Bumper plates have their detractors, but I am most definitely not one of them.
I really enjoy using bumper plates – I get a lot of quality training from them. I often use them in standard heavy compound movements like squats and rows (never the bench press – that’s for traditional plates!) However, this isn’t really what bumper plates are intended for, and it’s not the most fun I have with them.
Realistically, they are for throwing about. They are resilient and bouncy – far more so than more standard plates. Generally constructed from or coated in rubber, they can take a lot of impact without any worry at all.
This makes them perfect for Olympic movements like cleans, snatches and so on. They are perfect for overhead pressing if you’re that person at the gym who likes to drop weights from a great height just for show (I’m not). They are also great for deadlifting, which is where I personally get the most out of them. You can carry off a decent, hefty drop without ruining the plates themselves or the deadlift platform or floor on which you’re training.
They are also a fair degree chunkier than regular plates. This is where detractors generally get annoyed. You can’t fit as many bumper plates on a bar as you would with standard plates, and, to the uninitiated, it will look like you’re lifting a lot more than you actually are.
I get a kick out of this. It’s nice to feel big and strong!
There are lots of options out there for your home gym, many of them incredibly good. We’ve put together a list of the best bumper plates for you to choose from.
What To Look For In The Best Bumper Plates
You can end up spending a lot on bumper plates – sometimes hundreds of pounds or more per plate. This is fair enough – if you want a good quality product, it’s going to cost you. However, you shouldn’t be paying over the odds for anything. Remember that you will hopefully only ever be buying more and more plates as your strength progresses.
Try to balance cost and value. Everything on this list has been included with this in mind.
There’s no point buying a reasonably priced set of plates that will only last you a year or so. You will end up spending a fortune in the long run. Longevity is important. Bumper plates are built to take a lot, so they should be able to take a lot, for a long time.
Everything on this list will last you several years of hard effort.
You will also want to think about your training requirements. It will affect the weight you need. I train a little in powerlifting and a little in Strongman, with a fair amount of conditioning thrown in. Therefore, I need heavy, dense plates that will allow me to hit big numbers but that will still fit on the bar.
Someone going more for higher reps, focussing more on hypertrophy, conditioning and/or endurance, needn’t worry so much about size. They won’t need to go too heavy, so will have room for larger, bouncier plates.
Finally, you need to think about materials.
Bumper plates are generally rubber coated (the five and often ten kilogram options will generally be pure rubber, with heavier ones including a steel insert). This can be either virgin or recycled rubber. I generally go recycled where I can, simply for its green credentials. It’s also a lot cheaper. However, recycled rubber can be a little too bouncy. Virgin rubber will be denser, giving you a slimmer plate (so I do use them, too, for heavier lifts). Then there are some more advanced materials that companies like to show off with – often with very good results!
We’ll showcase a few of each in the following list.
Our 7 Best Bumper Plates
The following bumper plates are all great – they mix economy and quality well, are well made, and all use good quality materials to give you the best bounce going. There will be something on here for all budgets, from hundreds of pounds per plate to just a few quid a go. We have virgin and reused rubber, along with a few space age materials that I don’t really understand, but that worked really well when I was playing around with them.
Whatever style of lift you’re going for, in whatever rep or intensity range, you’ll be well served by the following.
Escape Elite Urethane Bumper Plates
We’ll start off with one of our wonder materials. It’s only urethane, to be fair, which isn’t exactly space age. However, it is a very clever use of it, giving an entirely different feel to rubber (in a good way, of course).
The urethane has allowed Escape to make their Elite Bumper Plates very slimline, without sacrificing any toughness or much bounce. Escape have also included high-grade steel cores in their plates, further reinforcing them and adding weight without width. This makes them perfect for heavier lifts – I used them with low rep deadlifts, and they felt wonderful. I was able to load up the bar to my target weight without coming anywhere near maximum space use!
They are also kind to your training space, which is vital if you’re decking out your home gym. They don’t bounce too much, which will naturally lead to safer use in any space. They are also better than rubber plates when it comes to leaving marks or scuffs – they don’t, really. You can keep your floor near spotless whilst using them.
If you’re looking to load up on plates on a budget, they won’t be for you, however. Elite have made a great product here, but they have priced their plates accordingly. I would argue that they are very much worth it – they will last you forever, give you great utility in your workouts, and will allow you to keep making gains almost indefinitely (unfortunately, natural caps will still come into play, and you’ll not be able to keep getting stronger forever!)
If you’ve got the money to spend, they are well worth considering.
5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg and 25kg.
Primal Strength Urethane Bumper Plates
Let’s go from high quality to higher quality, with perhaps the best (and expensive!) plates on this list. They are roughly twice the price of some of our cheaper options, but every penny seems to be well worth it.
I loved using them.
They are urethane, naturally – all the best ones seem to be. They have a machined-steel core, and every disc is calibrated and tolerance tested to under 5g. In layman’s terms, they are as tough as nails, in a way that few plates manage. Trust me, you will break before they do.
They won’t scratch, dent, shatter, warp or degrade, no matter what you do to them – and, trust me, I gave them some hard use (I’m still getting over it!).
I was able to go hard in part because Primal Strength’s Urethane Bumper Plates are also thinner than most other discs. I went to pretty much maximum on my deadlifts and cleans. The only things I was worried about breaking were the bar and my back!
If you’re an Olympic lifter, looking to drop the bar on a regular basis, and you have a decent enough budget, I would strongly urge you to consider going with Primal Strength’s bumper plates.
The range comes colour-coded in:
5kg (Grey): 20mm, 10kg (Green): 40mm, 15kg (Yellow): 48mm, 20kg (Blue): 53mm, 25kg (Red): 58mm
They come with a 3-year warranty that applies to all indoor use (which you won’t need to use as I sincerely doubt that any of Primal Strength’s plates have ever broken).
GymGear Hi-Impact Olympic Bumper Plates
GymGear’s Hi-Impact Olympic Bumper Plates do what they say on the tin – they are designed for plenty of high impact. This makes them perfect for those who really like to throw their weights about – in other words, Oly lifters. If your clean and jerk tends to shake the room, these are a worthy choice.
I didn’t personally get on with them too well – I’m not much of an Oly lifter. I like grunting through hefty compound exercises better suited to powerlifting meets, as I mentioned above. The reason GymGear’s Hi-Impact Olympic Bumper Plates are so good is that they are thicker than most traditional plates. This means they are more durable when dropped, but also means you can’t load so much weight on a bar.
This doesn’t make for the best deadlift ever. It is no problem for somebody performing a clean and press.
GymGear’s Hi-Impact Olympic Bumper Plates are also tested to a higher drop rate than usual and are made from an incredibly tough vulcanised rubber that is very hard to break or distort. Drop it from above your head and they won’t suffer at all. They are therefore great for Oly lifters, but I would also recommend them to CrossFitters looking to deadlift high volume speed rep deadlifts.
The increased thickness doesn’t just take up room on the bar. You should be aware going into your lifts that it will also raise the bar off the ground slightly. Deadlifts using them felt like something between a deadlift and a rack pull, which threw my technique off a bit.
You will get used to it pretty quickly, but you do need to bear this in mind in the early days.
Available Weights & Thickness:
25kg – 98mm, 20kg – 90mm, 15kg – 75mm, 10kg – 60mm, 5kg – 34mm
If you want to drop a bar from a great height without fear of breaking the plates, and if you want a set of plates that will keep coming back for more, set after set, workout after workout, year on year, you could do an awful lot worse than GymGear’s Hi-Impact Olympic Bumper Plates.
York Barbell Olympic Solid Rubber Bumper Plates
It’s no surprise that York managed to snag a spot in this list – I’ve been using their equipment on and off for years, as have many lifters who are far more advanced than me. They are something of a fixture in the industry, with eight decades behind them.
Pedigree means little, however, in the face of brute utility. A product will rise or fall based on how good it is at doing what it’s meant to do. York’s solid rubber bumper plates do exactly this. They quite clearly make the most of their pedigree – they are fantastic.
Designed specifically to be used in sports teams, gyms and high-end training facilities, they are here to provide for a whole generation’s lifting potential. They represent a fantastic addition to any training venue, whether it’s a top-level facility or your basement or garage.
They are made from good-quality virgin rubber, making them durable and relatively slimline. They will stack nicely on any bar and will give any level of lifter a run for their money, bearing up well against the worst you can throw at them.
Their central hole is precision drilled and reinforced with a sturdy 2-inch thick steel sleeve, adding to their durability. I also love this because you can make use of quick plate loading. Rubber plates are tacky, with a great deal of friction, so they can be a little awkward to slide onto a bar. Steel allows them to slide efficiently and easily, so you can save time as you train for more important matters (like working out how in the hell you’re about to complete your next set).
York’s bumper plates are available in:
5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg
Body Revolution Olympic Weight Plates
Body Revolution’s Olympic Weight Plates typify what can be done when steel and rubber are used together – they manage it very, very well. Their plates are all solid, cast iron cores (nothing fancy, just pure, tough weight!) coated in heavy duty rubber.
They are tri-grip, which I like very much. In fact, it makes all the difference in the world to me. For me, plates aren’t simply for slotting onto barbells. They should be multi-function. I like to use them for accessory and circuit work on their own, individually. You will be able to attach them to weight belts for dips and pull ups. You will be able to hold onto them for carries, weighted lunges and so on. You will be able to lift them individually for lateral raises, front raises, steering wheels, and you will be able to hold them to your chest as you perform your back extensions and Nordic curls.
The tri-grip isn’t just present (which, in itself, is a big deal), but it is also very well thought out. The handles are ergonomically enhanced and comfortable to use.
Now, I should come clean at this point – Body Revolution’s Olympic Weight Plates are not technically bumper plates… I know, they shouldn’t be on this list. Except that they really should. Their coating is of such high quality that they can take the kind of punishment usually reserved for bumper plates. They give a decent enough bounce, without being to unwieldy, and the rubber keeps the floor safe. They are, in other words, perfect for Oly lifting, amongst many other disciplines.
JLL Bumper Plates
JLL are a UK-based company who specialise in bringing good-quality products to the market at very affordable prices. They are known for customer satisfaction and great customer service, and for launching new, fresh products made with the best-quality materials going.
JLL’s Bumper Plates are a prime example of all of this. They are pretty standard, Olympic coloured weight plates, suitable for any 2-inch Olympic straight bar, perfect for use at home. However, they are well-made, sturdy, from strong materials, faultlessly executed whilst being very reasonably priced. They are well placed in the middle of what we’re looking at, with their smaller plates giving you change from a hundred quid, and their larger ones giving you change from three hundred. This is all as you would expect from JLL, and is very welcome in a market crowded with expensive rubbish.
The colour differentiation that comes standard with these kinds of plates is incredible handy, as you can identify weights really easily (and you can’t show off so much by simply having row after row of black rubber bumper plates on the bar!)
This ease is compounded by the two-inch reinforced metal sleeve – as above, these kinds of sleeves make it a lot easier to load a rubber plate onto a barbell. The coating itself is rubber and vinyl,
There isn’t too much more to say other than that these are a really decent, solid option for those wanting to spend an average amount, but who still want workable plates with a good degree of longevity to them.
Extreme Fitness Ironwood
Extreme Fitness’ offering consists of 100% natural, high-quality rubber plates, designed for use on any two-inch Olympic straight bar. As with many other products in this list, they are colour coded for ease and convenience. They have steel inserts forged with rebar moulded into the rubber for added strength and to make your life easier as you load and unload the bar.
They are durable without too much bounce, which I prefer. They could comfortably take being dropped from head height day after day, and will keep both your floor and your bars free from damage and marks. This all comes from the high quality, dense, vulcanised rubber with which they coat their plates, which will ensure that they will not bend, warp, split or in any other way break, no matter what you do to them. In fact, the plates are factory tested to withstand over 15,000 drops (at five to ten drops per workout, which is ambitious, this gives you 1,500-3,000 workouts, at the least, before they begin to degrade!).
The bumper plates themselves have an IWF standard size of 450mm in diameter and the weight tolerance is within 1%, which is a genuinely impressive level of detailed engineering. This is also pretty slimline for bumper plates, making them perfect for loading up onto heavy bars – you won’t have an issue getting up to your one rep maximum deadlift with these.
Top Bumper Plate Summary
We’ve managed to run through all the materials usually associated with bumper plates in this list – virgin rubber, rubber crumb and urethane. Every product on this list represents the best of its type, both regarding material usage and quality of design and build across a variety of price brackets.
Whichever you go with, you should get a decent workout from any of these bumper plates – the only thing that might hold you back is yourself! Some of these plates are tough, some are bouncy, some are eco-friendly. All are great plates – all will deliver what you need them to deliver.
Enjoy your recovery phases. If you go with any of these, you will need to schedule plenty of time to recuperate and grow.