When using weight plates in a gym or looking to purchase some for a home gym, you’ll notice that there are quite a few different types of weight plates. One of the most commonly used and popular weight plates for modern lifting is a bumper plate.
Their use in both commercial and home gyms has grown significantly over the last 10-15 years (coincidently matched by the increased popularity of CrossFit during this time) but are bumper plates just a fad that are having their moment in the spotlight?
In this article, we’ll be covering a common question which is “what are bumper plates used for” by showing 5 key benefits.
In our opinion, these benefits more than justify using or buying bumper plates but just note that for all the benefits, they still won’t appeal to everyone!
What Are Bumper Plates
Bumper weight plates are made from high-density rubber surrounding a steel core to provide the desired weight. They are made to fit a standard 2-inch Olympic barbell and are used mainly for Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting.
Unlike iron or steel plates, bumper plates all come with the same size diameter regardless of the weight. This means that the barbell can be loaded uniformly and that all sets (including warmup sets) can be done off the floor with the same height.
This is important for Olympic lifting or deadlifting where a warmup set with just the bar and 40kg in plates would be set at shin height for a warmup but then adding the larger plates and having 60kg raises the bar a few inches from the ground which drastically alters your form and muscles worked.
What Are Bumper Plates Used For
Bumper plates are good for Olympic weightlifting or for barbell exercises that lend themselves well to dropping the weights.
While there are numerous benefits to using bumper plates, there are 5 benefits in particular that are specific to bumpers. These are:
- They can be dropped
- Offer Versatility for different exercises
- Protect your gym floor
- Bumper plates are more durable
- Are quiet
Below, we’ll cover these benefits in more detail.
Benefits of Bumper Plates for a Home Gym
1) Bumper Plates Can Be Dropped
Arguably the best benefit and reason for using bumper plates is that they can be dropped without causing damage. If you perform any of the following lifts then there’s a good chance you’ll drop the bar in between sets and reps:
- Clean and jerk
- Overhead press
The reason these lifts require you to drop the bar is that they are technical and explosive lifts using a lot of weight. It’s, therefore, safer to drop them than to try and lower them under control. For this reason, you mostly see Olympic lifters and Crossfitters dropping that barbell after a set or rep.
When using steel weight plates, not only do you risk breaking the plates when dropped from a height but you can also damage the floor too.
Bumper plates are designed with a thick diameter and shock-absorbing rubber. Both of which spread the load upon impact with the floor and minimize damage to the weight plates or floor as a result.
2) Offer Versatility for Different Exercises
Most people think bumper plates are only beneficial for deadlifts or Oly lifts but the reality is that they are quite versatile for a number of exercises.
Barbell Hip Thrusts are an incredibly beneficial exercise for developing the glutes and hamstrings but they’re also a seriously underutilized exercise for most people.
One of the key reasons is that they are difficult to get into a comfortable starting position. Larger bumper plates raise the barbell further off the ground making it easier to get underneath (and out from) the bar.
If you think we’re exaggerating the difficulty of getting positioned for a barbell hip thrust, check out this video below:
Bumper plates are also the same diameter regardless of the weight used so you can load a barbell (((())) with a more even distribution.
3) Protect Your Gym Floor
We touched on this with the dropping weights benefit earlier but a key benefit of using bumper plates is that they protect your gym floor.
Iron plates are thinner and denser than a bumper plate and when dropped on the floor they centralize the impact point rather than distributing the load. A smaller impact radius means you’re more likely to damage a concrete or wooden floor.
Bumper plates are wider and therefore provide better shock absorption when dropped from a height.
4) Bumper Plates are More Durable
Bumper plates tend to be very durable due to their intended use. They are designed to cope well with an impact which makes them less likely to break.
They are also more resistant to rust as they have minimal metal exposed to the environment.
This means that bumper plates are very durable and will last for a long time, making them a great long-term investment. On average, bumper plates will last for 5-10 years.
5) Bumper Plates are Quieter
Finally, bumper plates are quieter. The benefits of using bumper plates mostly come back to being able to drop them in one way or another.
For the same reason bumper plates are less likely to cause damage when dropped, they are also much quieter than other types of weight plates.
The hard rubber material which easily absorbs shock on impact also helps to dampen and minimize noise making them ideal for home or garage gyms to not disturb family or neighbors when lifting.
If you’re looking to build a garage, home, or even commercial gym, bumper plates are a piece of equipment that you might want to include as an essential item.
These plates are only recently becoming more mainstream and commercially used but they have a number of benefits for most lifters – especially Crossfitters and Olympic weightlifters!
Bumper plates can be mixed with regular iron or neoprene plates and you’ll still get the same benefits so don’t think you need to only buy bumper plates. These plates are more expensive per lb/kg so our recommendation would be to get a mix for a more budget-friendly yet beneficial collection.