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Your Guide To bumper plates vs olympic plates

On the surface, the world of weight lifting seems like it should be very simple. Lift a certain amount of weight a certain amount of times. Why should it be more complex than that?

For many athletes who compete in sanctioned weightlifting events, the process is as simple as we just described. However, recreational weight lifting does not have to adhere to any specific rules or guidelines, and as a result, there is a lot of non-conformity, overlap, and ambiguity regarding which weights are acceptable and which are not.

There are many plates out there, like competition bumper plates, cast iron plates, and hi temp bumper plates that can make choosing the proper weights confusing if you don’t know what will best suit your fitness needs. Whether you're looking to add cast iron weight plates or rubber bumper plates to your home gym, understanding how these plates differ is important.

Weight lifting should not be confusing. That's why this guide to bumper plates vs Olympic plates is going to clear up once and for all the major differences between bumper plates, Olympic plates, and all the other kinds of weight plates you may have heard of.

Let's start with some of the big differences between two of the most common types of weight plates to help you better understand how to use bumper plates vs olympic plates:

What is the difference between bumper plates and Olympic plates?

Here's a quick rundown on the different types of weight plates and how they relate to one another.

1. Standard plates are actually not standard at all but rather a type of weight plate that is used in cheaper weight sets. These weights are characterized by a 25mm internal hole diameter that only fits a "standard" or non-Olympic barbell.

2. An Olympic plate is not the same as a competition plate. An Olympic plate is any type of plate that has a 50mm internal hole diameter and can securely fit on an Olympic size barbell. The term "Olympic plate" does not mean that it is a plate that is qualified to be used in Olympic competitions. Rather, it is a reflection of the fact that this particular plate fits an Olympic barbell. Furthermore, Olympic plates are often measured using the imperial scale of measurement (i.e., pounds instead of kilograms).

3. Iron plates and bumper plates can both be Olympic plates. There are multiple types of Olympic plates that are used for different purposes. When comparing bumper plates vs iron plates, the most important difference is that iron plates are used for events like bench press and squats, whereas bumper plates are used for deadlifts and clean and jerk.

4. Competition plates follow a very specific standard of measurement regarding weight, diameter, and thickness as set forth by the IWF. If someone tells you a weight is "standard," they are likely referring to a standard plate rather than an Olympic plate that adheres to the IWF Standard measurement for competition. Competition plates will commonly be measured in kilograms (though this is not a requirement) as this is both a more precise unit of measurement than pounds and a more widely practiced unit of measurement worldwide.

Bumper plates come in many different thicknesses and diameters, so you have to make sure that yours are IWF Standard. The IWF Standard is not the same thing as a standard plate. IWF Standard is the official standard used across all competitive weight lifting events, including the Olympics.

Tru Grit bumper plates are Olympic bumper plates that are, in fact, IWF Standard. As a result, Tru Grit bumper plates fall into the rare category of meeting the qualifications for being a bumper plate, an Olympic plate, and a competition plate, all in one!

What is the difference between standard plates and Olympic plates?

The biggest difference between an Olympic plate and a standard plate has everything to do with what kind of barbell they fit. A standard weight plate only fits a standard barbell (which ironically does not meet the Olympic standard for competition), whereas an Olympic weight plate only fits an Olympic sized barbell which, although it is not referred to as "standard," is the industry standard as established by all major competitive entities and gyms worldwide.

When people think of standard plates, they often think of the plates they are used to seeing at the gym. These weights are often some kind of rubber-coated iron plate that is large enough to fit on an average size barbell. The funny thing is - the plates that most people consider "standard" are not standard at all but rather Olympic size.

In fact, many people believe that the typical Olympic size bar that they use at the gym is the same thing as a "standard" barbell. While Olympic size weights and Olympic barbells are absolutely the most commonly used class of weight and barbells, they are not the same thing as a "standard" weight set.

Olympic size barbells and Olympic-sized plates are absolutely the gold standard when it comes to lifting.

The biggest difference between standard plates and Olympic plates is the diameter of the center hole that fits over the barbell. On an Olympic-sized plate, the diameter is 50mm to properly fit over a 50mm Olympic-sized barbell. However, on a standard weight plate, the center hole diameter is only 25mm, meaning it will only fit a standard barbell, which is also only 25mm.

Standard and Olympic plates cannot be used in conjunction with one another because they are two completely different styles of weight.

There are many contrasting schools of thought regarding whether or not it is kosher to combine iron plates and bumper plates. Even though it's not recommended, if you really wanted to, you could mix iron and bumper plates as long as they were both Olympic size.

Standard plates and Olympic size plates absolutely cannot be used in conjunction with one another because Olympic plates are too big to fit on a standard size barbell and standard weight plates are too small to fit on an Olympic size barbell.

Are Olympic plates better?

Yes, Olympic plates are, in fact, superior in every way to their standard counterparts. There are certain circumstances where a standard weight set might be a better option for someone, but these scenarios are often just a stepping stone on the road to becoming a serious lifter who exclusively uses Olympic plates.

For example, maybe you're just getting into lifting, and you want to get a cheaper set of weights that fits nice and snug in the corner of your room. No shame in that game; good for you for getting serious about your workout!

However, as many of us who started out on standard weights can attest, there comes a point in time where your standard weights will limit what you are capable of doing. Whether it's no longer being able to offer enough weight to push your limits, or not being the right kind of weights to do certain exercises (like trying to deadlift without bumpers), eventually, you have to upgrade to Olympic weights.

Think of standard weights like training wheels. They serve a noble purpose when you're first learning, and they can be a great way to introduce yourself to weightlifting. But if you want to actually ride that bike and learn to lift the right way, eventually, the training wheels have to come off.

Don't hear what we're not saying...by no means do you need to start with standard weights. In fact, if you can start your weightlifting journey by using Olympic-sized plates right off the bat, all the better!

Are Olympic plates harder to lift?

Many people hear "Olympic Plates" and get intimidated, thinking that they will be much heavier than standard plates. After all, the heaviest plate that comes in a "standard set" like you would find on Amazon or at a sporting goods store is often 25 pounds.

Don't be afraid of the weight! As we know, Olympic plates are just a reference to the diameter of the inner circle of the weight plate, telling us that it fits on a standard Olympic bar.

Traditionally iron Olympic plates range from 1 pound all the way up to 45 pounds using the following standardized sequence:

1 pound

2.5 pounds

5 pounds

10 pounds

25 pounds

35 pounds

45 pounds

Similarly, Olympic bumper plates use a similar standardized scale ranging from 10 pounds to 100 pounds (though 100-pound plates are very rare).

10 pounds

15 pounds

25 pounds

35 pounds

45 pounds

55 pounds

As you can see from these two scales, there is absolutely the opportunity to lift light if you are a beginner. Don't make the same mistake many beginners make by allowing yourself to be intimidated by the phrase "Olympic plates." Olympic simply refers to the type of weight it is, not how heavy it is. Olympic weights are not necessarily harder to lift than standard weights, but they do offer themselves as an option for those who wish to truly lift heavy.

Imperial & Metric - Which Plate Uses Which Measurement?

When choosing between Olympic plates and competition bumper plates, more often than not, you are choosing between imperial and metric weights. As we already know, one of the biggest differences between Olympic plates and competition bumper plates is that competition plates are measured in kilograms.

Standard Olympic bumper plates, especially those made in the USA, are often made to imperial weight specifications, measuring in pounds rather than kilograms.

Should I Be Lifting Imperial Or Metric Plates?

Most American athletes prefer to lift imperial weight as it is far easier to understand based on upbringing. Believe it or not, there are some slight advantages of lifting imperial instead of lifting metric.

First of all, when you lift with imperial weight plates, you are typically lifting more than you otherwise would with plates measured on a metric scale. The heaviest competition plate is 22kg which is approximately 44 pounds.

Alternately, when you use imperial weights, you're lifting 45 pounds as the heaviest plate. This gives athletes who train with imperial and then compete with metric a slight advantage knowing that the weights will be just the tiniest bit lighter than they are used to.

Wrapping up

Inevitably you're going to have to start lifting, so best not to overthink it. Many casual weightlifters just use whatever weights are available to them, but we think you deserve better.

If you are still curious as to “What are bumper plates and how do you go about choosing one brand over another?”, we can help guide you in the right direction. Tru Grit's Olympic bumper plates are the best of every category of weight plate rolled into one. They are imperial, IWF standard, Olympic-sized bumper plates which means there is no exercise you can't complete. 

If you're going to start lifting, continue lifting, or get back into lifting, you deserve the absolute best. Lift heavy with Tru Grit and give your muscles the pump they need while giving yourself the freedom to know that your weights cover all the bases. Happy Lifting.

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