Everyone’s heard that old saying, “Once you go bumpers, you never go back.”
That’s true, but the first thing to note in talking about bumper plates is that contrary to popular belief, not everybody needs them. If you’re never going to do any exercises where you’ll need to drop the barbell for safety or performance reasons, you don’t need bumper plates. Save yourself an enormous amount of money and just buy used metal plates locally. Done.
If you’re sure you want/need bumper plates, read on.
The Common Recommendation: Most of the time, for most people, the Rogue or MuscleDriver economy bumper plates are the best choice. They’re indistinguishable from each other in my experience. While the Rogue plates may have slightly better re-sale value, the MDUSA plates are more often on sale or available with a shipping discount.
Maximum Weight on Bar: If you want to drop deadlifts or heavy squats, be mindful of the width of the bumper plates and how much total weight you can fit on the bar. The sleeve of a standard Olympic barbell has only 16.25″ of space to put on plates plus any collar you wish to use.
Bumper plate width comparison for 45 lb bumper plate:
Rogue HG 2.0: 3.75″
Rogue Echo: 3.25″
Rogue Training: 2.15″
Rogue Competition: 2.15″
Everyone’s economy plates are wider than so-called “training” or “competition” plates, but the cost savings versus the narrower bumpers can be considerable.
Durability: If you’re going to dump bumpers onto rough surfaces (eg, gravel, rough concrete) or they’ll see very heavy use (eg, in a gym with daily use by numerous people), the Hi-Temp bumper plates are universally lauded as an ideal choice. Unfortunately, they have a different diameter than most bumpers (444mm vs the usual 450mm), making them awkward to mix and match with other brands, and they’re one of the widest plates at a given weight, limiting the maximum weight you can fit on a barbell sleeve.
I’d avoid VTX and off-brand things that look like white-labeled versions of the same. I’ve used VTX plates which cracked all the way through, which lost chunks of rubber off their edges, and which lost their internal metal collars — all in a few months of heavy use.
Mixing Bumpers and Metal Plates: Some frugal people recommend a pair of 45 lb bumpers and then tons of 35 lb metal plates, with the idea being that the larger diameter of the bumper plate will cushion the drop without letting the metal plates hit the ground, but you’ll still get the benefits of the greater weight-to-size efficiency of the 35 lb plates. (Never mind that used 35 lb plates are far cheaper than bumpers.) I think the mixing is fine, but there should be at least as much weight in bumpers with the same diameter, so they all strike at once, as there is in metal plates.
A final note on Collars: If you’re doing slow lifts that you’re not dropping, cheapie spring collars may be fine just to prevent plates from sliding when at a slight angle. If you’re dropping a bar with bumper plates on it, however, the movement forces involved will rapidly show how worthless your spring collars are. You’ll be adjusting the plates and collars after every few reps. If you’ve got bumper plates, invest in <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HHHKXLK/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HHHKXLK&linkCode=as2&tag=roumenstarea-20&linkId=EKZ4XSTZVZF2FKPV” target=”_blank”>ProLoc collars</a> at around $40/pair. They’re expensive, but they’re leaps and bounds beyond any of the latch-based collars I’ve used, like Rogue HG or Muscle Clamps. The ProLoc clamps will actually keep your bumper plates in place through repeated drops.