A difficult question many home gym owners have to answer is, “What type of weight plates should I buy?” Bumper plates are arguably the most common style of plates you’ll find in home gyms, but you can also make a case for some solid metal plates. The reason so many athletes want bumper plates is because of their versatility. The rubber coating allows them to be used for Olympic and CrossFit style lifts since it protects the barbell and your floors from damage. Plus, they can also be used for powerlifts.
Metal plates aren’t as versatile as bumper plates, but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a solid purpose. Metal plates are primarily used for the big three — squat, bench, and deadlift — since those lifts don’t require you to drop the barbell onto the ground. Metal plates are often made from steel or cast iron, and feature a thinner profile, so you can stack more plates on your barbell’s loading sleeves. On top of the materials used, the main differences between bumper plates and metal plates are the thickness of the plates, the style of workouts you can perform with them, and the price you’ll pay for each. Follow along as we compare bumper plates and metal plates, so you can decide which style belongs in your home gym.
Bumper Plates Highlights
A lot of athletes who work out from home want to make the most of their available budget by loading up on highly versatile equipment, and bumper plates fit that description. While some “cheaper” bumper plates feature cast iron inserts with a rubber coating, most companies use steel inserts. The rubber is designed to absorb the shock from when you drop a barbell to protect the plates, your barbell, your floors, and any surrounding equipment.
The Rogue Echo Bumper Plates are made out of quality virgin rubber and have steel inserts to limit bouncing when dropped during various exercises.
The rubber used tends to vary a bit, ultimately determining the plates’ durometer rating. For anyone who doesn’t know, a durometer rating will tell you how hard an object is. When it comes to bumper plates, it will tell you how hard a plate is, and how much bounce you can expect from it. Ranging from 65 to 100, the higher the rating, the less bounce you’ll be dealing with. Ideally, you’ll want as little bounce as possible, so you should target some plates with a high durometer rating — just be prepared to shell out some more cash.
Bumper plates tend to be thicker than metal plates since they need a bigger surface area to assist in shock absorption. This can also negatively impact the amount of weight elite strength athletes are able to load onto a barbell. The thickness of bumper plates tends to vary across all manufacturers and their various weight options, but the average 45-pound plate is about three inches thick. However, some may be as thin as 2.4 inches, and a 45-pound competition bumper plate is about 2.1 inches thick. The nice thing about bumper plates is that the diameters are uniform regardless of the weight you’re using. This is helpful for beginners as they’re learning proper lifting techniques for Olympic lifts with lighter weights.
- Bumper plates feature metal inserts with a rubber coating that can help absorb shock, making them ideal for home use.
- The higher the durometer rating for bumpers, the less bounce you’ll experience during a lift where the barbell is dropped (around 90 is ideal).
- Bumper plates feature a uniform diameter, which allows you to learn proper technique with lighter weights when you’re just starting out.
Metal Plates Highlights
Unlike bumper plates, metal plates aren’t very versatile, and are usually only used with a power rack, squat rack, or where you can safely ease them to the ground (like you can during a deadlift). Metal plates are typically made from cast iron or steel — though some companies may offer chrome plates. Because of the lack of a rubber coating, metal plates also tend to be more affordable than bumper plates.
These ductile iron weight plates are available in individual pairs, and full sets. They're also thicker than your standard weight plates, which makes them more durable.
Metal plates are usually used for powerlifting because you don’t drop the barbell during powerlifts, and in turn, don’t need the added protection that a rubber coating offers. This style of weight plate is typically thinner than a bumper plate, allowing you to stack more plates on your loading sleeves for heavier lifts. For example, a 45-pound metal plate is around 1.3 inches thick — making them almost a full inch thinner than the thinnest 45-pound bumper plates. Since you don’t need the diameter of these plates to be uniform, a 10-pound plate will be much smaller than a 45-pound plate.
- Metal plates feature a thinner design to allow you to stack more plates on your barbell. This makes them ideal for elite powerlifters.
- Metal plates are meant to be used for powerlifts where the barbell is not dropped onto the ground, as there is no rubber coating here for protection.
- Metal plates tend to be more affordable than bumper plates since they aren’t quite as versatile.
Bumper Plates vs Metal Plates Video Review
Our reviews writer, Jake, compares bumper plates to metal plates in the BarBend garage gym, and puts both to the test. Follow along as he helps you decide which style is best for your workouts.
What Are The Big Differences Between Bumper Plates And Metal Plates?
Even outside of the materials used to make these two types of plates, bumper plates and metal plates are still quite different. Let’s break down these major differences, from the price to the thickness, and the types of workouts you can perform with each.
There’s a Price Difference
If money is your main concern, metal plates will be the route to take since they’re cheaper. That said, you can still find some affordable bumpers out there.
Regardless of which fitness company you want to purchase your weight plates from, you’ll notice that bumper plates will be more expensive than metal ones. This is due to the added protection from their rubber coating. The price for bumper plates will also vary depending on the type of rubber used.
Competition and urethane bumper plates tend to be the most expensive. This is because the plates feature a harder surface, leading to a greater dead bounce and higher durometer rating — both tend to have a rating between 90 and 100. Standard bumper plates feature a virgin rubber coating that typically has a durometer rating between 80 and 90. These are typically black in color, but some companies will offer them in Olympic colors for more money.
The cheapest bumpers are typically crumb bumpers. These plates use recycled rubber, which makes them quieter than the rest. But since the durometer rating is typically not higher than 80, they’ll also bounce more, meaning you’ll need to be more careful when dropping your barbell.
For some reference numbers, Rogue’s competition and urethane bumper plates are priced around $330 for a 45-pound pair of plates. A standard pair of 45-pound bumper plates is about $200, and their crumb 45’s are around $175. Rogue’s plates are right around average compared to other companies, but they do charge for shipping on individual pairs, so you’ll wind up spending more money with them. That being said, you can definitely find some cheaper plates from competing brands — but they are likely cheaper for a reason and may not last you as long.
As a friendly reminder, metal plates will definitely be the way to go if you are working with a tight budget. They don’t feature a rubber coating, so what you see is what you get. However, the prices for metal plates will be determined by whether they’re made from cast iron or steel.
Since we compared prices for Rogue’s bumper plates, let’s do the same for the metal plates. Some of the most affordable plates are their Olympic and deep dish plates, which will run you around $170 for a pair of 45’s, while the absolute cheapest ones are the iron plates which are around $100 for a 45-pound pair.
Some people may be interested in the calibrated steel plates since they’re about as spot on in terms of actual weight as they can be (within 10 grams) — but they’re more expensive and will cost you around $240 for a pair of 45’s. They also offer some “wagon wheel” plates that resemble actual wagon wheels, and are designed to do block pulls during deadlift training without the actual blocks. These aren’t really meant for anything else, so it likely isn’t going to be worth spending nearly $600 on them.
While Rogue’s iron plates are about the same price as what you can find elsewhere, their steel plates tend to be slightly more expensive than the rest of the competition. This is due to the overall quality of the plates — plus, the branding definitely plays a role.
Bumper plates are much thicker than metal plates, and it’s easy to tell as soon as you look at the two side by side. Metal plates tend to be thinner since they aren’t meant for exercises where the barbell is dropped on the ground — such as a power clean. This thinner build also allows you to load more weight onto the barbell for a super heavy deadlift, back squat, or bench press.
Bumper plates are thicker partly because of the rubber coating, but also because the actual steel is thicker. This is necessary since you’ll likely be using them for a lot of Olympic and CrossFit lifts, so you need the plates to absorb the shock that occurs. While competition bumper plates are thinner than standard and crumb bumpers, they’re still thicker than metal plates, so you won’t be able to toss as many plates onto your barbell.
For example, a 45-pound USA Olympic plate from Rogue is just under an inch thick, while their thinnest bumper plates — the competition bumpers — are 2.1 inches thick. While bumper plates may prevent you from lifting as heavy as you can with metal plates, that thickness is crucial for protecting the plates since it will decrease the chance of them bending over time.
Types of Workouts
It’s no secret that bumper plates are the most versatile of the two as they allow you to perform powerlifts and Olympic lifts. Metal plates are meant for powerlifts only, as they don’t offer the shock absorption necessary for other lifts.
So if you want to spend one day repping out some squats, and the next day perfecting your clean & jerk, bumper plates are the way to go. However, if you don’t have any interest in Olympic lifts, you’ll be better off saving some money and snagging a set of metal plates to fit your lifting program.
Which Style Of Plates Are The Better Option?
When deciding which plates are “better”, it really just depends on your preferred workout style. If you’re a powerlifter who just wants to focus on that style of lifting, then you’ll be better off with some metal plates since you don’t have much of a need for the added protection that bumper plates offer. On the other hand, if you do want to work on your power cleans, you will definitely want to get yourself some bumper plates so you aren’t ruining your barbell and surrounding equipment. Plus — and maybe most importantly — you can avoid being the obnoxious neighbor.
You’ll also want to focus on the money you’ll spend with each option. If you want to save some of that hard-earned cash, it’s no secret that metal plates are going to be your best bet. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what type of plates will best suit your needs — we just want to offer a few highlights to help you work it out.
Is The Thickness Of Weight Plates That Important?
It depends on how strong you are. If you are someone who is able to put the weight limit of a barbell to the test, then you’ll want some thinner plates, so you can load on more weight. Even if you were to go with bumper plates, you’ll still want to find some that feature a thinner profile to accommodate your strength level.
If you’re not testing your barbell’s tensile strength, the thickness won’t affect anything other than the whip. “Whip” is the amount of bounce that occurs mid-lift during exercises like a power clean. The thicker the plate, the more bounce you’ll experience. You might want to consider that if you’re someone who is working in some Olympic lifts. Thicker bumper plates are going to be more helpful for beginners who aren’t tossing on multiple plates as they ensure the plates won’t bend from being dropped repeatedly. However, expert-level lifters may not need that extra thickness as they’re most likely loading up multiple plates, and the shock will be spread throughout each one.
Looking for the right pair of weight plates to add to your home gym can be a bit overwhelming since there are a lot to choose from. You’ll have to consider the style of lifts you’re hitting, and of course, how much money you want to spend. Bumper plates and metal plates are two completely different styles of plates that are meant for completely different types of workouts.
Bumper plates are definitely the most versatile of the two, and likely the most popular for home gym owners since you can use them for all of your workouts. They have a protective outer coating to help keep your floors safe, but because of that added protection, they do tend to be more expensive. They’re also thicker than metal plates, so they may not always be the best fit for powerlifters. Though we can’t make the decision for you, consider your current fitness regimen, and be sure to use this article as your guide to finding the right type of plates to suit your needs.
Are Bumper Plates more expensive than Metal Plates?
Generally speaking, yes, bumper plates are going to cost you more than metal plates will — regardless of where you’re purchasing your plates from. This is due to the added protection from the rubber coating. Even bottom-tier bumper plates are more expensive than metal plates, so keep that in mind when filling out your home gym. If you don’t see yourself performing any lift where the barbell is dropped on the ground repeatedly, you’ll be better off saving your money and buying some metal ones.
Will bumper plates last me longer than metal plates?
This is a bit of a difficult question to answer, mainly because you use each plate differently. With metal plates, all you really need to worry about is rust forming over time. But with bumper plates, it’s going to depend on the quality of the rubber and metal inserts. If you go for some cheaper plates, there’s a higher chance of the rubber cracking and the plates bending from being dropped repeatedly. But if you buy a high-quality set of bumpers, they’re likely to last you a solid 10 years.
Can I do anything with bumper plates that I can’t with metal plates?
Yes, you can absolutely do more with bumper plates than you can with metal plates. Metal plates are ideal for powerlifts where the bar won’t be dropped. Bumper plates can be used for powerlifts, as well as Olympic lifts thanks to the rubber coating.