Are Bumper Plates Necessary for Deadlifts or Olympic Lifts?

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Do you need to blow $400 on a set of bumpers, or are the iron plates you have ok?

The first thing you want to do is not piss off Coach Rip! Here’s his take on the bumper plates vs. iron plates problem.

If you don’t know of him, Mark Rippetoe is strength coach, author of the popular books Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training and is widely looked up to as a top guru in strength training. He’s also entertaining and right to the point, as you can see (seriously, watch, it’s good info).You might also want to visit startingstrength.com, where they have an active forum.

As long as you aren’t training near your max, and you’re careful, you should be able to get by with plain old iron plates. It’s best if you start at light weight, do a lot of practice over time to improve your form, get consistent, and slowly go up in weight so that you can consistently lower the weight back down from shoulder rack position as shown in the video.

Note that Rip is doing this on a lifting platform. At a minimum you want some 1/2″ or 3/4″ rubber flooring underneath you. If you’re serious about it, a platform is great to have to help absorb the impact even better, and even if you get a set of bumper plates down the line you will make good use of the platform to extend the life of your bumpers. And it will absorb enough impact to reduce the risk of your neighbor/family going postal on you from shaking the earth with your drops.

The plates you REALLY don’t want…

Stay away from “grip” plates, which is what we call cast-iron plates with a few grip holes near the edges for easier handling.

Some are rubber coated. Doesn’t matter. Because of their design, grip plates are more fragile and can break at one of those holes. They aren’t mean to be slammed to the floor on the edges like non-coated iron plates. They’re better suited for bench pressing, loading on machines, and lighter exercises where they can at least be set down on the floor gently.

grip plates and deadlifting

If you’re deadlifting with a relatively light amount of weight, say under 200 lbs (hey don’t be ashamed, that’s still great!), you ought to be able to get away with using grip plates. I don’t know for a fact at what point grip plates are going to break. But I do remember a York rep asserting that their grip plates are not meant for deadlifts for this reason.

And if you’re doing cleans of ANY weight, don’t use grip plates. Dropping any iron plates from a couple feet high from a failed clean can be dicey, and dropping grip plates at that height is a gamble for sure.

When You Kinda Need Bumpers:

If you’re pushing the bar overhead and going heavy with it, whether it’s jerks, snatches, or just overhead presses without the safety bars of a rack to catch it if you fail, you’re probably going to want bumper plates.

It’s mainly a question of, Can you consistently lower the weight back down? 

Bringing the bar down from overhead, in control, is tough on your wrists when you’re going heavy. Moving it back down into a full-grip overhead press position puts a lot of load on your wrists, while bringing the bar back down directly into the “rack” position (ie: front squat or clean position, on your shoulders) takes some practice and is still tough to do with heavy weight. 

Mixing Iron and Rubber

mixing bumpers and iron plates

Once you decide you need bumpers, the inevitable next question is:

Is it ok if I use a couple bumpers and throw a bunch of iron plates on the bar too?

Here’s the problem. Bumpers don’t last forever. They’re engineered to take their own weight when dropped. When you start adding iron that doesn’t touch the floor, the bumpers have to take even more weight. It might not seem like much, but it does have an effect. It will reduce the life of your bumpers. 

“Change” plates are one thing. That’s what we call iron plates 5lb and smaller. So it’s ok to slide on a 5lb and 2.5lb. Probably even a 10lb. That’s a marginal difference.

I know, you’re asking, How about a 25lb iron plate? Or two 10lb? Or just maybe like a 10lb and a 5lb?

Right, because I’m here to negotiate with you about it.

I don’t know – Is it ok if I have another candy bar? How about half a candy bar? How about vegging out in front of the TV for just a little longer, and work out later?

The more you push the envelope, the more wear you will cause to your bumpers. If you’re willing to take the gamble, by all means go for it.

 

Throwing Down On Bare Concrete Flooring

Up until now we have assumed we’re lifting in a civilized manner, with nice rubber flooring or even a platform.

Some of us aren’t so lucky.

So, bare concrete. What’s the deal with it?

It hardly needs mentioning that dropping iron on concrete is a bad, bad idea.

The funny thing about bare concrete is: The more expensive the bumper, the worse it wears on bare concrete.

The expensive competition bumpers have lots of steel inside them that jacks up the price, and they’re really accurate, but the thing is, they don’t bounce. You need bounce to soften the impact.

This even goes somewhat for a dead-blow bounce economy bumper.

The bounciest are the Hi-Temps. While I don’t think they’re warrantied for use on bare concrete, they are one of the best ones to do so with if you’re lifting in your garage and rubber flooring isn’t possible for you right now.

rogue hi temps and concrete

You can get them from Rogue. They’re the same as the ones Hi Temp Weights sells and are just re-branded for Rogue.

 

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