What’s happenin’ Fringe Fam?! We’re continuing our chats about iron and rubber plates, and today we’re going to discuss something that’s come up a few times as a question in our inbox.
Here’s the question: Can iron plates and rubber plates be mixed and used on the same bar?
Answer: Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.
If you’ve got great rubber bumper plates like the ones we sell at Fringe Sport, then iron and rubber plates can absolutely be mixed and used together.
While the short answer is yes, the longer answer is that you should be thinking about what you’re doing with that barbell and mixed plates and how much you’re mixing because it can get a little tricky.
About 15 years ago, when PK was just starting to build out his garage gym, he only had enough money to afford iron plates. He had one pair of 25lb bumper plates, and wasn’t sure about mixing iron and rubber… but he did it anyway until he ran into problems with 25lb rubber bumpers and about 100lbs of iron on either side. That’s where he started to see some wobbliness with the 25lb bumpers.
If you’re loading your bar with the opposite, and using a pair of slim 25lb bumper plates and supplementing with dozens of iron change plates on the end, you’re likely to run into issues because that thin strip of rubber has to support a lot of weight without support itself.
Keep this in mind: are you loading your bar with a ton of rubber and a little bit of iron, or a ton of iron and a little bit of rubber? In the latter case, you’re going to run into a few problems.
As you can see in the photo below, the barbell has the same weight on both sides, but there’s a 55lb rubber bumper plate and a few iron change plates on one side, and a 10lb plate on the other and the rest of the weight is made up of iron plates on the end.
The 10lb plate we’ve used here is designed to take some brute force (because it's one of ours!) but if you have a regular, non-Fringe 10lb bumper plate, it might not be designed to take so much force. It’s a small rubber area to be taking such weight it’s not designed for. You can see that the other side, with the 55lb is a much thicker, denser plate with a lot more contact area. Even if that were not a good quality bumper, you wouldn’t have to worry about stacking some iron on the end because you’ve got much more contact area to take the force of being lifted and dropped, which brings us to our second point.
Are you going to be dropping the barbell? If you’re squatting, and the barbell and plates are never (or rarely) making contact with the ground and you’re re-racking between sets, then you can absolutely stack a good mix of rubber and iron. If you’re cleaning, jerking, snatching, and then dropping the barbell, then there is going to be a lot more stress on the rubber plates. Even if you are doing that, you can still mix the rubber and iron plates as long as you’re not going crazy with the iron.
As a quick rule of thumb, try to keep the iron on the bar to about 20-30% or less of the weight in rubber on the barbell. So, when mixing iron and rubber plates, remember that mixing the two is totally fine, but be aware of what you’re doing with the mixture and how much volume you’re doing.
Have questions about mixing iron and rubber plates? Leave us a comment below, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message via the chat feature on our site. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, and join our private Facebook group for garage gym inspo, positivity, and a community of like-minded people improving their lives through strength.