Olympic plate buying guide

Olympic Plate Buying Guide 2021

Best Olympic Plate Choices and Buying Guide

We’ve likely all heard the sage advice to choose the right tool for the right job. When it comes to tools for fixing things, I’m embarrassingly clueless and am the wrong guy to send digging through the toolbox for that obscurely named wrench. When it comes to weight room tools, like Olympic weight plates, I’m much more in my element. 

A weight plate is a weight plate though, right? There’s not much difference, and any old plate will do as long as we put standard plates on standard bars and Olympic plates on Olympic bars, correct?

Um, no, not even close. There’s a great deal of variation in Olympic weight plates, including a wide range in both function and price. Let’s take a closer look and sort through some of the confusion.

Old-school, deep dish Olympic plates are my personal favorite for general resistance training, bodybuilding, and powerlifting. They’re what I grew up using, and nothing really beats the clang of iron on iron when I walk into a gym. That beautiful sound lets me know immediately that I’m in a serious place where serious muscle-building work is happening. 

IRON COMPANY sells some absolutely gorgeous deep dish Olympic plates with a wide flange for easy carrying. They come in your choice of oil-baked or matte black finish and are made from recycled cast iron in a carbon-neutral foundry. You can find cheaper plates than this mid-priced offering, but you won’t be getting USA-made craftsmanship.

Though I love the sound of old-school iron, urethane Olympic plates with grips offer some distinct advantages that may appeal to high-end commercial facilities and to some home users. Urethane protects floors and won’t rust, while the ergonomic grips make loading and offloading easier and safer. 

IRON COMPANY’s urethane Olympic plates with grips are covered with high-quality German urethane that has no rubber smell. They feature stainless steel hubs and can be custom laser-engraved. The urethane coating nudges them into the mid-to-high-end price point, but discerning club members will appreciate the investment.

Before Crossfit’s rise in popularity in the early 2000s, I hardly saw rubber bumper plates outside of college strength and conditioning facilities. When Crossfit athletes started breathing new life into Olympic weightlifting, practicing the Olympic lifts and dropping bars at heights ranging from mid-shin all the way to overhead, I began seeing rubber bumper plates in garage gyms and commercial facilities alike.

IRON COMPANY’s rubber bumper plates are all the same diameter, allowing beginners to start with the bar resting at the correct height off the floor in order to learn proper mechanics—even if they’re loading only a set of ten-pound plates to groove their developing form. These plates are accurate to +/- 1% of the stated weight, have large numbers for easy size identification, feature stainless steel inserts that won’t rust, and offer a quiet dead bounce that protects floors. Falling in the low-to-mid-price range, they’re a great value for Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and general resistance training.

IRON COMPANY’s urethane bumper plates offer all of the same benefits of rubber, but the German urethane is more compact, won’t crack or split, has no rubber smell, and is longer-lasting. The heavy-duty, solid steel inserts are hard chrome plated, and the plates are color-coded by size. Custom logo options are available for schools, commercial gyms, sports teams, etc. Like the urethane Olympic plates, the high-quality materials and craftsmanship push these plates into the mid-to-upper price range.

For serious strength athletes, IRON COMPANY’s competition rubber bumper plates offer tight tolerances within +/- 10 grams (that’s right, grams!) of the stated weight. These top-end plates are made of the highest quality virgin rubber and are very compact compared to other bumper plates. Consequently, they’re one of the most expensive choices and are best utilized in competition and for competition preparation.

Now that we’ve been through the range of Olympic plates available, you should have a better understanding of how the mantra “the right tool for the right job” applies to selecting the best plates for your needs. Though I’m partial to old-school iron and always will be, your training needs may necessitate a different choice. 

Particularly if you practice any form of “quick” lifting—cleans, snatches, high pulls, and the like—you’ll want to explore the excellent rubber and urethane bumper plate options available. If you have additional questions about the best choice for your training facility, contact the pros at IRON COMPANY today.

Chuck Miller has been immersed in the pursuit of strength and the art and science of physical transformation as a coach, athlete, and writer for over thirty years. He is the author of Inside the Mind of an Iron Icon: on strength training and bodybuilding and is a monthly columnist for HARDGAINER 2.0 Visit CORE Strength and Conditioning to learn more about his background or to book a consultation.