Should You Invest in Training Bumper Plates for Your Home Gym?
If you’ve never crossed the threshold of a CrossFit box and you’ve never indulged in Olympic lifting, it’s possible that you’ve also never been exposed to training bumper plates or to competition bumper plates for that matter. But if you want to put together a good or even top-notch home gym, chances are high that you’ll want to get your hands on some bumper plates.
If you’re not familiar with bumper plates you’ll have a few questions in mind, right? Questions like:
- What exactly are bumper plates?
- Are they really necessary for your home gym?
- If they are necessary, or at least offer plenty of benefits, which bumper plates should you get?
So let’s start out with the first of these questions which is…
What are bumper plates?
If you have seen bumper plates but never used them and never seen them being used you may be thinking that they’re simply the same thing as weight plates you’re familiar with.
So, why on Earth would someone invest so much for bumper plates?
Bumper plates were originally designed for those that train for competitive lifting and are also used in competition. That’s not to say you will want bumper plates for the same reason, however.
Bumper plates are manufactured in dense rubber. If the plates are dropped, no damage occurs to a lifting platform, nor to the actual plates, or to your floor at home.
The fact that bumper plates are made from dense rubber is extremely important when performing CrossFit and/or Olympic-style lifts. Lifts such as snatches, squats, and cleans, often end up with the heavily laden bar being dropped. When performing those types of lifts, folks are frequently pushing on the limit of their capabilities. And when that happens, lifts aren’t always completed. In such instances, it’s important in terms of safety that the bar is dropped.
It’s an action - dropping the bar - that does call for the weight plates to have some specialized qualities. And so, in order to accommodate those specialized demands for the competitive lifter, life was given to bumper plates.
The other reason that many people prefer bumper plates over standard iron weight plates is they are far quieter to use. If you’ve used a gym where it’s mostly standard weight plates, you’ll know that it doesn’t take too many people inside the gym before the place starts to sound a bit like a construction site. On the other hand, bumper plates don’t clash with one another so you don’t get the same kind of effect as you do with standard iron weights that sound like cymbals clashing together in a marching band.
What are the different options for bumper plates?
For bumper plates, there are a handful of options at your disposal.
They are available in lbs or in kilos.
They are available in differing materials - we’ll discuss that in a bit.
To keep things simplistic, though, bumper plates are available as two types - competition bumper plates and training bumper plates.
Training Bumpers or Competition Bumpers?
Obviously, competition bumper plates are for competition. If a sanctioned, competitive lifting event is being hosted, all of the equipment must meet a set of predetermined, universal standards set by the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation).
On the other hand, training bumper plates are ideal for the vast majority of us. These plates are highly durable and they’re the choice plates for competition lifters to train with. So, that said, it’s advisable to save your money when investing in bumper plates and go for training plates as opposed to competition plates.
You might be wondering about the difference between training bumper plates and competition plates?
Competition plates are made to exacting IWF specifications. Diameters, weight, collar size - all made to IWF specs. It also includes a certain amount of, or lack of, bounce in order to ensure safety. It all adds to cost.
A reputable company that manufactures training bumper plates will comply with the same standards anyhow.
Uniformity of sizing
Bumper plates, unlike standard iron weight plates that come in different sizes depending on weight, are all the same in terms of diameter. Rather than diameter variation, bumper plates vary in terms of construction and thickness.
There are three potentially major benefits to this, the first of which is that when the bar is dropped the weights - all of them - simultaneously hit the floor. That means the force is evenly distributed helping to prevent any damage to the floor beneath and also to your plates.
The second benefit is that there are some exercises whereby larger plates with a greater diameter is to the good. Take the barbell hip thrust, for example. Getting into the correct position to start, with your hips and legs beneath the bar, is far easier to achieve with plates that are larger in terms of diameter.
The third benefit is related to bounce. Sure, it’s difficult to imagine that a very heavy object such as a barbell that’s laden with bumper plates is going to bounce when it’s dropped. However, they do. And when the size of the plates are all uniform it means that all plates will hit the floor simultaneously. In turn, that greatly reduces the bounce factor.
It’s not merely uniformity of size that reduces bounce. Typically, bumper plates are manufactured from a rubber that is of very high density, a rubber that encases the actual weight and collar. The density of the rubber absorbs drop impact so the bar doesn’t bounce back up as much.
It’s worth noting that bumper plates may smell when they are new. However, in order to avoid the aroma being an issue - the aroma is otherwise referred to as ‘outgassing’ - consider investing in weights made from virgin rubber as opposed to weights made from crumb (recycled) rubber. Virgin rubber does not suffer from the same level of outgassing that recycled rubber does. The smell is very faint or there’s no smell at all.
Standard iron weight plates or bumper plates?
When coming to a decision about the purchase you’re going to make for your home gym, you need to consider the sort of lifts you’ll be performing.
If you’ll mainly be doing close-grip presses, French presses, curl variations, or alternative exercises with an EZ bar, standard, smaller diameter weight plates are ideal. With EZ bars, bumper plates with a larger diameter simply get in the way. And with this type of bar, it’s rare to load it with heavy weights. Smaller weights of around 25 or 35lbs are best.
On the other hand, when you want to do Olympic-type lifts or CrossFit, any big movements, bumper plates are definitely the way to go.
When doing these types of lifts you’ll be dropping the bar with some frequency. And if you’re using standard iron weights it will more than likely eventually damage the floor and the weights. As previously stated, when loading a bar with bumper plates, it not only greatly reduces the potential for damage to the weights and to the floor, but it’s also a lot safer due to the very much diminished bounce.
It’s your lifting style that should be the determining factor as to whether you should invest in bumper plates to add to your home gym’s arsenal. If your lifting style does include a barbell, you’re likely going to want to have at least a proportion of your set consisting of bumpers.
You’ll get many years of repetitive use from a good set of training bumper plates. They’ll be frequently used and they’ll be highly valued. You’ll take pride in owning them and they surely are a big step in the right direction in terms of building the ideal home gym!
If you are looking for barbells for your gym, check out our collection here.