When purchasing weight plates, there is a range of factors that you’ll need to consider including:
- Material of the weights (steel, urethane, rubber, vinyl)
- Your budget (some weight plates are significantly more expensive than others)
- Variety of weights (do you need heavier plates and if so, how many?)
- Storage space (bumper plates take up more storage space than iron plates)
For all these considerations, I’m sure there are some eagle-eyed people who have noticed that some weight plates – in particular Olympic weight plates – seem to come color-coded.
While this looks good from a design perspective, is there a purpose for the different weight plate colors and should you be considering this before making a purchase?
Why Are Weight Plates Different Colors?
If you have been hitting the gym recently, you might have noticed that the weight plates are different colors.
And no, this is not to make the weights look cooler, but it certainly does add to the design. The weight plates are different colors because they are color-coded in relation to their weight. For example, green weight plates are 25lbs (10kg).
Weight plates mimic the same color coding used on Olympic bumper plates used in competition.
This makes it easy to transition and, as a bonus, it allows you to see how much a professional is lifting more easily.
And if somebody has left the weights on in the gym, you can use the colors to identify how much weight you have to add or remove without having to guess.
So, is it worth buying weight plates that are color-coded for your home gym? If there is an additional cost involved – which there usually is – there is no major benefit to getting colorful plates. They are very useful for public gym owners, though. The standard diameter for all weight plates is 45 cm, but it is common to see iron weights that are smaller than that.
So, how can you learn what the different colors mean? And why are both large and small weights sometimes the same color? You can read about that in the next section.
What Are the Different Weight Plate Colors?
All Olympic plates have to adhere to the same standard that is set by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
As Olympic plates are only used by professionals, this means the same strict rules don’t apply to standard weight plates. Olympic weight plates, unlike average gym weight plates, have to be calibrated to the exact weight.
You will not get the same level of precision with cheaper weight plates used for home gyms and while it won’t make a noticeable difference for the average gym-goer, this level of calibration is one reason why you’ll find Olympic weight plates to be more expensive.
The colors used for weights are red, blue, yellow, green, and white.
Remember the order because it essentially repeats – once in the 25 kilograms (55 lbs) to 5 kilograms (11 lbs) and then again in the two and a half kilograms (five and a half pounds) to half a kilogram (one pound) range.
You can find the color-coded weights in the table below:
|Color||Weight (large weight plates)||Weight (small weight plates)|
|Red||25 kg (55 lbs)||2.5 kg (5 lbs)|
|Blue||20 kg (45 lbs)||2.0 kg (4 lbs)|
|Yellow||15 kg (35 lbs)||1.5 kg (3 lbs)|
|Green||10 kg (25 lbs)||1.0 kg (2 lbs)|
|White||5 kg (15 lbs)||0.5 kg (1 lbs)|
** The measurements above don’t add up correctly but this is because it depends where in the world you are buying the plates. A UK 10kg plate technically weighs 22lbs however US manufacturers would label plates to the nearest round number in lbs which is why 20kg plates say 45lbs on them rather than the correct 44lb.
Therefore, the actual weight will always be correct to the metric measurement in kg.
If you are going to a gym that uses the same color-coding, which it most likely does, you will get used to this pretty quickly.
It is very easy to differentiate the larger weight plates because the weight difference between each color is significant. However, the smaller weight plates do not have such a significant difference, so learning the colors can be very useful to save some time.
Are Bumper Plate Colors the Same As Olympic Weight Plates?
A generic bumper plate that you find in a big box gym or for commercial sale will usually come in black. This color scheme is consistent regardless of weight and is therefore not consistent with the Olympic weight plate color scheme outlined above.
Due to the versatile use for bumper plates though, particularly for Olympic weightlifting exercises, you can easily get bumper plates that follow the same color coding as Olympic weight plates.
They do not necessarily have to, but they usually do because it would make little sense not to follow it when their target buyers are going to be using the plates of Olympic lifts.
Colored bumper plates look very cool and make it easy for you to identify them. Since bumper plates are all the same diameter, the colors are very important and save a lot of time.
You do not need colored bumper plates for your home gym, but if you already planned to buy bumper plates so that you can safely throw them onto shock-absorbing mats, then it is a great nice-to-have.
In addition to the great looks and the added practicality, colored bumper plates may have a greater resale value. Even if you can’t afford the entire set, you can still mix bumper plates with other types of weight plates to initially build up a collection/set.
Bumper plates made of rubber are very similar to Olympic weight plates in the sense that you can use them for Olympic weightlifting exercises, such as the clean and jerk and the snatch. The only major difference is the calibration of the weights themselves.
Bumper plates can be 1% heavier or lighter than what the number indicates allowing for some manufacturing variance, but Olympic weight plates have more strict rules.
Olympic plates cannot deviate much. They can be a maximum variance of 0.05% lighter or 0.1% heavier.
You do not get this level of precision with commercial bumper plates, but you most likely won’t need it in the first place. If you want the most accurate weight plates, try to check the weight before buying them and do thorough research to make sure that they are precise.
When looking at the different weight plate colors, it’s important to note that this is very much intentional and not a fancy design.
While manufacturers are free to use any color scheme or design they like for aesthetic purposes, an official Olympic weight plate needs to follow an exact colour scheme for each weight category.
This weight plate color scheme in descending order is the following:
Official and competition weight plates need to follow this color scheme for accurate recording of lifts and to give both viewers and competitors a clear and visual view of the weight being lifted.
While all weight plates do not need to follow this color scheme for commercial use, you’ll usually find that plates in the dedicated Olympic lifting section of most gyms will have weight plates that follow the official color scheme.