If you’re looking to build out a gym (home or otherwise), you cannot overlook the classic gym must have: free weights.
Weight plates are the type of weight used to add poundage to your barbell or dumbbells. There are a few different things to think about when it comes to buying weight plates depending on your fitness goals and intended usage. Let’s break down the different options:
The main difference between olympic and standard plates is the size of the hole used to fix them to your barbell. Standard plates have a 1-inch diameter opening and Olympic plates have a 2-inch diameter opening.
You’ll want to make your purchase decision based on the diameter of the collars on your barbell. Usually, standard plates cannot be used on an Olympic bar, but Olympic plates can be used on both standard and Olympic bars (with the right adaptor), making them a little more versatile.
Olympic plates are the most common style in today's day and age. Most barbells and plate loaded machines being manufactured are made for use with olympic plates.
Standard plates are cheaper, less versatile and are limited. However, they are not a bad choice for beginners or home gym enthusiasts looking to save money.
Cast iron or steel plates are old-school and the most commonly used weight plates. These are usually a cheaper choice. They are durable, but can rust, and are a great option for traditional bodybuilding workouts
Coated Iron & Steel plates will come covered with a thin layer of either rubber or urethane. This can be beneficial to prevent rust and scratches, and they are usually a little easier to grip and move around.
Rubber coating serves its purpose and is a fine option if you are storing your plates indoors. Urethane is a stronger, more durable material than rubber and is usually a bit more expensive.
Bumper plates (not to be confused with coated plates) have a much thicker protective covering and a steel core. These (usually brightly colored) plates are incredibly durable and can withstand being dropped. This type of plate is great for workouts where weight is being lifted and dropped quickly - like olympic lifting and crossfit style movements (deadlifts!).
Industry standard tolerance is +/- 5% from the listed weight. There are plates that have tight tolerances, but this will come with a higher price.
For true accuracy when it comes to weight plates, the best option is to buy calibrated plates. As opposed to the other types of plates, these are built to be more true to weight. This accuracy becomes important if you are competing in powerlifting or weight lifting competitions.
For this reason, calibrated plates which are made with either cast iron or machined steel are typically used in competition or elite sports environments.
Change plates allow you to customize your lifting even further. These weigh less than regular weight plates, so that you can incrementally add more poundage. They're usually found in 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 or 1.00 (lb or kg) plates.
The amount of weight you want to lift and what features are important to you can help you determine the right weight plates to add to your gym.
No matter the type, weight plates are necessary to take your gym setup to the next level!