You're adding more weight training into your workout routine, but you're unsure if you should opt for bumper plates or not. What are bumper plates? Bumper plates are a type of weight plate used in a variety of settings, including home gyms. If you'd like to expand on your bumper plate knowledge, this guide will tell you everything you need to know!
Table of Contents
- What Are Bumper Plates? (Detailed Overview)
- Different Types Of Bumper Plates Explained
- Why Use Bumper Plates? (Benefits For Home Garage Gyms)
- Frequently Asked Bumper Plate Questions
What Are Bumper Plates? (Detailed Overview)
If you’ve ever watched the CrossFit Games or even the Olympic Games, you’ll undoubtedly have spotted the brightly colored weight plates being used. Most of the time, particularly with CrossFit, you'll have noticed that athletes tend to drop their weights from an overhead height. These are bumper plates.
Unlike iron or steel weight plates, bumper plates are composed primarily of solid rubber. For extra durability, they usually feature a small steel insert within the rubber casing, as well as a metal collar for easy racking.
Additionally, bumper plates have a beveled edge, making them easier to grip. The weights are color-coded according to guidelines set out by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Since bumper plates are all the same diameter, having different colors helps to identify each weight quickly.
You may be wondering, why are they called bumper plates and where did they originate from?
Well, back in the late 1960s, the progression from iron plates to bumper plates in the competition scene began when Eleiko introduced the first rubber-coated discs. The idea to add rubber to weight plates was inspired by a bicycle tire wrapped around the rim of a weight plate.
From there, other manufacturers jumped on board, and the evolution of bumper plates began. The 1971 World Championships in Peru was the last time we saw an all-iron loaded barbell.
In 1972, at the Munich Olympic Games, Schnell introduced the 25kg rubber bumper plate.
Between '72 and '74, it was commonplace to see a barbell loaded with a mix of both bumper plates and iron plates. During this transition phase from iron plates to bumper plates, the color-coded system was also put into place. Since then, the design of bumper plates has been slowly modified and improved to what we see today.
So, why are they called bumper plates? This is a very simple reason. Due to the fact that they can be dropped (or bumped) and will bounce slightly, this is how bumper plates got their name.
Aside from competitive weightlifting, bumper plates are ideal for home gym use too. They are particularly useful for doing power-focused exercises that involve lifting as much weight as possible, as quickly as possible. This is because, when performing exercises like the overhead squat, snatch, or clean and jerk, you’ll often drop the weight from overhead.
Bumper plates (when coupled with rubber floor mats) are meant to withstand being dropped without damaging the floor or the barbell. In addition, if you don't have a spotter, bumper plates are great for workouts like barbell squats. You can lift more safely if you know you can drop the bar backward if needed.
Related Article - Bumper Plates Vs Iron Plates
Different Types Of Bumper Plates Explained
Standard/Training Bumper Plates
Standard bumper plates, also called training bumper plates, are usually made of solid virgin rubber. These plates are often all-back with a glossy finish but do tend to feature color-coded labeling. Some brands also add a color band to the outer rim of the plate as well.
Standard/training bumper plates are around 2.9 inches thick (for a 45-pound plate), which is thicker than a competition bumper. Additionally, they tend to be louder and bounce more than competition plates do when dropped.
As a result, this type of bumper plate is ideal for low-height exercises like deadlifts. However, they can still be used for overhead lifts and are cheaper than competition plates, making them suited for anyone on a tight budget.
Our Favorite Standard Bumper Plates
Competition Bumper Plates
As the name suggests, this type of bumper plate is used in the competitive scene. Competition bumper plates are the thinnest of all bumper plate types and usually feature a steel inner plate for extra durability.
Each weight is color-coded according to IWF standards, with the whole plate (rather than just the labeling) featuring the appropriate color. Competition bumper plates are supposed to be certified by the IWF in order to be formally classified as competition plates.
However, not all bumper plates labeled "Competition Plates" are IWF certified these days. These plates have very little to no bounce when dropped (known as a dead bounce), making them best suited for high-impact/overhead workouts.
Our Favorite Competition Bumper Plates
Crumb bumper plates
Crumb bumper plates are made using crumbs of recycled rubber (hence their name). This type of bumper plate is thicker than the other types but is also the most durable, making them ideal for outdoor use.
In addition, they feature a higher bounce rate compared to standard bumper plates but are quieter when dropped. This makes them suitable for indoor overhead exercises too.
Hi-Temp and MIL-Spec plates are both types of crumb bumpers, with slight differences between them. This includes their plate thickness, as well as their Shore A durometer rating (which determines how much they bounce).
Our Favorite Crumb Bumper Plates
Urethane Bumper Plates
Urethane bumper plates bridge the gap between rubber and plastic plates. They’re harder and more durable than rubber but softer than plastic. Although the most expensive bumper type, urethane bumpers offer a few benefits over their rubber counterparts.
These include having a lower bounce than even competition rubber bumpers. Additionally, urethane bumpers are thinner, allowing you to stack more weight on the bar. They also feature vibrant colors that don't fade over time as rubber bumper plates do.
Finally, if you've ever unboxed rubber bumpers, you'll be familiar with that strong rubber smell. The good news is that urethane bumper plates are completely odorless! This makes them ideal for people sensitive to strong odors.
Our Favorite Urethane Bumper Plates
Technique plates, although often referred to as a type of bumper plate, are technically not bumper plates but rather a plate type of their own. Think of it as a cousin of the bumper plate. Rather than rubber, technique plates are made from hard plastic.
As the name suggests, technique plates are designed to help you perfect your form (or technique) before moving on to heavier weight. The benefit of these plates is that they are the same size in diameter as a regular bumper plate, but weigh significantly less.
Unlike the wide weight range available in bumper plates, technique plates are only available in 5lb, 10lb, or 15lb plates.
Our Favorite Technique Plates
Why Use Bumper Plates? (Benefits For Home Garage Gyms)
Bumper plates offer the benefit of additional safety, particularly for solo lifters in their home garage gym. If you don’t have a spotter on hand or access to a squat rack, or even if you’re just a beginner lifter, using bumper plates means you can drop the bar from a height without worrying about causing damage to your floors or the barbell.
Additionally, power-focused workouts (like CrossFit and Olympic lifting) require you to lift as much weight as you can, as quickly as you can. This makes the use of bumper plates a safer alternative for these types of workouts.
Since bumper plates are all the same size in diameter, they’re also better suited when learning to deadlift and trying to perfect your form. A low weight iron plate will mean that the barbell will be lower than compared to a bumper plate of the same weight.
This means you'll have to reach lower for the starting portion of the lift, making it harder to maintain your form. However, using a bumper plate will bring the bar up to a more comfortable starting position. This allows you to perfect your form before moving on to heavier weight.
Finally, depending on the type of lifting you plan to do, bumper plates offer a variety of options to suit your needs. For general training, using standard/training plates allow you to practice your lifts with the benefit of additional safety for failed lifts.
If you're lifting heavy, competition bumper plates are thinner and will enable you to fit more weight on the bar. For outdoor use, crumb bumpers are ideal. This versatility makes bumper plates better suited for home gym setups than iron plates.
Related Article - Crumb Bumper Plates Vs Regular
Frequently Asked Bumper Plate Questions
What is the difference between training bumper plates and competition bumper plates?
Training bumper plates are cheaper than competition bumper plates but tend to be thicker, which means you’ll fit fewer plates on the barbell. Additionally, competition bumpers are often IWF certified, meeting the standards required for competing.
Although more expensive, competition bumpers offer a dead bounce and are usually reinforced with a steel insert as well. If you can afford them, competition bumper plates are better.
Are bumper plates easier to lift?
Yes, sometimes. If you're a newbie who wants to start with a lighter weight, smaller iron weights on the bar will force you to lower your starting position. Bumper plates raise the barbell, making deadlifting significantly easier.
Furthermore, folks who lift heavy will tell you that bumper plates cause the bar to bend more than iron plates of equal weight do, making deadlifting easier.
Can you squat with bumper plates?
Yes, you certainly can! If you don't have a squat rack or are afraid of dropping the bar, using bumper plates to squat is best. However, if you’re powerlifting and wanting to compete, it’s best to stick to iron plates. This is because only iron plates are used in competitive powerlifting, so you should train with iron plates too.
Will bumper plates crack concrete?
No, they won’t. Bumper plates are specifically designed to be dropped without causing damage to the floor or the barbel. While it’s a good idea to use rubber mats, lifting on concrete floors is fine too. However, it should be noted that purchasing a low-quality bumper plate could mean that the bumper plate itself could break when dropped.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to bumper plates. We hope that all of your questions and concerns have been covered.
Now that you know what bumper plates are, the different types of bumper plates available, and why you should use them - you’ll be able to add them to your home gym and achieve your weightlifting goals in no time!
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