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What are Weight Plates Made Of?

Weight plates are a common sight in both home and commercial gyms.  Used by themselves or with a barbell, they provide a simple way to increase the load on muscles when performing exercises.  What are weight plates made of and what type of weight plates are available to the average bodybuilder?  To answer those questions, we present this article.

What Are Weight Plates Made Of?

Weight plates are often made of cast iron, but they can also be made of rubber, plastic, rubber coated steel or vinyl coated concrete or sand.  The type of materials weight plates is composed of will affect the cost of the equipment as well as the accuracy of the weight measurement.  Weight plates created for competition are often composed of iron, steel or rubber depending on the particular type of event they’re being used for.  Many home gym weight plates are made using concrete or sand which is encased in vinyl.  These types of weight plates are often much cheaper and larger than cast iron plates, but also prone to decomposing which causes them to have a less accurate weight measurement over time.

Standard Versus Olympic Weight Plates

Standard and Olympic weight plates have some differences that can affect how they’re used.  The main difference is that the hole in Olympic weight plates is two inches in diameter, while it’s one inch in diameter on standard plates.  The larger hole in Olympic plates means that the plates themselves need to be larger to make up for the lost weight.  Olympic plates often have handles to help with movement and storage.  This also makes them useful for kettlebell style exercises.  And while standard plates won’t fit on an Olympic barbell, there are adapters available that allow Olympic plates to be used on a standard barbell.

Bumper Plates

Bumper plates can be composed of rubber or rubber encased steel.  Most often, competition bumper plates use the rubber encased steel, while cheaper bumper plates are composed of solid rubber.  Bumper plates are used for weightlifting competitions in which the barbell is dropped from a significant height.  The rubber allows the plates to land on the floor without causing the type of damage which would occur with cast iron plates.  All bumper plates are the same diameter with the lighter plates being thinner.  For beginning weightlifters, there are plastic made plates known as technique plates which allow lesser amounts of weight to be dropped from height without causing damage.

Weight Stacks

A different type of weight plate, known as weight stacks, are typically found on exercise machines.  These are usually rectangular in shape, made of iron or steel and mounted vertically on a set of rails and cables.  Changing the load is made simple by inserting a key or pin into the area marked with the desired weight.  Some of these types of cable and pulley exercise machines can be fitted with Olympic style weight plates in place of the weight stacks.

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