When looking at buying bumper plates you want to know that the set you purchase is going to deliver great training sessions year after year.
Most of us can’t afford to be buying replacement bumpers every few months and even more importantly, can’t afford to lose a day of working out!
So what differentiates and sets a bumper plate above another? Durability and consistency. Here’s how:
Bumper plates were meant to be dropped, in some cases (particularly after a PR) possibly even slammed. The rubber consistency of bumper plates is designed to withstand making forceful contact with the ground, but at different levels and in different ways. Dead-bounce bumper plates describe exactly what it sounds like, very little to no bounce off of the floor after being dropped. This is important because the less bouncing your plates do, the less bouncing your barbell will do, which will save your barbell collars and the center rings of the bumper plates from getting loose.
2. Center Rings:
The center rings on the bumper plate (what you slide your barbell collar through), can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as far as the amount of indentation they have compared to the rest of the plate (some bumper plates have rings that are flush with the plate which results in metal on metal contact when loading multiple plates and expediates the wear and tear process, while others are flanged to prevent metal on metal contact as well as make it easier to load the plates on the bar.) The way the rings are set into the plate can also differ which can be a determining factor in the life expectancy of the plate. When the rings become loose and fall out from multiple impacts with the ground and/or rattling on the barbell, the plate is pretty much dead as there is now way to set the rings back in. You want to find a bumper plate that has not only properly flanged center rings, but also a manufacturing process that sets the rings into the rubber plates as best as possible (which can be done with using rebar, glues, and several types of different bonding rubbers).
3. How Thick?:
The nice thing about metal plates is that you can load hundreds of pounds on each side without worrying about running out of room. The story is the complete opposite with most bumper plates. Since bumpers have to be able to withstand impact with the floor, and because they are made out of rubber, they are naturally thicker and take up more surface area on the bar, resulting in less loadable weight. Still, some manufacturers take this into account and purposefully make their heavier plates with the least amount of surface area possible to allow for more weight on the bar. With lighter plates you want to actually look for more surface area (especially on 10 and 15lb bumpers) to insure that they won’t “taco” or fold over when dropped.