Are you just starting out in your weightlifting journey? Or are you possibly thinking of moving the gym into your own garage or basement? Sometimes people ask, when setting up their first home gym, if they should get a bumper weight set verses a cast iron plate set. With Crossfit becoming, and currently is, a national and worldwide fitness magnet, it is only fair that one would want to at least consider a set of bumper plates for their gym. Cast iron weights are great and, I believe, even necessary for one’s gym, but are they enough?
Here is where you need to ask yourself, “Do I want to embark in any Crossfit type workouts?” “Do I see myself learning, or wanting to learn, any Olympic style lifting?” Perhaps you are only interested in becoming stronger in the big 3 powerlifts? Hopefully by the time you read this article you will have a better sense in whether you are in the market for bumper plates or not.
What Are Bumper Plates?
Bumper plates, in a nut shell are weight plates made from rubber, whether virgin or recycled, that have an insert in the middle of them, usually Stainless Steel, that allow you to place them on a weightlifting bar. Basically they are similar to a 45 lb cast iron plate in diameter but are made of rubber. Some do contain metal discs within the rubber, usually found on your Training and Competition style bumpers. Bumper plates are not to be confused with rubber coated plates, which are literal steel plates covered in a rubber coating. This rubber coating does deaden the noise a bit but does not allow for the same treatment of the weight that you can have with bumper plates. In an earlier article we went over some basic bumper weight sets, including the likes of Hi-Temp, Rogue, American Barbell, Vulcan and others.(insert link to other article here)
What Are Cast Iron Weights?
Exactly what the title says! They are weights usually comprised of cast iron. Sometimes cheaper ‘metal’ weights are sometimes a mix of metal and lead. They come in a couple different variants of style but the basic, more common style, are the round plates. Their weights vary greatly, from fractional plates as little as 1/4 of a lb and plates as large as 100 lbs.
Pro & Cons of Bumper & Steel Weights
Bumper plate pros include:
They are an excellent, versatile weight that were mainly associated with Olympic lifting until Crossfit popularized them to the masses, to where they are in plenty of garages and gyms alike.
These type of plates can be used not only on Olympic style lifts but on your basic strength lifts as well.
They can be thrown, down and abused in a high volume area and still hold their form and integrity day in, day out
Bumper plate cons are:
They are usually larger in width than your typical cast iron plate. As companies advance more in their manufacturing of these bumpers, we have to realize that rubber is not as dense as iron.
They are not one piece. You have the rubber part and than you have the steel insert. Where there are two different substances coming together, you have a weak point (no matter how strong of a bond they have).
Cast Iron pros:
Cast Iron plates are thinner and based on designs can be easier to pick up with one hand, than say your typical bumper. (I know some bumpers have lips that allow a similar grip, but usually these are more expensive bumpers and not your economy class type)
Due to there narrowness in width you can add more weight to a weightlifting bar than you can with bumper plates. Allowing more load on the big compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift, bench.
Also, cast iron plates can come in sizes much smaller than bumper plates. There are fractional cast iron plates that range from 1/4 lb to 2 lbs.
Cast Iron con’s:
Face it. You can do a snatch with cast iron, but throwing the iron weights down will not be kosher. The clang of the plates makes my shoulders tense up already. With that said, let me say, that I love the sound of iron on iron. I love racking my bar on my rack and hearing that noise; however, I have also done hang cleans with metal (because I had no other option at the time) and it doesn’t sound pretty to drop iron plates, even from my knees.
Olympic lifting is not done with metal for its reasons, one being that a failed rep can be thrown away from the body at a higher vertical, can be dropped behind the back, and any other way you can think of and the bar and weights will be fine.
What Would be Best for Both Types of Weights
Bumper Plates will be best suited for Olympic style lifting, Crossfit style workouts, outdoor setting workouts on concrete or asphalt and for any compound lift you’d like, although the amount of weight on your squat may be limited due to the size of the bumper plates themselves.
Cast iron weights are ‘best’ suited for indoor gyms, and for any lift besides your Olympic lifts.
Keep In Mind… Yours not Mine
This article was based on some generalizations. Yes cast iron can be lifted outside, but yes, they will rust a lot faster in the outdoor elements. Even bumper plates fade quicker outdoors than a controlled indoor environment, but they are better suited to be used and abused outdoors. In fact companies make types of bumper plates specifically for outdoors, such as Vulcan makes the Alpha bumper weight set and Hi-Temp is a very common bumper found outdoors. So just keep this in mind, there are no boxes that encompass weightlifting (unless you go to a Crossfit Box, but that’s not my intention here).
Also, keep in mind that there is no segregation with weights. Plenty of lifters out there have used cast iron fractional plates with their bumper plates. They allow minimal weight improvements and are much smaller in diameter that allow them to not touch any surface when on the bar with a bumper plate.
But now that you’re here, which type of weight set seems to make more sense and be a better fit for YOUR situation?
A gym, whether a Garage Gym or a commercial one, will have many weights in it. Examples of such weights include free weights, machine weights, and dumbbells. A gym worth it’s weight, in weights, will contain not only metal weight sets but a set, or two, or three, of bumper plate weight sets.
Bumper plates are rubber that are cut into circles, placed into molds on machines, heated and pressed into looking like the product we know today. There are different suppliers, just like any other product out there on the market, and just like any other product, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. More like the best, the sufficient, and the inadequate. Basic bumper plate weight sets are sold anywhere from 100 lbs to 1000+ lbs. Some sights allow for mixing and matching of pairs of bumper plates that equal a certain amount of weight. Be careful with online orders as the shipping on these products can be based on the amount of weight versus the number of products in the order. So let us see which companies’ bumper plate weight sets are right for you.
Considerations When Buying Bumper Plates
When you go out on the market for a set of bumper plates you need to consider the following:
1. Why do I want bumper plates?
So why do you want bumper plates? Just because I get excited about them, doesn’t mean you will be if you get some. Are you wanting to ‘complete’ your home gym? Are you looking for more types of workouts that may be better suited by a bumper plate weight set?
Figure out some of these questions and make sure you’re buying for your reasons. Buying bumper plates are not just some fad, look at them as an investment. An investment into your gym, an investment into your health because these puppies are not cheap.
2. How much weight do I currently need? What are my future goals in the gym?
OK, so we figured out ‘why’ we want some bumpers, but now we need to know pretty much how strong we are, sort of. As mentioned above, bumper plate sets are usually available somewhere in between 100 lbs and 1000 lbs. So, are we looking at our Power Cleans being a max of 185 lb? Do you want to buy a 1000 lb set based on a 200 lb clean and jerk? Just be realistic with yourself here and use what you buy. These plates are not meant to be pretty showcase pieces. They are meant to abused! Honestly.
The second question really just piggy backs off the first question. Sure your lift may only be 185lbs now, but are you looking to increase your max? If so, look at your goals. See where you really want to be and possibly look at sets that correlate with those goals. 3. What about my budget?
Head of warning, do not feel as though you have to buy a 360 lb or 500lb set if your only lifting 100 lbs. Sure buying the 500lb set may be cheaper in a ‘one time order’ situation, but you can easily buy a smaller bumper set and eventually add pairs of bumpers to your set. This may not be as monetarily efficient, but it may be what your wallet requires.
4. Do I have the space?
If you have been doing Olympic type lifting you know exactly how much space you need and what you have available to you. Someone who may just be getting into Olympic type lifts or some other Crossfit type workouts, you will need to consider how much space your going to need.
No, you do not need an 8′ by 8′ Oly lifting platform, although that would be sweet! But you do need to give your self enough room for failed reps, throwing your bar down, and also consider what type of bumpers (higher bounce vs lower ‘dead’ bounce) you want to buy. Some bounce more than others, and the more bounce, the more space you may want so that the weights do not go off bouncing into something important of yours….like your car!
Some TOP Bumper Plate Weight Sets
There are a lot of bumper plate manufactures/companies who sell bumper sets. To keep this post to a reasonable read we will touch upon only a handful or so of bumper plate companies. First off, a moment of silence for MDUSA, they sold me my very first bumper plate weight set. I remember it like yesterday, a pair of 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg and a pair of 25kg. Ah, like your first girlfriend, not necessarily the one you married, but she taught you a lot. Ahem!, back on topic now. Some top companies include Rogue, Vulcan, American Barbell, and Hi-Temp among others.
Hi-Temp is a really well known producer of bumper plates. Their rubber weights are made from a recycled vulcanized rubber and they contain a 2″ Stainless Steel bushing insert. The finish is considered rough when compared to other types of bumpers sometimes called ‘crumb’ bumpers, and this can lead to (usually) insignificant aesthetic appearance. Overall they are considered a ‘bouncy’ type of bumper.
Hi-Temp Bumper plate weight set – Standard package:
Now Hi-Temps are actually sold by a few different companies, one such being Rogue Fitness. What Hi-Temp does is place that companies name onto the bumper (obvious, I know). Rogue’s website has the Hi-Temp bumper at a bounce rating of 75, where their durometer scale goes from 65 (more bounce) to 100 (less bounce). Rouge offers some of the better prices out there on Hi-Temps with bumper plate weight sets ranging from 160 lbs to 1000 lbs.
Rogue Bumper plate weight set – Hi-Temp:
160lbs for $323
190lbs for $379.50
210lbs for $410.50
230lbs for $441.50
260lbs for $498
350lbs for $667.50
500lbs for $925
1000lbs for $1,775
Now the 500lbs and 1000lbs bumper plate weight sets at Rogue actually let you choose which pairs of which weights you want as long as they are equal to or less than the chosen weight.
The Hi-Temp and Hi-Temps at Rogue have a 1 year warranty.
Rogue Fitness, thanks to great marketing and the Crossfit Games, among other factors, has quickly grown in to a bumper plate weight set GIANT. And rightfully so. They offer plenty of variety on their website from the aforementioned Hi-Temps to the HG 2.0’s, Training bumpers, multiple Competition bumper plates, and Urethane bumpers. Not to mention they also offer Werk San’s and Uesaka bumpers as well.
HG 2.0 Bumper plate weight set
These bumpers are a bit opposite from the Rogue Hi-Temps in that their durometer bounce rating is 88 per Rogue, meaning they are more of a ‘dead’ bounce. They are also much more smooth in look and in finish than the crumb bumpers. These type of bumpers are touted as having thinner widths so that you can place more weight on the bar at once. These come with a 90 day warranty on the 10 & 15 pound plates and 3-year warranty on the 25 through 45 pound plates. As with the Hi-Temps, Rogue offers bumper plate weight sets of the HG 2.0s starting at 160lbs up to 1000lbs.
Another offering from Rogue includes the Rogue Echo Bumper Plates. They are made with virgin rubber with stainless steel inserts. They have an 88 rating on Rogue’s durometer scale, giving them more of a dead bounce. Rogue likes to promote ‘made in the U.S.A.’ slogan on a lot of their products, which they are in their warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. However, these Echo bumpers are NOT made in the good ole U.S.A. Not a big deal, but maybe it is to you, if you believe in supporting American companies.
As I mentioned before, Rogue offers plenty in the realm of bumper plate weight sets. We will cover them more in detail in an upcoming post. Moving on for now.
American Barbell offers some really nice, high quality bumper plate weight sets. They might be pricer for their quality, but they do offer FREE shipping to the contiguous 48 states.
Shield Series Bumper Plates
These bumpers have ‘chamfered’ stainless steel inserts, meaning their inserts and the edge of the rubber bumper, where they meet, form a bevel, created at a 45 degree angle, easing the sharpness of the edge between the two. This process is put in place to help prevent any possible damage to that junction between the insert and the rubber.
Shield Series Set Pricing:
210lbs for $420
300lbs for $609
320lbs for $634
Pro Series Bumper Plates
American Barbell also claims to be the first company to manufacture the urethane bumper plates. The Pro Series bumpers are manufactured out of German urethane, which they claim gives more integrity and better color to the bumpers. These bumpers are exceptional in their durability and give a very ‘dead’ bounce. They also contain a 140mm (approx. 5.5 inches) hard chrome hub and is a single piece construction.
Pro Series Set Pricing:
210lbs for $840
300lbs for $1187
320lbs for $1247
90kg for $936
110kg for $1061
120kg for $1132
140kg for $1386
They have other bumper plate weight sets including the Training Plates and Sport Bumpers.
Vulcan Strength is another company offering multiple types of bumper plates from their basic Black Bumper to the Alpha outdoor series, to you Colored pound and kilo style plates and finally their Competition bumper plate weight sets. Their bumpers, along with the likes of Rogue and American Barbell, are very well reviewed by their customers, giving the average or new buyer a vote of confidence on Vulcan’s products.
These bumpers are made from a virgin rubber versus the recycled rubber usually seen with Hi-Temps famous product. These bumpers have a low bounce, the Shore Durometer A has given them a rating between 87.7 and 89.3 (compare to Rogue’s HG 2.0s at 88). They have forged steel anchored into the rubber from the insert making a stronger bond between the insert and the rubber. They have a thinner profile, like many competitors, and have a low odor as stated by Vulcan.
Black Bumper Set Pricing:
160 lb to 1000 lb from $269.99 to $1,461.99
Alpha bumper plates are a very attractive product, especially for Crossfitters or anyone who likes to workout outside on concrete or asphalt. They are made of a rubber compound that Vulcan states is ‘not found in any other bumper plate’ and is currently patent pending. It is not made from recycled rubber and is marked for indoor as well as outdoor use. Compared to ‘crumb’ type bumper plates (recycled rubber, which is the usual bumper plate used outdoors on concrete and the such) they have a lower bounce, and that goes for any surface, indoor or out. They have an overall lower odor than ‘crumb’ types and they are lower profile than recycled bumpers, allowing more weight onto the bar. And did I mention, they’re colored! They are a black bumper with colored fleck on them. They have gray, orange, green, yellow, blue and red colors. These colors coincide with the IWF plate colors with orange being a 15 lb plate.
Alpha Set Pricing:
160 lb for $319
230 lb for $422
250 lb for $455
260 lb for $472
280 lb for $508
340 lb for $604
350 lb for $620
370 lb for $651
500 lb for $848
1000 lb for $1585
Colored Bumper Plates
The colored bumper plate weight sets, which come in pounds and kilos, mimic the actual colors the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) mandates for Olympic competition plates. This is a nice feature, allowing early trainees to become accustomed to the proper color/weight pairing.
RED – 55lbs/25kg BLUE – 45lbs/20kg YELLOW – 35lbs/15kg GREEN – 25lbs/10kg LIGHT GREY – 10lbs/5kg
These plates make great aesthetics to any gym, whether at your home garage gym or any commercial one as well. They are made from virgin rubber and are considered to have a ‘low’ bounce. They have a 36-month warranty on the 25-55lbs plates and a 12-month warranty on the 10 lb and 15 lb plates.
Colored Set Pricing:
90kg for $427
110kg for $508
120kg for $543
140kg for $622
Competition – Absolute Version
This competition bumper plates carry the same coloring as their colored bumper-parts, but these bumpers are guaranteed to be within 10 grams of the stated weight of the bumper. Vulcan says they weigh each plate before leaving their warehouse on scales that are accurate to within 1 gram!. These plates are a thinner profile that sport a raised lettering that is layered by indelible ink that they claim will not come off or fade as similar bumpers do. These plates are also glass bead blasted which is used to keep the integrity of the aesthetics looking sharp well into use.
Bead blasting is the process of removing surface deposits by applying fine glass beads at a high pressure without damaging the surface and this process allows the wearing away of small patches with much more attention to detail.
NOTE: Vulcan states they can only guarantee that Vulcan Absolute Bumpers will fit properly on Vulcan Barbells and other barbells made to the IWF specifications. These bumpers carry a5 year warranty covers the steel discs deviating from or rotating within the plate or any breaking of the plate. They state these bumpers should NOT be used outdoors, on concrete or on rubber flooring less and 3/8″.
Competition – Absolute Version Set Pricing:
90kg for $762
110kg for $929
120kg for $1001
140kg for $1152
One Fit Wonder (OFW) Fringe Sport
Fringe sport which looks to try to compete with larger companies such as Rogue Fitness in the Crossfit sector of fitness, have their own bumper plate called the One Fit Wonder (OFW for short) bumper. If you look on their website, they have plenty of detail about these bumpers, with YouTube videos on how they are made.
A quick rundown shows they are made with virgin rubber, and have a low bounce, although, to me, their videos may show a bit more bounce to them. They have a 90 rating on the durometer, meaning they have very little bounce when compared to other bumper competitors.
They come with a 3-year warranty on the 25 to 55 pound plates and 1 year on the 10 lb and 15 lb plates with FREE returns. The stainless steel insert encompasses a ‘hooked’ design, allowing the bumper to remain firmly seated to the insert.
OFW Set Pricing:
100lb to 460lb
$199 to $749
After reviewing a list of some of the more common bumper plates out there, you need to go back and see which one stuck out to you the most. Keep your answers from the questions earlier in mind and let that help guide you to what might work best for you.
For myself, I prefer the more ‘dead’ bounce bumpers. I’ve used Hi-Temp and other crumb type, recycled rubber produced bumpers and I have nothing against them. It is just my preference. I will say there is something satisfying about throwing down your last power clean after 1.5 miles of running and 21 power cleans in between, and watching that bar and weight bounce. But for my everyday workouts and my ‘space’ I have in my garage, Rogue HG’s or some Vulcan Black bumpers make a better choice.
Believe me when I say that aesthetics mean little to me. I like black on black on black when it comes to my weights with a little bare metal thrown in there for my bar. But that is me, who are you? I’m sure my wife would like all the color. I’d assume that if you are training for, have trained in the past for any type of IWF Oly competition you love the color.
What now? Get you some!
There are many companies that will sell you a bumper plate weight sets. Figure out who you are in the gym, where you want to be or do, and pick you a set and get to lifting.
If you go car shopping and pick the wrong car, you return it. You may lose some money on the trade-in, considering what you paid for it, but then you can buy another car that is more to your liking. Well, nothing different with bumper plates. If you buy the Hi-Temp type of bumpers and realize that much bounce isn’t for you, there are plenty of people on Craigslist who will be willing to buy them off of you (below list price). Heck you may even find a set on there that you want! Now muscle up buttercup and get to throwing your weights around!