You bought an Olympic barbell and now you’re looking to load it up. Olympic weight plates will end up being a significant investment for your home gym and something you use with almost every workout. If you’re on the hunt for the best Olympic weight plates for your home gym, but need help sorting through the endless options, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we give our top five picks, including bumper and metal plates, based on over 20 years of fitness experience as a Certifed Personal Trainer, and the experience of what holds up in the firehouse gym. Then, we discuss how we made our choices in a detailed buyer’s guide.
So, read on to discover the best weight plates to start filling out your home gym.
A Quick Look
Best Overall: Vulcan Alpha Bumper Weights
Our top pick for Olympic weight plates is the Vulcan Alpha Bumper Weights. These gorgeous flecked plates can stand up to substantial wear and tear. Since home gyms are usually a little more rugged than commercial settings, this is a huge plus.
Thanks to Vulcan’s patent-pending rubber compound, these are the only bumper weights that promise to stand up to drops on virtually any surface. Whether you’re lifting on concrete, asphalt, or horse stall mats, these weights can handle it.
The Alpha bumper plates also feature anchored steel in their central hub. This means the center hub is less likely to come loose with use. In addition, they have a weight tolerance of +/- 1% and raised outer flanges for easy pick-up.
Vulcan also claims these weights are less noisy when you drop them, don’t have a potent rubbery smell, and offer less bounce than other bumper plates. Unfortunately, Vulcan doesn’t provide much to substantiate these claims, but if user reviews are any indication, these bumper plates stand up to Vulcan’s boasts.
The biggest downside to the Alpha Bumper Weights is the price. They’re an investment! Luckily, these plates have a great warranty, so you know they’ll last.
- Incredible durability regardless of lifting surface
- Great aesthetic
- Tight weight tolerance
- Fantastic warranty
- Some claims are unsubstantiated
- Quite expensive
Best Competition Bumper Plates: Rogue Competition Plates
If you’re going to compete in Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit, you should consider Rogue’s competition plates. Rogue is a trusted brand for good reasons. They create American-made products and back them up with incredible warranties.
They’re also experts at manufacturing weights that meet competition standards. These competition plates meet all the IWF specifications. They match the IWF weight colors, have a tight weight tolerance, and feature a precise 450-millimeter diameter.
On top of that, they feature a durometer rating of 94. That means they’ll give you a single, dead bounce when dropped, regardless of how much weight you load onto the bar.
Their 50.4-millimeter collar opening creates a tight fit. Plus, these plates offer an exceptionally low weight tolerance. The gorgeous gloss-matte finish and raised white lettering are the cherries on top.
The only downside to these weights is their price. They’re probably not worth the investment unless you plan to compete in weightlifting.
- Made to IWF competition standards
- Raised flange around metal disc helps prevent scuffs and rusting
- Dead bounce when dropped
Best Calibrated Steel Plates: Rogue Calibrated Steel Plates
If you plan to compete in powerlifting or want some of the best metal plates available, consider the Rogue Calibrated Steel Plates. Rogue is a top-notch brand that you can trust to create durable, perfectly calibrated plates to IPF specifications.
These plates feature an exceptionally tight weight tolerance and an extremely thin width. Their 55 lb plate is just over 1″ in diameter. That means you can stack up to 1500 lbs on the barbell!
They’re also a perfect fit for competition barbells with precise 50.4-millimeter collar openings. Unfortunately, that means using a barbell that doesn’t meet IPF specifications won’t work with the Rogue Calibrated Steel Plates.
All of Rogue’s competition-level plates have gorgeous colors to mark the different sizes. However, the paint on the calibrated steel plates chips easily. So, while they’ll look pretty initially, don’t expect them to stay that way.
- Meet IPF specifications
- Thin width so you can load more on the bar
- Fantastic Rogue warranty applies
- Paint chips easily
Best Budget Metal Plates: REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates
Unless you plan to compete in powerlifting, you probably don’t need competition-level metal weights. So, save your hard-earned cash and consider our budget pick for metal plates: REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates.
These plates will make you nostalgic for the gym you grew up in. Their cast iron clang as you load up the bar is music to any gym rat’s ears.
The plates feature a matte finish coating to prevent rust and damage. They also offer a great fit on the barbell, given the price.
Unfortunately, they aren’t machined. That means there are some imperfections. They’re bumpy to the touch, and the weight tolerance is more than we like to see. However, given the price, starting at $20 per pair, REP Fitness Old School Iron Plates are a great option for home gyms.
- Nostalgic aesthetic
- Protective coating
- Great value
- Poor weight tolerance
- Bumpy finish
Best Budget Bumper Plates: Bells of Steel Dead Bounce All Black Bumper Plates
If you need bumper plates that won’t put you into debt, consider Bells of Steel Dead Bounce All Black Bumper Plates. These basic bumper plates aren’t flashy, but they’ll get the job done.
They’re durable, uniform, and offer a minimal amount of bounce. Bells of Steel factory designed these plates to survive being dropped repeatedly. So, you can be sure these weights will stand the test of time.
Unfortunately, Bells of Steel doesn’t offer 55 lb black bumpers, so this set caps out at 45 lb plates. Still, given how affordable they are, these are a great starter bumper set.
- Made of virgin rubber so no bad smell
- +/- 1% Weight tolerance
- Exceptional durability, given the price
- No 55 lb weight available
- 10 lb plate is only 0.7” thick so prone to warping
Choosing the Best Olympic Weight Plates for Your Home Gym
When shopping for weight plates, there’s a lot to consider! Below, we give you plenty of tips for finding the best Olympic weight plates for your home gym.
What Makes Olympic Plates Different than Standard Plates?
If you’re new to lifting weights, you might find shopping for weight plates is more confusing than you imagined.
First, there are two general types of weight plates: standard plates and Olympic plates.
You might find standard plates in a commercial or big box gym. They have a 25 mm hole to fit standard barbells and equipment.
Olympic plates have a 50 mm hole. They fit Olympic barbells, which you use for powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and functional fitness workouts. If you’re doing presses, squats, clean and jerks, snatches, or deadlifts, you probably want Olympic plates.
It’s important to understand that just because something is labeled Olympic doesn’t mean it is qualified for competitions.
What Are Competition Plates?
Competition plates meet the strict standards of the IWF or IPF. These standards outline the exact widths, diameters, and thicknesses for acceptable weight plates.
Competition plates are generally thinner, allowing for a greater load on the barbell. They also match IWF or IPF official weight colors and have a tighter weight tolerance. On top of that, competition plates have a steel center plate, not just a steel ring, making them more expensive than regular Olympic plates.
If you plan to compete in Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, a set of competition plates may be worth the investment. Rogue makes great competition bumpers and calibrated steel plates.
However, if you only want to lift weights and have no desire to compete, a set of competition plates isn’t necessary. You can get by with a less expensive set of bumper or metal plates instead.
Bumper Plates vs. Metal Plates
Olympic plates come in several different materials, but generally, they’re either metal or some form of rubber. We call the rubber-type plates bumper plates.
There are many differences between these two types of Olympic plates, but the biggest is this:
You can drop bumper plates from shoulder height or overhead without causing damage.
That means you can use bumper plates for Olympic lifts, like snatches or clean and jerks. You can also use them in CrossFit workouts or for deadlifts.
While you can certainly use bumper plates for squats and presses, they’re less necessary. Metal plates work just as well.
Some metal plates have a thin, protective rubber coating, but don’t get confused! These coated metal plates are not bumper plates. The coating provides some protection and may reduce noise, but it doesn’t allow you to drop the plates without damage.
Creating plates that you can drop from eight feet high takes some serious manufacturing skill. So, in general, bumper plates are more expensive than metal options. That’s why you should only purchase them if you plan to perform exercises requiring you to drop the bar.
Of course, owning a set will increase the number of exercises you can do in your home gym. Even if you only plan to do deadlift variations, the ability to drop the bar from hip height rather than having to lower the weight is a good enough reason to invest in bumper plates.
Things To Consider When Buying Bumper Plates
When buying bumper plates, there are a few things you should consider.
First is the construction material. Manufacturers can make bumper plates out of recycled rubber or urethane. Recycled rubber options are usually less expensive and more than enough for the casual Olympic lifter. They offer plenty of resilience on impact and have texture, making them easy to pick up off the floor and load onto the bar.
However, they don’t look very nice. Recycled rubber bumper plates look something like hardened, old tires. They also will degrade with time.
Ten-pound rubber bumper plates will “taco” with use, slouching over with repeated drops. For this reason, they usually have a short warranty.
Urethane plates are harder, resistant to tears, and allow for precise color reproduction, making them much more aesthetically pleasing. They feel like very hard plastic and are what you’ll see in weightlifting competitions.
Some lifters don’t like urethane plates. They can feel slippery and too hard. Plus, urethane plates are a much bigger investment. So, they’re not for everyone.
The second thing to consider with bumper plates is the durometer or Shore rating. The durometer rating refers to the hardness of the plate. Bumper plate ratings range from 70 to 95. As the rating increases, plates will have less bounce and greater durability.
Things To Consider When Buying Metal Plates
When purchasing metal plates, you’ll need to consider the construction material. Metal plates can be cast iron or steel.
Cast iron plates are typically less expensive, and you’ll find them in many home gyms. Lifters love them for their classic look and quintessential clanging sound. However, their weight tolerance is less tight, meaning they aren’t as exact.
Steel plates are very precise, especially the calibrated variety which are used for competition plates. They’re also more durable and more expensive.
Whether you buy metal or bumper plates, you’ll come across the term weight tolerance. Weight tolerance refers to the weight’s accuracy.
When purchasing a 45 lb plate, you expect it to weigh 45 lbs exactly, but that’s not always the case. There’s always an acceptable tolerance for a variation of a few grams.
The weight tolerance for competition plates is very tight. For example, the IWF only allows a .1/-.05% weight tolerance. So, a 25 kg plate has about a 25-gram margin for error.
With non-competition plates, the weight tolerance will vary by brand and construction material.
Picking the best Olympic weight plates for your home gym means weighing several factors. You’ll need to consider the type of exercises you plan to perform, your budget, and your preferences.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to Olympic weight plates. But as long as your choice facilitates great lifting sessions, you’ll know you made the right pick.