The History and Etiquette of Bumper Plates
Bumper Plate Etiquette
Check out the new bumper plates at FOCF! Please remember, bumper plates are not designed to be dropped in a normal lifting situation!
This is especially important with 10 lb and 15 lb bumper plates. The only exception exception is if it the last resort when you miss the lift and can not control the load.
Please, please, please take care of your gym, including our equipment!
We don’t want our plates to end up looking like this!
A Brief History of…Bumper Plates
By Richard Sorin (http://store.sorinex.com/Articles.asp?ID=245)
Bumper plates are a combination of form following function. In the early days of Olympic weightlifting the Snatch, Press and clean & jerk were done on crude, solid wood platforms with sometimes disastrous results when lifts failed. In those early days from 1900 on the larger plates were a wide rimmed solid cast iron affair intended to spread out the impact as a weight was touched or dropped to the floor.
The contest rules of the day required lowering of the bar after the lift but, in no way was a failed, or out of the groove lift lowered under control or was this adhered to in training. Platforms were solid planks or rafts of edge bolted stacks of 2X4 boards. The end result was bar damage, loud noises, and frequent expensive platform repairs. Many meet sites were a one time affair when the venue providers who were kind enough to accommodate experienced damage to their buildings…and their nerves.
In the late 60s several European companies developed tire like solid rubber plates with an internal steel core or hub. The plates resembled the thick old style metal plates but had the give of rubber built in them to cut down on noise and damage. Lifters found that they were more welcome in facilities, less bars bent from impact, and there was also the very real benefit of no longer being required to lower a successful lift back to the platform. Maximum lifts went up, injuries to equipment and lifters went down, and “all” were happy.
The large plates as a rule were 17 3/4″ width to match the European standard width of 45 centimeters. This overall height was also in a way intended to literally save the lifters neck if he did have a backward fall with the barbell. The center hole of the plate was bored right at 2″ which allowed for a smooth, rotating sleeve end for the bar and a larger, lower, point impact area for the plate hub to ride on…which were all very important developments.
The typical bumper plates of today fall into three categories: The first, or competition type bumpers, are made of virgin rubber cast under pressure with a two sided machined plate-like hub sandwiched with the aid of screw bolts on the central hole spline of the plate. In competition plates internal pockets are available to accept extra lead shot weight to bring the plate up to exact, certified weight if required. This greatly aided in not having to scrap or sand an overweight or underweight finished plate. A positive aspect is that weights can be exacting and balanced. The drawback, however, is that over time there is a strong possibility of hub loosening from rubber shrinkage or loose bolts.
The second and much more widely used training plate is usually made of recycled , reprocessed rubber. It is shredded, mixed with a binder, and pressed in a mold under high heat and pressure much like a waffle maker used in your home. This plate, when cured, has a 2″ area in the center of the plate where a tubular section of brass, steel, or stainless steel is crushed(swaged) outward on the edges to lock the now finished hub to the plate. The training plates are usually left with a plus or minus tolerance of 2% and serve well for general training. A possible drawback is the lighter duty or loose fitting pressed on hub can crack or work loose in either low-quality plates or extreme use situations.
The third type which has become a very viable hybrid incorporates a virgin rubber plate that during the molding process is directly formed around a substantial machined plate style hub that has honeycombed flanges which “fuse” with the poured and formed plate. This combination gives the looks and longevity of the competition plate, eliminates any hub breaking or loosening, and in this day and age addresses the economic issue quite effectively.
Plates from several quality companies now come in a beautiful array of colors but be reminded the “plain Jane” black plates of any type contain that all important element carbon and as a rule are longer lived and tougher than their bright, eye catching brethren. Little things in addition that mark a good bumper plate is a good, snug hub fit, a smooth, overall shiny surface indicating a high level of bonding agent, and a small lip or groove of some kind to facilitate carrying or loading. The lighter, full diameter plates in the 25lb (or 10 kilo) and 10lb (or 5 kilo) sizes should be of sufficient strength materials to resist warping, bending, or prying out their hub during extended use. Remember the lighter plates mentioned are for technique training and are not made to be heavily dropped or loaded with extra small plates. The rule of thumb with bumpers is the first chance you can go to a larger plate, do so, the more rubber that hits the ground at the time of impact the better.
In summation, bumper plates are a wonderful and safe item designed to enhance barbell training. One needs to take the time to access and then plug in your “need factors.” When you factor in quality and intended use to your purchase decision, then a long lasting strength relationship with your equipment will be formed.