Is it time to pick out some Olympic weightlifting plates for your home or garage gym? Are you unsure of what kind of plates to buy? Rubber bumper plates or steel plates? Where should you get them? Should you buy new weights or used weights? Are they expensive to ship, or should you expect free shipping on weight sets? I’ve been through all this myself when I needed weights for my gym so let’s see if my bumper plates review can help you find weights for your gym
What are Bumper Plates?
Bumper plates; or just bumpers, are Olympic weightlifting plates that are made of thick, hard rubber for the purpose of allowing a loaded bar to be safely dropped without risk of damaging the plates themselves, the lifting platform, or in the case of most garage gyms; the floor. Bumpers are available in both pounds and kilograms in the same weight variety as normal cast-iron strength training and powerlifting plates. Most general purpose bumpers are black, though colored varieties do exist. Competition bumper plates are almost always color coded by weight using set color schemes.
Bumper Plates or Steel Plates?
So do you choose bumper plates or classic steel plates for your garage gym? Well that depends. If money is really tight, steel weights might be the way to go. Steel plates are less expensive and much easier to find second-hand. Check craigslist and you’ll be blown away by how many folks are selling their used plates from the local sporting good stores. Prices on new steel plates are already about 70% of the price of basic bumpers, so finding used plates can mean major savings.
On the other hand, if your training includes the Olympic lifts (or CrossFit), you pretty much need bumpers, as steel plates are more for general strength training. You’ll probably need to buy them new, but you never know what you’ll find used until you look. If you can’t find used bumper plates, hopefully the pricing guide at the bottom of the page will help you find a good price.
Rubber / Urethane Coated Steel Weights
Another option for general strength training is urethane-coated steel plates. These plates are typically what giant global box gyms have these days, probably because they are quieter, look more professional than old school iron, and they are easier to work with.
The cost for these coated plates is closer to bumper plate pricing than steel plate pricing, but they’re definitely not bumpers. They are not intended to be dropped from overhead like a bumper plate is, so they are useless for CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. Because of that, and the fact that they aren’t really any cheaper, there really is no need for anyone other than a commercial gym owner to buy coated plates.
So why are bumpers better than steel? First of all, they’re safer. Safer as in, they won’t smash through your foundation or crack and chip if you drop them accidentally. Consider that if you cannot safely drop a 45-pound steel plate while just transporting it to and from the bar without having to worry about what it would do to your floor or platform, you obviously can’t safely drop a bar loaded with steel plates from an overhead position, or ditch it the bar in a failed squat or snatch.
With so many athletes becoming interested in the Olympic lifts again (thanks to CrossFit), it makes sense to just go for the bumper plates initially so those lifts are an option for you later, even if you’re fitness level or current workout doesn’t necessitate them right away. Bumper plates really are not that expensive when compared to new iron plates.
There is another reason so many prefer bumper plates over steel. It may seem a little trivial, but for those who have worked out with steel (or still do) you will understand. It’s the noise. Steel is crazy loud on the bar. Even on relatively smooth movements, those giant plates banging against each other is definitely loud. When you let that bar down from even a few inches above the ground or rack, it’s loud as hell. Bumpers don’t clang and bang like that. Just something else to consider.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to go with 100% bumpers. I have a combination of steel and bumpers in my garage gym; both have their uses.
Technique Plates – the other bumper
One other option for Olympic training plates are Technique Plates. These are one-piece solid plastic plates really meant to be abused. They are mostly commonly available in 5 and 10 pound plates, or 2.5, 3.75, and 5 kilogram plates. If you’re new to Olympic lifts, these allow you to get your form down with very little added weight, but you still have the feel of plates on the bar. They are not cheap per pound, but you shouldn’t need more than one; maybe two pairs.
The Bumper Plates Review
Below I’ll go over the different types of bumpers as well as the features of of each. Then you will find suggestions on where to buy each brand based on best price, shipping costs, and availability. In most cases you buy the brand you prefer direct from that manufacturer for the best pricing. HI-Temps can be found all around, but Rogue seems to be the only place that keeps them in stock.
There are a number of manufacturers out there for basic, non-competition bumpers, but I’ve narrowed this down to a handful of different brands to keep things relatively simple: Rogue HG, HI-Temp, Vulcan Alphas, American Barbell Sports, and Vulcan Strength bumper plates. I removed any mention of Troy VTX due to some serious complaints about them cracking and showing very early signs of insert separation, and Pendlay/MDUSA is no longer in business.
There are literally dozens of off-brand bumper plates out there. Many of them are the same, and even more of them just look the same. Like anything else, there are levels of quality in this industry. No one is making you buy any brand I discuss here, but I do strongly suggest you research any off-brand plate thoroughly. Saving 10% on bumpers that you’ll replace in 6 months isn’t saving money at all!
-Hi-Temp Bumpers are solid plates, and the slightly higher price is acceptable considering that they are manufactured in the USA. HI-Temps are on the thicker side of available bumpers, but unless you are putting more than 400-pounds on the bar it shouldn’t be an issue. Lots of equipment vendors offer HI-Temps, but Rogue Fitness has the most reasonable prices, a chance at free shipping (depending on your location), and maintains the most consistent inventory. Biggest advantages of HI-Temps is that they can be used outdoors on abrasive surfaces and that they are made domestically. Biggest disadvantage is the unusually high and unpredictable bounce.
-Vulcan Alpha Bumpers are the all around most versatile basic bumper plate that I know of. They offer the same indoor/outdoor versatility as HI-Temps, are 30% quieter than all other basic bumper plates, are among the thinnest of non-competition bumpers, and are in color. Alphas have durable, hooked inserts that stay put, low bounce, low odor, and are just a hell of a reliable bumper plate at a more than reasonable price. Free shipping is also available for many regions. Only at Vulcan Strength.
-Vulcan Bumper Plates are probably the best choice for black bumpers. Not only does Vulcan have very competitive prices on sets, they have the most innovative basic bumpers currently on the market. A hooked and knurled (inner) steel insert helps to prevent the rubber disc from ever separating from the insert, and a new rubber compound is used help to eliminate the common warping and bending of the smaller plates. Not only are the prices on the Vulcan Strength bumpers great, but free shipping is available as well.
-Rogue HG 2.0 bumper plates – These plates make up the bulk of my collection and I am happy with them. I’m not a huge fan of the 10- and 15-pound discs, but I have enough other 10’s that I don’t need to destroy the Rogue’s any more than they already are. They are slightly less expensive than the Hi-Temps, and they are a bit thinner as well – so you can get more on the bar. They are warranted for 3 years (25 pound plates and up) and it is possible to get free shipping on sets, but not pairs. Read some of the reviews here.
-American Barbell Sport bumpers – American Barbell Sports are basically the same as Rogue HG, Echos, and so forth. They have a more “unique to AB” look to them but they’re still functionally the same plate. What makes them different is the starting price for sets. The 160-pound set starts $20-$30 less than the others, and shipping can still be had for free in certain zones. Even if you’re out of zone, shipping isn’t bad at all. The Sports are also available in IWF colors and kilograms. Pretty sweet!
Competition (& Training) Bumper plates
Competition bumpers like the Eleiko Olympic plates are thinner, more durable, and significantly more expensive than basic bumpers. These plates have but one purpose, and that is for Olympic lifting on a professional level. If you’re not serious about the clean and jerk and the snatch, these are not the plates for you.
Many manufacturers also offer “training” versions of these plates. They’re pretty much the same plate as the competition plate only not calibrated, and in the case of IWF/IPF certified brands, the training plates are not considered to be certified (in some cases there can be minor discrepancies with the SHORE rating, but it’s not even worth thinking about.) They are still professional Olympic discs though. Whether you buy training or true competition plates, you will spend a lot more money on these than you will on basic bumper plates.
I’m not going to try and do a side-by-side comparison of Competition plates here. I don’t really have a bunch of different brands of comp plates lying around my garage waiting to be judged (although that would be nice). I can say that Eleiko, Werksan, and Uesaka have all been used in the Olympics, Rogue supplies their Competition plates for the Reebok CrossFit Games, and you’ll find Ivanko and all the others used in one professional setting or another.
If you are so inclined to spend the money required to own competition plates, one of the major benefits to you using these plates versus standard bumpers is the reliability of the claimed weight. The tolerances are so tight that you know you’re lifting the weight that the plate claims; usually within 10 grams or less. Also, if you currently (or intend to) compete on a professional level, training with the same equipment you will be expected to compete with would also be beneficial. Of course, comp plates are also more durable by design.
When it comes down to it though, the extra durability and reliability of comp plates versus standard bumper plates is going to be meaningless in a typical garage gym setting, especially after you factor in price. I have no brand recommendation for this article, but I did include price links for all the major brands towards the bottom of the price list.
Olympic Plate Pricing Summary
Below is just some pricing to give you an idea of what you will spend to get your hands on some new plates. Last updated March 2016.
!! You’ll need to buy your bumper plates in sets to get to the lower end of these pricing windows, and the bigger the better. Buying in pairs is not a very economical way to gather a bumper plate collection. Fear not though, I have a bumper plates sets guide!!
Steel / Cast Iron Olympic Plates
Price: Approx $1.00 a pound (new). Definitely shop for used; very easy to find. Used price can be as low as $.25-.50 a pound! Expect inaccuracies of up to 5% in claimed weight with box-store brands though.
York Legacy Precision Milled Iron Plates
Price: Approx $1.50 a pound, sold in pairs. More accurate than off-brand cast iron plates, but not by much. 100-pound plates available.
Rogue 45-pound Wagon Wheel
Price: $425 a pair. An extremely pricey yet remarkably classy way of pulling deadlifts from the same height as 3″ pulling blocks. Not at all economical, but about as unique as it gets. Thanks Mark Bell!
Available only at Rogue Fitness
Vulcan Strength Bumper Plates
Price: Approx $1.50-$1.75 per pound. Free shipping is possible on sets. These are the most innovative basic bumper model available – only the Alpha is a better basic bumper.
Available only at Vulcan Strength
Rogue HG 2.0 Bumper Plates
Price: Approx $1.60-$1.75 a pound. Best price on basic bumpers when purchased in pairs rather than sets, but price does not include shipping. Very mid-grade level bumper plate, but warranty is nice.
Available only at Rogue Fitness
HI-TEMP Bumper Plates
Price: $1.60+ a pound. Rogue has best HI-Temp price, and sets may receive free shipping depending on shipping zone. One of few plates suitable for outdoor use.
American Barbell Sports
Price: $1.50+ a pound. Set prices are extremely competitive. 55-pound plates are available. These are rarely in stock, but the prices just blow away Vulcan, Rogue and the other guys when they are. [review]
Available only at American Barbell
Vulcan Alpha Bumpers
Price: Approx $1.50-$1.90 a pound. Indoor/Outdoor use, 30% quieter, slim profile, anchored stainless inserts, low odor, and more. Amazing plates! I dare say the best plates. [review]
Available only at Vulcan Strength
Colored Basic Bumpers
Price: Approx $1.50-2.00 a pound. Slightly more expensive than black, but a nice compromise between black and competition plates.
Colored Kilogram Bumpers
Pretty much the same deal as the basic black Sport bumpers from above, only in kilograms and in colors.
Price: Approx $14-16 a pound (ouch!).
Training Olympic Bumpers
Price: Approx $3-$7 a pound. Generally sold in kilograms.
Urethane Training Bumpers
Price: Approx $3-7 a pound. Urethane has a dead bounce, and they’re very durable. American Barbell originated these, but the Rogue’s are more affordable and in stock more often.
Competition Olympic Bumpers
Price: Approx $3 -$8 or more per pound. Generally sold in kilograms, but Rogue offers pounds for the CrossFit Games. The Eleiko’s are IWF-certified; not that it matters.
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I hope this article has been helpful. I realize that there are a ton of other brands and places to buy bumper plates, and I considered literally dozens of alternatives. I dare say 90% of home and garage gym owners will find exactly what they need either at Rogue Fitness, Vulcan, Amazon, or maybe even Craigslist. If you want to add your two cents on the type of plates you have and love (or hate), please do. Thanks for reading this bumper plates review! Please share this article – it’s much appreciated!