Bumper Plates would probably not be in existence if not for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. In the early years of weightlifting cast iron Olympic weights were used. As the amount of weight increased over the years it became impractical and unsafe for the lifters to try to bring maximum loads of weight down to their body and then to the floor. After the extreme physical toll taken from completing a one max rep, the lifter does not have the strength or control to safely lower such weight. Early bumper plates were very thick, which posed the added problem of taking up too much space on the barbell sleeve. This limited the number of weights that could be added to the Olympic bar. Later bumper plates utilized a steel disc center to increase the weight of the plate without increasing it's thickness. This allowed weightlifters to add more weight to the bar without using cast iron plates or overly thick rubber plates.
There are multiple bumper plates available on the market. For the potential consumer, the choices may seem overwhelming and even redundant. This post will act as a definitive guide to bumper plates and their best uses.
Black Training Bumper Plates in lbs: As the name implies, these are black rubber bumper plates made for all types of training. These bumper plates are made from a high density rubber that should be quite hard and durable. This type of bumper plate is best for high use, high volume, non-specific kinds of training and general fitness goals. The black training bumper plate is a no frills, no thrills, general purpose weight plate. Within the sea of black training bumper plates currently available, there are definitely different levels of quality. For one thing, they are not all manufactured in the same factory. There are dozens of factories now making bumper plates. A large bumper plate factory will produce as much as 4,000,000 pounds of bumper plates within a month, whereas, small factories exist that use only a few machines and a handful of employees and can produce 400,000 lbs of bumper plates per month. Rubber qualities vary, processing methods vary, and testing methods (if they are even used) will also vary. The outward appearance of the plate tells us nothing about its source or their quality of manufacturing. It's no different than looking at three or four different brands of automotive tires, as no indication of quality or durability can be made simply on that factor.
Color Training Bumper Plates in lbs and Kilograms: Color bumper plates are generally colored according to the International Weightlifting Federation or International Powerlifting Federation color scheme. The color standard is Red - 25 kg or 55 lb, Blue - 20 kg or 45 lb, Yellow - 15 kg or 35 lb, and Green - 10 kg or 25 lb. There are also "off brand" color bumper plates that may use Red for 45 lb, Yellow for 45 lb, and Green for 25 lb, possibly excluding a plate or some other mixed up color scheme. This color system allows coaches and athletes to quickly select and recognize weight poundages in the training environment. Upon a glance the coach can quickly survey the gym and be able to calculate the weights lifted by the athletes. This allows the coach a broader view and saves athletes the trouble of selecting the wrong weights when they are caught up in the adrenaline fueled atmosphere of the gym or are simply mentally exhausted. Often times trainees will confuse the black 45 lb and 35 lb plate due to their similar thickness, likewise with the 25 lb and 35 lb plates. Colored rubber is slightly softer than black rubber which tends to lessen the noise made when dropped from overhead. This adds the benefit of reduced noise pollution when training multiple athletes. The Color Kg bumper plates provide a lower cost alternative to the Absolute Competition Bumper Plates. Many gyms equipping multiple platforms for Olympic weightlifting training will opt for more sets of kg Color plates and a few sets of competition bumper plates to utilize for testing and in-house competitions.
Alpha Bumper Plates: The Alpha Bumper plate is constructed of a unique rubber compound not found in any other bumper plate. It can be used indoors or outdoors on concrete with no adverse affect to the surface of the plate. The Alpha Bumper plates are made in lb variants and are of a lower profile than the black or colored training bumper plates. They are color coded with large flecks of rubber giving the same color coding benefits as that of the color training bumper plates in pounds. Unlike bumper plates made from recycled rubber tires or crumb rubber, the Alpha Bumper plates do not bounce dangerously high. The special rubber compound used in the Alpha Bumper plates is also 30% quieter when dropped from overhead, a further reduction in noise pollution. Alpha Bumper plates are very popular in high schools, colleges, as well as, military and police training centers. The cool look and the versatility of the plate make them a win-win selection for many gyms.
Competition Bumper Plates in lbs and kgs: Competition Bumper Plates offer the highest level of quality and performance. The steel disc is seated below the rubber surface so that there is no metal to metal contact between the discs. This a huge reduction in noise, helps to reduce vibration, and prevents loosening of the bolts over time. The Absolute competition bumper plates are accurate within 10 grams of the stated weight, a more exact tolerance than many IWF certified competition bumper plates. The competition bumper plate is a must for high end gyms where accuracy of weights, performance, and balance make a difference toward hard fought personal records. The thinner profile will allow the strongest athletes to load up the bar without displacing the load further down the bar sleeve, which can make lifts harder than needed. Competition bumper plates in lbs are uniform black and can be custom printed with a school or organization name.
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