With all the available shapes, colours, coatings and prices, choosing plates can be confusing. Especially, choosing the ones that suit your needs. To clear away any confusions, I will go through the most popular types and break them down for you. Below, you will find out everything you need to know about cast iron, rubber coated, black bumper and coloured bumper plates. In this post, I will focus on the olympic sized discs that fit olympic 2″ barbells.
1. Cast Iron Plates
Cast Iron discs are the most budget-friendly option which is why they are often bought by people starting their fitness journey. They are a long lasting investment, however, they don’t include any protection coating so over the years they may get dents and scratches. They are not designed to be thrown around (unlike bumper plates) so if you’re looking to be doing heavy deadlifts it’s better to invest in thick rubber coating. But if you’re a beginner with a squat rack looking to bench press, then cast iron weights will be enough. They usually incorporate gripping holes (tri-grip system on the picture) that makes them easy to load and carry around. Additionally, the grip makes them effective to use on their own for weighted Russian twists, arm rises etc.
Use for – begginer on a budget, using the weight disc on its own, exercises that don’t require dropping barbell
2. Rubber Coated Plates
Rubber Coated Plates are very similar in design to the cast iron plates. They also include the gripping system that makes them easy to load onto the barbell and useful in variety of exercises as a replacement of kettlebells or dumbbells. The main difference is the layer of rubber coating which gives you a few more benefits. Firstly, the discs are quieter whether you’re loading them, stacking or moving them around the rubber will cushion the impact and prevent the loud noise that iron plates generate. The rubber coating is also great for your flooring preventing scratched and dents both in the equipment and your floor. They are much smaller than bumper plates so it’s a great balance for limited home spaces. They are still not suitable for throwing with heavy weights like bumper plates but for a small price rise they are a great upgrade to cast iron plates.
Use for – small space home gym, using the weight disc on its own, exercises that don’t require dropping barbell, quiet barbell work, floor protection, with squat and power racks.
3. Black Bumper Plates
Bumper plates are the most robust and hard-wearing option. They incorporate a thick layer of rubber which makes them great for exercises when you focus on lifting as much as you can, as fast as you can. They will be a great choice for CrossFit and exercises like overhead squat when you’ll be dropping the barbell from overhead. It’s still better to use them with combination of proper gym flooring to add additional layer of cushioning. Bumper weights are wider in diameter meaning the barbell is higher off the ground and more convenient to reach.
Those plates don’t have any gripping system so if you’re looking for a plate to use on its own, this is not the one. Black bumper discs are a bit cheaper than the coloured ones so if you need the top quality on a budget this is the one to go for. They are extremely hardwearing and long lasting thanks to the thick protective rubber coating. The edges of the plates are flat making them easier to roll. Additionally, they are all the same diameter so when you drop the barbell the weight is evenly distributed instead of being focused on one widest plate.
Use for – CrossFit, exercises that require dropping barbell, heavy weightlifting, gyms, home gyms
4. Coloured Bumper Plates
The main difference between those and black bumper plates is obviously – colour. And while it may seem like an insignificant upgrade, it comes with its benefits. For example, competitions are always held with coloured bumper plates so if you’re training to compete and want to get a real feel for it, training on the same equipment will be helpful. The colours always correspond to the same weights – your red will always be 25kg, blue – 20kg, yellow – 15kg and green – 10kg (sometimes you may see black in 5kg and grey in 2.5kg as well). That means that whenever you walk into a gym you can quickly find your plates by colours, or combination of them.
Use for – CrossFit, exercises that require dropping barbell, heavy weightlifting, gyms, home gyms, competitive lifting
Each plate type is suitable for different purposes. If you’re looking for a budget friendly option for beginners or planning to use the plates on their own without the barbell – cast iron plates may be enough for you. If you’re willing to invest a bit more to get a quiet, more durable solution that’s better on your flooring but still provides a comfortable grip – rubber coated plates are for you.
But if you are planning to lift heavy weights and perform exercises that include a lot of dropping the barbell like CrossFit you will want to invest in bumper plates. For the top quality competition standards you have the coloured bumper plates. My advice is to think about your fitness goals and plans because if you buy the cast iron plates and a month later you start heavy lifting and need to get the bumper plates then instead of saving money on buying the cheaper plates in the first place, you will spend money twice. Remember that fitness is an investment in your health and wellbeing so it’s important to choose the equipment suitable for your needs – so you don’t injure yourself using unsuitable equipment.