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Rubber Bumper Plates Guide and What to Buy

Rubber Bumper Plates Guide

Rubber bumper plates are one of the most important fixtures of your home gym.  This post will discuss pros and cons of the various types of rubber bumper plates as well as where to buy them.

Rubber bumper plates are among the top three things that are symbolic of the functional fitness movement:

#1 Beards & Sports Bras (usually not at the same time)

This has a lot to do with your gender, and we admittedly can’t help you out on that one!  But we’ve all seen the bearded, shirtless behemoths sweating alongside their fit, functional and fine female counterparts.  It’s hard to miss.

#2 Kipping Pull-ups

Then there are the kipping pull-ups.  Some people claim they don’t count as pull-ups, but that’s a tough pill to swallow.  After all, you’re pulling your bodyweight up and over the bar with every rep.  In fact, you’re typically doing it a lot more, and a lot faster than someone doing a dead-hang pull-up as well.  So really which one is more functional in the long run?  We’ve talked about kipping pull-ups before, and have a great article recommending what kind of pull-up bar is best for the home gym refugee as part of our Home Gym Essentials series.  For what it’s worth, we suggest you head over to Amazon and buy yourself a StudBar Pull-Up Bar if you’re in the market for a rock solid, mounted pull-up bar.

#3 Dropping the Weights

Perhaps the loudest and most obnoxiously functional icon of the functional fitness movement.  Throwing your weights is a rewarding victory dance after completing a 1 rep PR.  The sound of them clattering on the ground, shaking the floor at your feet is unmistakable.

But there’s more to it than that.  Dropping the weight is an essential skill to master for safety as well.  Of course, athletes can drop iron plates too, but they should be prepared to buy a new floor, regardless of material.  Dropping 250 pounds from 6-7′ onto any material is going to yield bad results.  Learning how to safely and effectively bail out of missed lifts will not only give you confidence to push your limits, but it will keep you from accidentally trying to catch your weights in an attempt to avoid an earth-destroying drop.

For this reason, we recommend rubber bumper plates.  There are several different kinds, and this article will discuss which ones we recommend for beginners and advanced lifters alike.

Rubber Bumper Plates

Coated Plates

Rubber Coated plates can be misleading.  They typically are composed of iron or steel, coated by a thin layer of rubber.  This thin layer is somewhat effective at dampening the sound of them clattering on the ground.  It is also marginally effective at absorbing the impact during things like deadlifts.  However they are not ideal for fast repetitions or heavy power lifting.

Why might you want rubber coated plates?

  • Most cost effective solution for a starter home gym.
  • They are versatile and easy to manage
  • Thin rubber coating offers some surface protection

It’s easy to load up a bar quickly with these types of rubber coated plates and get the workout going.  They are super-simple to identify by weight, whereas other standard olympic sized plates can be a little bit harder, especially when in a hurry.  And as mentioned before, the rubber coating does offer some protection to the plates themselves and to your floor and surrounding equipment.

What are the Drawbacks?

The biggest drawback is that they will not lend themselves well to being dropped from any height, or slammed against the ground like legitimate rubber bumper plates will.  This makes going super heavy a risky endeavor because you’ll naturally want to try and stop them from falling if you miss a lift, which could result in pulled muscles or other serious injury.

Additionally, due to their composition, they are various diameters in size depending on weight.  This makes them difficult to use for standard olympic lifts such as cleans, snatches and deadlifts, as the starting height of the bar may not be ideal due to the diameter of the plates you may be using.

The Bottom Line

For basic use, it is difficult to beat the price, however.  If you’re in the market for some rubber coated plates for your standard lifts, head over to Amazon and buy a set of XMark Rubber Coated Weights.  They are available in several different weight configurations (as a set) and very cost effective.


Solid Rubber Plates

If you want premium equipment, this is the way to go.  Solid rubber bumper plates have no metal (other than the insert/collar) in the plate, and the weight difference is created by varying the thickness of the plate rather than the diameter of the plate, as is the case with rubber coated plates.

Solid rubber bumper plates give you the benefit of a consistent plate diameter and an all-rubber composition that is safe for dropping, and for high repetition impact.

Paying a Premium

There are many manufacturers of solid rubber bumper plates.  Truth be told, many of these plates are sourced from the same factories and rebranded.  As a refugee, we urge you to avoid at all costs paying for a brand instead of a product.  There are times when the brand matters, but typically this is because they truly do offer a better product.  Such is the case with the Concept2 Rower which we have written about in other articles.

Rubber bumper plates should be priced for what they are.  For this reason, we recommend a very specific brand of solid rubber bumper plates, which are reasonably priced, yet every bit as effective as other “premium” brands you might pay extra for.  Do not fall prey to this trick.

Why might you want solid rubber plates?

  • Standard plate diameter means every lift that begins from the ground (i.e. deadlift, clean, snatch) will begin from a standard olympic height.  This is important for form and safety as much as anything else.
  • Using solid rubber plates, you can effectively “bail out” of a lift if something doesn’t feel right, if the weight is too heavy, or if you just wussed out.  Rubber is a great absorber of force and is less likely to damage your floor.
  • Solid rubber is one continuous piece of material, not composed of “crumbs” that are “glued” together.  It is resilient to dropping and high repetition and unlikely to come apart, chip or be as easily damaged as crumb rubber bumper plates.

What are some of the drawbacks to solid rubber plates?

  • Price price price – You typically get what you pay for, but you have to decide what your goal is for lifting.  If you’re not looking for high rep, high impact, then think to yourself if you really need solid rubber?  Maybe rubber coated is more in line with your goals and your budget.
    • Additionally, if it’s just you, and you’re not lifting in a high traffic facility, or a multi-family-member household, you may be able to get by with some crumb rubber bumper plates instead for a little bit cheaper
  • Appearance – Sometimes solid rubber plates will come in various colors.  This can be helpful for identifying weights by pound or kg in a pinch, but globo-gym refugees may find a greater appeal to rugged black plates.
  • Composition – Being all solid rubber, if they do chip or break, it is likely to be a large piece, rendering the plate unusable.
  • Smell – It might seem like a small thing, but they often come from the factory with a strong, factory-fresh rubber smell.  In a tight home or garage gym, this can be irritating for the first few days or weeks while the smell dissipates.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for solid rubber bumper plates, we recommend plates from OneFitWonder.  Like we mentioned before, many plate brands source their rubber from the same manufacturer and then rebrand it.  Again:  don’t pay for a brand, pay for a product!  OneFitWonder has high quality solid rubber bumper plates available individually or as sets.  Below are some of our favorite sets available on Amazon.

Crumb Rubber Bumper Plates

These are the RefuGym preferred rubber bumper plates.  They put a check in every box and keep the most money in our pockets typically.  Crumb rubber refers to the composition of the plate itself.  These plates are still 100% rubber (other than the metal collars), but consist of fused/glued recycled “crumbs” of rubber, instead of a single solid piece.

Benefits to Crumb Rubber Plates

  • Standard plate diameter – similar to solid rubber plates, they enable the full range of olympic lifts.
  • 100% rubber absorbs impact the same way as solid rubber plates.  Some might argue that due to the less solid composition, these actually absorb impact better than solid rubber!
  • If it chips over time, it is likely to still be usable, albeit marginally lighter depending on how much chips off (we’re talking ounces here, not pounds).  However in our experience, they will take a beating for years without chipping appreciably.
  • Price!  They offer the same utility as solid rubber plates for usually (but not always) less cost.
  • Smell – Although not a hard and fast rule, they typically do not smell as much as solid rubber plates do

Drawbacks to Crumb Bumper Plates

  • They are not as premium as solid plates.  Functionally this makes no difference, though.
  • Although they are all factory tested to be within weight tolerance, there is a slight margin of error on actual product weight by comparison to solid rubber or rubber coated plates.  Again, we are talking fractions of ounces here.
  • More prone to chipping, however unlikely this may be.
  • Along with solid rubber plates, they do not have “handles” like rubber coated plates do.
  • No colors.  The majority of recycled crumb rubber bumper plates typically are black recycled rubber.

Paying a Premium

Just like the solid rubber bumper plates above, we have to recommend products based on price and efficacy, rather than on brand.  Crumb rubber plates often have the same manufacturers as well, and again, re-price based on brand.  In the case of crumb rubber plates, however, we get a bonus, because it just so happens that one of the best brands of crumb rubber bumper plates is also one of the best products!

The Bottom Line

Wright Equipment has been in the bumper plate world for a long time.  They know what they’re doing, have competitive pricing, and offer a product that has real value.  You’re welcome to visit other competitors and pay a premium for effectively the same product, but we wouldn’t recommend it.  You can’t go wrong with Wright Equipment & Wright Rubber.  You can purchase plates from them individually or by set.  We recommend by set in order to save on shipping and make things even more cost effective.  Below are some of our favorite sets from them on Amazon.

What’s the Final Verdict?

So who wins in the battle of the bumpers?

The Wright Equipment Crumb Rubber Bumper Plates take the prize.  Dollar for dollar they offer the best benefit of all the plates.  Our goal is that our equipment be as functional as we are.  In this case, we need weights that can handle high repetitions, potentially high impact, and equally as important, offer us the peace of mind that we can ditch/bail with them safely.

Crumb Bumper Plates absorb impact brilliantly.  Their standard plate diameter means all of our lifts can start from the ground at a proper olympic height.  Their composition means we can drop them from overhead safely.

Better to drop the weights from overhead in triumph than in failure, but we always want to prepare for the worst!

Their price point is often better than the price of solid plates, yet they offer just about every one of the same benefits.

Crumb rubber bumper plates can’t be beat if you’re shopping for a new set of rubber bumper plates.  Use them as a focal point in your RefuGym and you won’t be sorry!

If you can’t decide, head over to The Camp Store and shop around!

Got an opinion on rubber bumper plates?  Share it with us in the comments!

Thanks for reading… stay strong!

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