For anyone training Olympic lifts, heavy deadlifts, or following Crossfit type programming, a common part of this is dropping the weights. This is not a problem (usually) when you are using good quality equipment in a gym, but what happens when it’s your own weights you are dropping?
Well, a concern for many home gym owners is damage to their equipment and for any heavy lifting or dropping of weights, you might be wondering if weight plates can break and if so, what can you do to prevent it.
So, can weight plates break?
Weight plates can break when they are placed under a high-impact shock, however, this is very uncommon. Weight plates are designed to handle impact and remain structurally sound, though the wrong flooring and wrong type of weight plate could lead to them breaking in certain instances.
Below, we’ll cover this in more detail. Despite the fact that weight plates breaking is uncommon, it can happen – especially if you don’t know what to do to prevent it!
Can Weight Plates Break?
Unfortunately, it is possible for weight plates to break. Since most comprise cast iron and/or rubber, they do have the potential to break after time, use and pressure. Everything has its breaking point and this is even more true when something is used incorrectly.
The good news is most people don’t reach the limits of their weight plates before they break.
As long as people only use the plates for their intended purposes, they shouldn’t break for decades down the road. But, if people use their weights often or put them through abnormal amounts of abuse, they will break much sooner.
What Can Potentially Break a Weight Plate?
Careless use of the weights can create a host of damages that can eventually lead up to a broken weight plate. For instance, throwing them onto the floor from a great distance is a good way to break them if you do it often enough.
We’ve done a quick guide on whether or not you can drop weights because there are numerous factors that can determine this. The summary is that it will depend on the type of weights you drop and what surface you drop them on.
Another potential way they can break is when it comes time to change out the weight plates. People will take them off and chuck them into a pile on the floor. Banging plates against each other in an incorrect way will almost always result in damage.
Basically, anything that forces the weight plates to sustain impact or abuse will certainly damage, if not break, them. But, this will impinge on the quality of the plates and what kind they are. There are three typical types: cast iron plates, coated iron plates (with rubber or another coating), and bumper plates.
Breakage Is Rare
Cast iron plates are incredibly strong. It’s very rare for these to crack or shatter. These are more likely to damage the floor of a gym rather than sustain damage themselves. However, continued force and impact will build up a weakening of the metal. This means it will break at some point through repeated impact.
The design of bumper plates lends itself to abuse and therefore can handle more dropping and impacts because they comprise rubber. But, these too can fail over time when not used in combination with the right type of flooring.
Even then, you can’t expect bumper plates to last forever. They are designed to be dropped and their thickness and rubber coating ensure that not only will they absorb shock protecting the plate, they will also protect the barbell and floor from damage!
Can You Fix Broken Weight Plates?
Repairing broken weight plates is difficult to do and it depends on the materials that comprise the plate. In general, fixing rubber items will be somewhat easier than metal. However, before attempting any repair, refer to your user’s manual or contact the company and ask them about how they can help you.
In the event your weight plate’s company is no longer in business or you don’t have a warranty, then you can attempt to repair them. If you know how to weld, you’re one of the lucky ones.
Shattered Cast Iron
But, if you have a cast-iron weight plate that shatters, you should either use the product warranty or buy a new one. However, if it’s just cracked or a small piece broke off, you should be able to find a welder in your area to help you.
For rubber, PVC, or other materials, fixing the weight plates yourself should be fairly easy. There are many repair kits you can buy that make the process simpler. You can use a five-minute epoxy syringe to glue it back together. But, you won’t be able to use it for a few days because the epoxy will have to dry and set.
Also understand that once you make a repair to a weight plate, although back in one piece, it is inherently weaker. Therefore, you should begin shopping around for new ones anyway so you can prepare yourself for the eventuality.
How Do You Prevent Weight Plates from Breaking?
The best way to prevent weight plates from breaking is by taking precautionary measures when you use them. Consider the following points:
- Never drop a bar with the plates on if you are not trained in the correct way to do so. Be gentle and lower them in a controlled and conscious manner. This is the reason why many commercial gyms prohibit dropping weights onto the floor.
- If you have a home or garage gym, it’s in your best interest to either acquire gym flooring or deadlift pads/drop pads for the area where you drop and use the weights. These will soften the impact they receive and protect the floor in general.
- Always use the right-sized plates on your bars and don’t force ones that are too small or big onto the weight.
- Use a plate tree so you can store them when not in use. These are fairly inexpensive and they will extend the life of your plates.
- Don’t slam plates on top of or into each other while changing out the weight on the bar. Always be mindful of how you handle them.
Can you Fix Broken Weight Plates?
For most weight plates, once they break they are irreparable. Take a cast iron plate as a good example, if you break an iron plate you’d need to have the equipment and skill to weld it back together again which is something that arguably 99% of the readers here won’t have!
There are however a few instances where you can fix broken plates but it will depend on the type of damage and also the type of weight plate. A broken insert on a bumper plate is something that is definitely fixable however a fully broken iron plate is not something that can be fixed.
The video below shows a demonstration of someone fixing a broken bumper plate:
Lifting weights is a rigorous and high-impact activity, usually, this can’t be avoided depending on how you train. In Olympic weightlifting, for example, it’s common to drop heavyweights and is actually the recommended and safest strategy to adopt.
Therefore, there’s no denying that certain types of weight plates are designed to absorb impact and should be resistant to breaking. This is certainly true, however, everything has its breaking point!
A good quality weight plate is essential to avoid damage through high-impact lifting but you need to try to match your equipment to your intended use. This means that for Olympic weightlifting, you should really use Olympic weightlifting plates.
Dropping vinyl or even cast-iron plates is definitely going to make them susceptible to breaking and unfortunately, these weight plates are very difficult to fix or repair once broken. The cost and effort required to fix them would be better used towards buying a brand new plate.
To summarize, weight plates can break – especially when misused – but some are definitely more durable such as a high-quality bumper plater or calibrated Olympic weight plate so these are the safest plates to use if you are worried about them breaking.