As you build your home gym, you will need to consider what kind of weights you should include and how to properly store your weight plates. This guide exists to help you find the right plates for you and to determine how you might want to expand your weight training equipment in the future. Consider your workout habits and goals, then consult the information below to get a better picture of the equipment you need in order to get the workout you want.
Why You Need Free Weights
The first question you might have is why you should commit to free weights in the first place. After all, there are many different strength training options, including a wide range of different exercise machines available. However, very few modern exercise machines can provide you with the immediate and effective results that free weights offer. Lifting weights builds size and strength very quickly and can be used in a number of different varieties to work out hard-to-reach muscle groups.
Almost as significantly, free weights provide you with a level of affordability and convenience that other exercise equipment cannot match. You can pick up used weight plates for very little money, and their design makes them all buy impossible to significantly damage. In terms of storage, you need one or more racks for your weight plates and their associated bars, but that’s it. This gives you a lot of room in your workout space for other pieces of equipment or for movement-based exercises. All told, free weights are a great investment for anybody interested in building strength.
Standard Plates versus Olympic Plates
Before delving into more detail in this weight plates buying guide, it is first worth noting the two main types of weight plates. Standard plates have a one-inch diameter hole that fits a one-inch bar. These plates are the more affordable of the two, but they also tend to be of the lowest quality. If you buy a standard bar and accompanying plates, you may have to replace the items more quickly as they dent, chip, or bend from frequent use.
The other main type of free weights are Olympic weight plates. These plates have a two-inch diameter hole that fits the thicker two-inch Olympic weight bar. Olympic weight plates cost more up front, but they have a much higher level of quality and durability. You could potentially go your entire life without needing another set of weight plates. While cost is always a consideration that you should keep in mind, it is usually better and more affordable in the long run to go with Olympic plates. If you start with standard plates instead, you might want to start saving up for an Olympic set to phase in as your standard weights start to show wear and tear.
Considering Your Environment
The specific type of weight plates that you choose should be influenced by your workout room and the type of exercises you plan to do. Traditional plates are made or iron or a similar heavy metal that prevents them from getting scratched or damaged through repeated use. Metal plates are a great option for those who prefer a traditional look, but note that they are often harder than the environment around them. That means that if you drop them or throw them down during an exercise, you may find yourself with dents and scratches in your floor. Workout rooms designed to resist high-impact collisions can avoid this problem, making metal plates ideal.
If you are worried about potential damage to your workout room or simply want a more modern look, you can instead opt for bumper plates. These weight plates are made of a dense rubber material that gives them a little bounce when they are dropped. Bumper plates are less likely to damage floors and walls and are easier to lower from a deadlift. They do show wear quickly, making it easy to spot plates that have been used before. However, this wear is almost completely cosmetic—the plates themselves remain very durable, although less durable than metal. If you worry about your carbon footprint, you can also purchase bumper plates made of recycled rubber, this creating a “green” exercise option.
Quantity of Plates
A typical starter set of either standard or Olympic plates consists of two each of 20 kg, 15 kg, 10 kg, 5 kg, and 1 kg plates along with four 2.5 kg plates. A normal weight bar weighs about 20 kg, and you should add this amount into any weightlifting calculations you do. For a beginner, the standard set provides you with enough weight to lift up to 132 kg, which approaches the upper limit of many amateur weightlifters.
If you intend to lift beyond this limit, you should think about the space available to you on the bar. The more plates you add, the more awkward the weightlifting bar becomes. For extremely heavy weights, you might prefer to get heavier individual plates, such as some additional 20 kg or 15 kg options, rather than stacking up a lot of smaller weights. As you approach the upper limits, you may also want to get a sturdier weightlifting bar, as the bar that comes with a standard set is not meant to support plates much heavier than 100 kg total.
As you begin your weightlifting journey, it is probably best to start with a standard set of weights. When you build up strength and develop a better feel for your individual preferences, you should purchase additional plates as needed. Remember not to add only the heavier plate options—smaller weights, such as 2.5 kg and 1 kg, allow you more precision when it comes to determining your true upper limit.
Weight versus Technique
When you begin your weight training, you may focus on simple bench presses and other exercises designed to boost your upper body strength. As you get more accustomed to weightlifting, you may wish to fill out your collection of weight plates with some technique plates. These plates are lightweight and designed to help you perfect your form. You usually only need a pair at one time, as their goal is to give you just enough weight on the bar to feel that you are lifting something. Technique plates won’t build muscle in the same way that traditional weight plates will, but they will help you make sure that you use the proper form and build good habits. If you choose to lift technique plates, it is best to have a full-body mirror somewhere in your workout area. This helps you observe your form before, during, and after a lift.
Buying the right weight plates for your home gym requires an awareness of what materials your walls and floors can handle and a vision of what you want to accomplish through a weightlifting routine. You should determine whether you want to start with standard plates or pay the extra money for Olympic plates, what material you want the weights to be made out of, and when the proper time is to expand your weight collection. The information above should give you a good starting point for your exercise journey, and there is always more to learn as you continue lifting.