If you’re doing any form of heavy weightlifting, especially Olympic lifts like the clean and press, snatch, or jerk where dropping the weight is commonplace after a lift, then you’ll know bumper plates are essential!
The issue? Bumper plates are expensive.
Therefore, once you invest in some bumper plates it’s only natural that most of us will look to make use of some cheaper plates that we already own or are considering purchasing. These can include iron, vinyl, or urethane.
As bumper plates are specialist plates though, many people wonder, “can you mix bumper plates with regular plates?”.
Can You Mix Bumper Plates With Regular Plates
A home gym sounds like an expensive investment. In reality, there are a lot of ways you can keep down costs and still get a great workout in. It’s key to figure out your budget and stick to it though.
One way of keeping costs down is to mix your bumper plates with your regular plates. Combining these two different plates allows you to get all the benefits of bumper plates without the necessary expense of needing a full set (usually 400lbs+ worth).
You can mix bumper plates with regular iron plates provided the iron plates are a smaller diameter and that you are not mixing plates on lifts where you will drop the bar. This is because bumper plates have built-in shock absorption but regular plates do not so you risk damaging your equipment.
Keep on reading to find out more about bumper plates and regular plates. There are lots to discuss, so let’s get to it!
What Is a Bumper Plate?
Bumper plates were designed for competitive lifting. Bumper plates are made of dense rubber. When dropped, they will not damage themselves, the floor, or the lifting platform you are using. Of course, if you continuously drop them, then over time, damage will occur. Always be careful.
Types of Bumper Plates
There are two types of bumper plates, training or competition. Competition plates are used for, you guessed it, competitions. Each competitive lifting event is required to meet a universal set of standards. These bumper plates do that.
On the other hand, training plates are great for 99% of people just training casually at home. Training plates are durable (with bumper plates lasting a number of years) and are also cheaper than competitive plates.
Both types of bumper plates are made to the same specifications. This includes diameter, weight, and collar size. One thing that makes bumper plates unique is their size. Each bumper plate is the same diameter. Unlike other plates, they vary in thickness and construction. This adds two benefits.
Bumper Plate Benefits
The first benefit of a bumper plate is that the force is distributed across a larger surface area when you drop the bar on the ground. This helps prevent damage to the floor or your plates. The reason this occurs is that all the weights hit the ground at the same time.
The second benefit of bumper plates is that there are a handful of exercises where you can significantly benefit from lighter plates with a larger diameter. For example, the barbell hip thrust is one of these exercises.
Bumper Plate Bounce
The uniform diameter of bumper plates has another benefit; how they bounce. When the bar is dropped, the amount of bounce is reduced due to the uniform size of all the weights. Additionally, bumper plates are crafted with high-density rubber. The thick density of the rubber absorbs the drop’s impact and helps keep the bar from bouncing back up and hurting you.
You should pay attention to the type of rubber used on the plates you are debating about purchasing. A drawback of the rubber being used is that it is incredibly smelly when brand new (and for the first few months of use), which can be uncomfortable, nauseating, and annoying.
While no rubber plate will be smell-free, you can purchase plates made from virgin rubber. This has much less of a strong odor and there are some general hacks you can use to get the “new” smell out of rubber.
How Many Bumper Plates Can Fit On a Bar
The number of bumper plates that can fit on a bar depends entirely on the bar you are using and the size and weight of the bumper plates. Most entry-level bars can hold 250kg. On the other hand, a professional barbell can be loaded with 700kg.
The issue with the weight capacity of the bar and the number of plates you can fit on the bar is that bumper plates are much thicker, especially if using the 25kg (55lb) plates. Bumper plates are color-coded with reds (25kg) being the heaviest.
A red bumper plate has a thickness of 3.5 inches. Most standard barbells have a sleeve length of 16.25 inches. You can therefore fit eight bumper plates on a standard barbell with four on each side. This will give a total weight of 220kg (485lbs) if you include the bar or 200kg (440lbs) if you don’t include the bar.
Why Don’t Your Bumper Plates Fit On the Bar
There are a few different reasons your bumper plates are not fitting on the bar. The first reason is that the bumper plates have smaller holes. If some of your plates fit perfectly on the bar, while only a handful do not, then this could be the reason. It’s also worth noting that this is not intentional and will likely be a manufacturing fault or a poor-quality bumper plate.
If your plates are too small for the bar, you should contact the manufacturer immediately as most bumper plates come in uniform sizing.
The second reason why your bumper plates don’t fit on the bar is that your bar sleeves are out of spec. You should check this immediately as again, this is more likely to be a manufacturing fault which will need rectifying.
Finally, the issue may be your bar as it may be too small if you are using a 1-inch bar. If that is the case, then you’ll need to get a new bar to accommodate bumper plates as bumper plates are typically only manufactured to fit on a 2-inch barbell.
How to Combine Bumper Plates
When you combine bumper plates and iron plates, it’s essential to use the correct ratio. To do this, ensure that you add iron plates with an equal or lesser weight than the bumper plates.
The ratio should be equal (1:1). Using equal weight ensures less damage to your barbell, plates, and floor. You should always load the bumper plates onto the bar first and before mixing them with iron or vinyl plates.
It should be noted that mixing bumper plates with iron plates may cause your bumper plates to wear out faster than usual. This is because they are designed to take their weight. When regular plates are mixed with iron plates, they bounce and absorb the shock.
Drawbacks of Bumper Plates
As with anything, there are a few drawbacks to bumper plates. To begin with, they are expensive. While you can get cheaper bumper plates, they will not last as long as good-quality ones. You’ll most likely have to replace them in a year.
The second drawback is that they are much wider than metal plates. Therefore, each bumper plate takes up more room on the barbell. Additionally, this means that they will take up more space wherever you decide to store them.
Iron Weight Plate Drawbacks
Iron plates also have a few drawbacks. For one, they can easily damage your floor. They will crack cement. If you decide just to use iron plates, then get a lifting platform.
Additionally, iron plates can damage your bar. They do not have the shock absorption of rubber plates so dropping them during Olympic lifts could break your bar.
Bumper plates are designed for competitive lifting for safety reasons and to minimize damage to the workout area. You can mix bumper and iron plates! The amount of plates you can place on your bar depends on the size of the bar, how much weight it can handle, and how large the plates you are using are.
There are two types of bumper plates, training or competition. Competition plates are used for professional matches, while training plates are used for training. Professional matches have universal standards that must be followed.
Bumper plates have a dense rubber coating to absorb shock and stop the bounce, while iron plates do not have this feature. Therefore, you can mix bumper plates with regular plates providing you are only doing this for movements where you do not drop the bar (squat, bench press, row).
If you intend on doing any Olympic weightlifting or any exercises where you drop a barbell (deadlift), then you should not mix weight plates and you should only use bumper plates.