop the weight from overhead, do repeated deadlifts, or cycle movements like clean and jerks and snatches.
Let's look at some of the pros and cons of bumper plates when compared to traditional metal plates:
Ability to drop a barbell from overhead
Who Should Use Bumper Plates?
So, you may be wondering, "Why on earth do I need to drop a barbell from overhead?" And if you are asking that, you may not need bumper plates.
If your training consists of bodybuilding or powerlifting movements primarily, metal weight plates will suit you just fine.
In your situation, it is more of a preference for which type of plate you prefer.
Side note, I personally would still recommend bumper plates. I think the added functionality for often the same price is absolutely worth it. I personally just enjoy using them instead of metal weight plates. However, if you are trying to load a lot of weight on the bar or simply love the sound of weight plates clanging together while you lift, metal weight plates are a great option as well.
Okay, so the primary training style that uses a bumper plate set is Olympic weightlifting.
This is because Olympic weightlifting consists of two movements - the snatch and the clean and jerk. If you are unfamiliar with either, just know the final position of each successful lift is with the weight overhead. Elite male lifters can be lifting weights in the 300 to 500-pound plus range.
Now imagine the difficulty of lowering 300 pounds of metal plates from overhead to the ground without dropping it. Not only would you be putting the floor at risk, but your back, shoulders, and overall health would be in a pretty sticky situation.
So the alternative is bumper plates. Bumper plates are designed to be dropped from this position so there is no concern over controlling the weight to the floor.
Another training style that has really caused an explosion in the bumper plate market is CrossFit. CrossFit incorporates varying levels of powerlifting, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and monostructural cardio, along with other forms of training. Because CrossFit utilizes Olympic lifting, the same principles apply. And while Olympic lifting meets are performed one rep at a time, oftentimes CrossFit training involves multiple reps meaning constant dropping of the barbell and going again.
For this reason, to safely and effectively perform CrossFit workouts as they are intended - bumper plates are necessary.
Different Types of Bumper Plates
There are three main types of bumper plates we will cover here. Of course, as with almost anything, there are many variations to these three main categories, but this should be helpful for simplicity's sake.
Crumb Rubber Bumper Plates
Crumb plates are bumper plates made from recycled rubber, often coming from old tires. These black bumper plates sometimes may have speckles in them similar to what is found in rubber flooring for gyms. So you probably won't find these bumper plates color-coded like traditional bumper plates.
Functionally, these bumper plates perform just as well as other bumper plates. The biggest difference here is the recycled rubber material. Another key difference is price. While not often a huge difference, crumb rubber plates are normally the cheapest bumper plate option.
These weight plates are incredibly durable and will last you a long time.
Virgin Rubber Bumper Plates
These are probably the plates you picture when you think about bumper plates. Virgin rubber plates are the color-coded rainbow plates. As the name suggests, these bumper plates aren't made with the same recycled tire rubber as the crumb plates. These plates are popular in CrossFit competitions and gyms around the world.
If you are at a commercial gym with bumper plates, it is pretty likely they will be virgin rubber bumper plates.
While not the most expensive rubber bumper plates, virgin rubber bumper plates are typically more expensive than crumb plates.
Certified Rubber Bumper Plates
These plates are virgin rubber bumper plates on steroids.
Certified plates are plates that are intended to be used in Olympic weightlifting competitions. The weight of these plates is calibrated to a higher standard to ensure that the competition is fair and able to be compared to other scores across the world.
Now it is worth noting that all bumper plates, at least the ones manufactured by a company that cares at all, are weighed and tested for accuracy. However, these certified plates take it to the next level.
It's not necessary to purchase these bumper plates unless you are really passionate about Olympic lifting and plan on competing at a very high level or you have the cash and don't mind paying for the nicest weight plates on the market. These plates are certainly the most expensive in comparison to virgin and crumb rubber plates.
Bumper Plate Set Recommendations
There are a ton of companies that make multiple plates so it can be pretty tough to distinguish between this bumper plate set and that one and ultimately decide which one is best for you.
But with that said, let's look at some recommendations:
Hammer Strength Premium Rubber Color Bumper Plates
Hammer Strength is a leader in the fitness equipment space for a reason. They make high-quality, durable equipment. They work with many universities and athletic departments to provide top-of-the-line equipment for weight rooms and gyms.
These specific bumper plates are a mid-level model. They have widths ranging from 1.5" (25lb) to 2.375" (45lb). Depending on the weight plate you buy, you are looking at about $4.30 - $6/lb. This is certainly not on the cheap side, but you are looking at very high-quality plates.
Eleiko IWF Weightlifting Competition Plates
These are the best of the best.
Designed for international weightlifting competitions, these plates are certified by the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation). With incredible durability, these plates are designed to last you a lifetime and hit many, many PRs.
With great design, certifications, and durability comes great responsibility - or a great price tag. You know what I mean.
These plates are top-of-the-line and the price tag certainly reflects it.
It depends on which specific weight plate you buy, but you are looking at somewhere between $8 - $12.50/lb. This will add up incredibly fast, so if you are looking at building a home gym on any bit of a budget, I would not recommend these plates. They truly are best-in-class and are primarily for weightlifting competitions.
These competition bumper plates range in width from about 1.4" to 2.3" making them slimmer than most, if not all, plates on the market. This is important considering who they were designed for - elite lifters. As Olympic lifters continue to get stronger it will be interesting to see how slim competition bumper plates can get to fit as many plates as possible on the barbell.
This bumper plate set is also in kilograms. So if you are used to counting in pounds, be sure to brush up on your metric system conversions - hint, hint - just get really good at multiplying by 2.2.
Titan Fitness Economy Color Bumper Plates
If your wallet hurts just thinking about the last recommendation, boy do I have a great option for you. I know you are excited just by seeing the word economy.
But this isn't like your red-eye flight from LA to NY sitting in the middle seat of economy seating. That's a whole different economy.
Titan Fitness is a quality brand.
They are known for their value - good quality at a good price. This bumper plate set is perfect for Olympic lifting or CrossFit and would go great in any home gym. The width of these weight plates varies from about 1.8" to 3.3".
This bumper plate set is durable. It can be bought in singles, pairs, or in sets, which again helps with the cost. You can get a 230lb set for right under $2/lb. If you aren't looking for a whole set you can get singles or pairs for between $2 - $3/lb depending on which plates you are looking at. Especially if you are new to lifting or don't have a massive budget, these plates can be a good option just because of the amount of money you can save.
You can throw that extra money on a preacher's curl station. Sun's out, guns out.
Rouge Color Echo Bumper Plates
With a 4.8 rating and almost 700 reviews, you know these plates are as advertised.
I personally use this bumper plate set at the gym I go to and am a big fan.
They are incredibly durable and work well with everything from bench presses to snatches.
Rouge is one of the big dogs when it comes to gym equipment. They have really been a huge staple in the home gym market and for good reason. They make high-quality equipment. Rouge is also a big sponsor of Strongman and CrossFit events.
All that to say, they know how to design a good bumper plate.
These plates vary in width from 1.5" to 2.6" making them relatively slim. As far as price, for the quality you get, the pricing is very reasonable. Similar to Titan, they offer varying packages. If you are looking at getting a set of weights, the price per pound is about $2.60. For pairs of plates, you are looking at between $2.20 and $2.90.
Personally, I think these are the best value and best option overall - making them my, in my opinion, the best bumper plates.
Unless you just want to spend the money or are an elite Olympic lifter, the Eleiko IWF Weightlifting Competition Plates are better left for competitions. The Hammer Strength plates are great quality but are considerably more expensive than Titan or Rouge. I think Rouge makes a higher quality product for only a little bit more money, so that's my overall recommendation.
Rouge US-Mil Spec Bumper V2
Everything stated about Rouge above applies to these plates.
The Spec Bumper V2 plate set is made of crumb (or recycled) rubber.
These black bumper plates are approved for the U.S. Army Combat Fitness Test - meaning they can handle whatever you throw at them. This bumper plate set is designed to handle all conditions, indoor or outdoor.
So if you are looking for some ultra-durable, get-work-done plates - these may be some of the best bumper plates for you.
They range in width from 1.95" to 3". Price point here is pretty reasonable. You are looking at about $2.45/lb for the weight plate sets - these range from 160 pounds to 1000 pounds. For the pairs of plates you are looking at about $1.80/lb, but be sure to factor in shipping costs to your location.
Where To Buy Bumper Plates
There are quite a few options here.
With anything, Google can be your friend. The internet has tons of options for bumper plates from all kinds of brands at all different price points.
Some things to be aware of when purchasing bumper plates online. First, shipping is expensive. In the world of free shipping (thanks Amazon Prime), it can be easy to forget that shipping is quite pricey. This can really throw off the great value you got on some new bumper plates so be sure to calculate the total price before making your final decision. Second, be sure to read the reviews. Oftentimes you will get some great feedback from previous customers and have a better idea of the quality and service you should expect. Finally, check the warranty. Different brands offer different warranty terms and lengths. More than likely you shouldn’t have to use the warranty, but it can be nice to have that assurance.
Marketplace and other similar sites are great places to find not only some of the best bumper plates but all kinds of fitness equipment.
With Facebook Marketplace, you never know what you’ll find. You could see someone selling their entire garage gym stacked with Rouge bumper plates and Eleiko barbells bum(hint, hint, this is a goldmine assuming it’s a reasonable price). You can also find someone giving away old rusted iron-weight plates. The point is that if you stay consistent enough you will likely find some pretty good bumper plates at a decent price. One thing that can help you find your bumper plates is to set up search notifications that alert you when a new listing is posted in a search you are interested in.
You can find new and used options on Marketplace, and another huge benefit is oftentimes you don’t have to ship what you are purchasing. Many of the listings are within your area so you can drive over in your F-150 (or Prius, no judgment here) and pick up the plates. This will likely save you a considerable amount.
When it comes to what to look for and expect when purchasing bumper plates off Marketplace, be sure to inspect the plates for any signs of wear, cracks, or chips.
You may also want to consider bringing a scale with you to make sure the plates are within a pound or two of what they are supposed to be (of course your scale could be off too, so be sure to calibrate first).
Also, this is not really fitness related, but be sure to take precautionary measures when meeting up with anyone from Facebook Marketplace.
This may be an option you hadn’t yet considered.
Local gyms are often being upgraded and updated. When this happens they have to get rid of the old equipment and of course, there are many ways they can do that. However, one way is by selling equipment, specifically bumper plates, to you.
This really comes down to who you know and the connections you have.
I’ve personally found that doing this at a gym you go to may be easiest especially if you know some of the management or owners. CrossFit gyms are also really great options for two reasons. First, they primarily use bumper plates so they likely have what you are looking for. Second, CrossFit gyms make equipment decisions independent of any large organization. This is helpful because you can meet and deal with the owners on a much more personal level than say at a LifeTime Fitness or Planet Fitness.
Another option here is high school and university weight rooms. This, of course, depends on the school, because some high schools barely have a functioning weight room, much less bumper plates, while other high schools have elite facilities with everything you could want. College weight rooms are a good option because they typically have bumper plates and you may even get a university custom-designed bumper plates set or competition bumper plates set. Again, this depends on who you know but can be a great option as well.
In both of these situations, be aware that there is a reason the gym or school is getting rid of the equipment. Sometimes, it could be simply that they want nicer bumper plates and have the budget to do so, but other times it may be because they believe the equipment doesn’t have much more life in it. In a gym, bumper plates, like all equipment, will take much more of a beating than simply in your home gym. This isn’t to say you can’t find quality a quality bumper plate set at a good price but just be aware of why they are being sold.
Freedom Fitness Equipment
We offer both new and used equipment that can be picked up or shipped to you.
We have multiple great options when it comes to bumper plates. As we’ve talked about bumper plates are the perfect addition to your home gym; and speaking of home gyms, if you are struggling or just looking for some help in planning and designing your gym space, we would love to help with that.
You are now armed and dangerous to begin the buying process for your dream bumper plates. Remember to buy quality plates and they will last you a long, long time - don't always opt for the cheapest bumper plates. Here’s to dropping barbells and hitting new PRs!
Dominguez, Damect. “What Are Bumper Plates? (Everything You Need to Know).” BoxLife Magazine, 20 July 2022, https://boxlifemagazine.com/bumper-plates/.