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How To Compare Bumper Plates vs Iron Plates

How To Compare Bumper Plates vs Iron Plates

Nicollette Guido |

How To Compare Bumper Plates Vs Iron Plates

How do you compare bumper plates vs. iron plates? What are the criteria? Are they even comparable?

Comparing bumper plates vs iron plates is less about the plates themselves and more about what you will be using the plates for. If you are asking, “What are bumper plates?” or “What are cast iron plates?”, this guide to bumper plates vs iron plates will clearly demonstrate the differences between the two plates, leaving you free to decide which plate is best for your needs.

Let’s begin with what each weight plate is commonly used for. A bumper plate is much more commonly used for exercises where the weights make direct contact with the ground. Exercises like cleans and deadlifts often require the athlete to lift the weight off the floor and then allow for the athlete to drop the weight all at once.

If you're unsure of how to use bumper plates, it's best to understand how they work and how to workout with them for best results so you don't injure yourself.

Alternately, iron plates are more common in exercises where the weights are used in conjunction with a rack. Exercises like squats and bench presses typically don’t involve the weights hitting the gym flooring.

Obviously, if an athlete has to drop the weight due to safety concerns, the weights can fall as the concern of the athlete’s safety is far greater than the well-being of replaceable gym equipment. However, unlike bumper plates, iron plates are not designed to absorb the shock of impact and can incur damage or potentially cause damage to other surfaces if dropped.

Are bumper plates better than iron plates?

When it comes to the style of plates you use - better is a highly subjective term.

As we know, certain exercises require a specific type of plate. In regards to exercises like the bench press or squats in a rack, iron plates are better suited for the job. Alternatively, if you’re doing a rotation of barbell complexes, you are better suited to using hi temp bumper plates because of the repeated impact the weights are going to make with the ground.

There is no doubt that iron plates last longer than bumper plates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more durable. Iron plates see less impact on a regular basis than bumper plates which is why iron weight plates typically last much longer. Rubber bumper plates, on the other hand, are designed to take a beating. Unfortunately, the role of bumper plates is to absorb impact on a continuous basis, meaning that they often wear out much quicker as a result.

Iron plates don’t see the same type of abuse that standard bumper plates do, making them a great choice for gyms or any at-home lifting enthusiast who does a majority of their lifting in a rack. Cast iron plates, while rugged and solid, do need to be babied, whereas bumper plates can be thrown around without much concern.

Are Bumper Plates More Versatile Than Iron Plates?

When it comes down to it, bumper plates are, in fact, more versatile than cast iron plates.

The argument really comes down to the principle that bumper plates can be used in lieu of iron plates - but it doesn’t work the other way around. In a pinch, bumper plates can be placed on a barbell for bench press and squats and used in the same way you would use an iron plate.

Then why aren’t bumper plates always used for rack exercise? Why have iron plates at all?

The reason bumper plates are not normally used for rack exercises has everything to do with how much weight you can fit on a barbell with bumper plates vs. how much you can fit on a barbell with iron plates.

Iron is denser than rubber, which means that it requires less material to make an iron plate that weighs 45lbs than it does to make a bumper plate that weighs 45 lbs. Less material makes for a thinner plate which in turn means that more plates can be stacked together on the barbell.

The reason serious bodybuilders prefer iron weights to bumper plates for exercises involving a rack hinges on the principle that iron weights allow for a fully loaded bar in a way that bumper plates do not. With iron weights, the bar can be loaded with greater quantities of weight due to the thinner iron plate. This allows athletes to perform explosive exercises like bench presses or squats in shorter reps with maximum weight.

Even though there aren’t many people who can handle the amount of weight that justifies this argument, there are absolutely those who can put up more weight than bumper plates allow for.  

For most of us, and even for many serious bodybuilders, there are many situations where a maxed-out bar with bumper plates is more weight than you’ll ever need. Combined with the fact that you shouldn’t use iron plates for exercise like deadlifts, cleans, etc. - bumper plates take the win in regards to greater versatility.

On top of being the more versatile choice, standard bumper plates are also easier to tote around. There are lots of modern bodybuilders, including those dedicated to CrossFit, who travel with their weights. Whether it’s to practice or even to compete, the ability to throw your weights in the car without risking damage to the weights or anything they come in contact with is a huge plus.

We should point out that gym equipment should be properly cared for. Just because a bumper plate can handle the abuse of being dropped onto the floor doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be treated with care. The better you treat your plates, the longer they will last, regardless of whether they are bumper plates or iron plates.

Can you mix iron and bumper plates?

Mixing iron and bumper plates is an uncommon practice that really offers no added benefit to an athlete while lifting. If you go to a gym, you will notice that bumper plates and iron plates often live in completely separate areas so as to avoid any temptation of cross-use.

Mixing bumper plates and iron plates doesn't necessarily harm you, but it can hurt the barbell, so it is a best practice not to use both at once.

Contrary to popular belief, adding a 25 or 35-pound iron weight plate to the end of a stack can harm the barbell and the weights themselves. Many believe that as long as the bumper plate hits the floor first, there is no chance for damage.

Bumper plates are designed to spin on the barbell, whereas iron plates are not. This means that when you drop a barbell with iron plates on it, instead of bouncing and spinning like bumper plates, they rattle and wreak havoc on the barbell. The metal on metal grind that comes from dropping a barbell with iron weights will quickly destroy your barbell, even if there are bumper plates.

If you were to mix iron plates and bumper plates, you would want to make sure that it was not for any exercise that would involve dropping the weights. As we know, dropping an iron plate can cause damage to the surface it is dropped on, as well as to the weight plate itself.

In a pinch, you can mix bumper plates with iron plates while completing a rack-based exercise like bench press or squats. However, you should re-rack all the weights in their proper place when you are finished to avoid any accidents. Whoever uses those weights after you may not know the rules regarding iron weights vs. bumper plates, so it is up to you to be responsible.

Are iron plates heavier than bumper plates?

What weighs more...a pound of lead or a pound of feathers? Much like this tried and true riddle, one set of plates does not necessarily weigh more than the other.

The weight of the plate is the weight of the plate regardless of whether it is made from rubber, iron, or a combination of the two. Competition and training plates come in all shapes, sizes, and weights.

45 pounds is the heaviest iron plate you will ever see, but there are certain competition bumper plates (like those offered by Tru Grit) that reach 55 pounds. Competition plates, also known as Olympic plates, are a different animal altogether. When comparing bumper plates vs Olympic plates, it’s important to note that competition plates must meet certain specifications that not all bumper plates meet.

Are bumper plates accurate?

Ensuring that your bumper plates are an accurate weight is an absolute must for any serious/avid bodybuilder. While it may seem silly to weigh your weights, you should absolutely take your own measurements so that you know exactly what you are putting on the bar.

Lifting weights is physically demanding, but it also requires mental sharpness as well. Taking the time to inform yourself of what your plates actually weigh so that you can be aware of what is physically required while you are lifting. Not only will this help you pre-lift, it will also help you stay keenly aware once the weight is in your hands.

Sourcing your plates from a reputable brand is the key to finding accurate bumper plates. Tru Grit ensures that every bumper plate meets the highest standards ensuring that you receive an accurate bumper plate to help you confidently keep track of precisely how much weight you’re lifting.

Wrapping Up

Here are three of the key differences between Bumper Plates And Iron Plates, so you can easily tell the two apart.

1) Bumper plates are all uniform in size, whereas iron plates often get smaller in circumference the lighter they get

2) Bumper plates are often made from hard rubber with an inner iron core. Cast iron plates are one continuous substance throughout the plate

3) Bumper Plates can be upwards of 55 pounds, whereas iron plates top out at 45 pounds.

Overall, bumper plates are an excellent choice for your training needs. A fine addition to any home gym or industrial workout facility, bumper plates are a staple for any serious lifting routine.

Bumper plates are a great way to get the pump you want while keeping your equipment and garage gym well maintained and free of any unnecessary damage.

Whether you prefer cast iron weight plates, Olympic weight plates, or rubber bumper plates, it's important to understand how they all work, what they're made for, and how to use them properly. 

To find out more about bumper plates and how to get yourself a set, be sure to visit Tru Grit. Happy lifting!