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What are Weight Plates?

Jessica Gore
Jessica Gore

Weight plates are a type of weight lifting equipment used to add resistance to adjustable barbells and dumbbells, as well as plate-loaded weight machines. Depending on the intended purpose of the weights and the price, weight plates can be made of steel, cast iron, or, occasionally, cement-filled plastic. They are round or octagonal, with a central hole to fit either a standard or Olympic barbell. Weight plates are available in a wide variety of styles and sizes, from those as small as one lb. (0.45kg) to as much as 100 lbs. (45kg.)

Standard weight plates are usually round and are most often made of cast iron, or occasionally of steel with a soft rubber coating. These plates have a one-inch central hole to fit smaller commercial barbells or home gym equipment. This equipment is considerably lighter and easier to handle than Olympic sized barbells, and is generally a better choice for novice lifters.

Dumbbells feature weight plates.
Dumbbells feature weight plates.

Alternatively, more economical plates, designed chiefly for home use, are available. These are usually made of a plastic casing filled with cement, and will not take as much abuse as steel or cast iron plates. If using these weight plates, it can be useful to check the weight on a scale before use. There can be considerable variation between plates, as they can become uneven over time due to handling and general wear and tear.

Standard weight plates are usually round and made of cast iron.
Standard weight plates are usually round and made of cast iron.

Olympic weight plates are typically made of cast iron, and can be either round or octagonal. Some Olympic weights, known as bumper plates, are coated with rubber to protect both the weight plates and the gym floor, if a loaded barbell is dropped. Olympic plates have two-inch central holes to fit Olympic sized barbells, and larger plates often have several other holes spread out around the face of the plate to facilitate handling. These plates are most often used by power lifters, body builders, or other athletes who lift very heavy weights.

Olympic plates have two-inch central holes to fit Olympic sized barbells.
Olympic plates have two-inch central holes to fit Olympic sized barbells.

For training purposes, Olympic-sized plates known as technique plates are available. Usually made of plastic, aluminum, or similarly strong and lightweight materials, these plates fit on Olympic barbells and are sturdy enough to withstand dropping, but are considerably lighter than standard Olympic plates. These are often used in high school gyms, where safety and durability are of the utmost importance, but can also be used by competitive adult power lifters. Technique plates allow athletes to practice form and movement with a correctly proportioned barbell, but without necessitating a full training load.

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Discussion Comments


I have seen fancy weight plates, as my soccer team worked out in the same weight room as the football team for a while until they were built their own weight room (which is probably for the best - they were always having to take off their ridiculously large number of weight plates off because other teams were also using them and they might not have had to do this in their own weight room).

These fancy plates I believe were Ivanko weight plates, and I do not know if the fact they were Ivanko made them better than any other, but I thought they were fancy because they matched our school colors and had our school's name on them.

Although not something I am into (I weight lifted because we had to, and because I knew it would make me a better player at that time, but now that I am done playing, I prefer cardio - though I know weight lifting is great for your health), I would suggest buying some fancy weight plates for your family member or friend that takes their weightlifting seriously.


@StarJo - I know what you mean about dumbbells rolling. I have hardwood floors, and I never know where mine will end up resting.

So, I decided to get some octagonal weight plates. That way, if I forget to take them off the barbell, they will not roll around. I can rest the barbell on one of the eight flat sides of the barbell, and it has no choice but to stay put.


I use different weights to do various exercises, and I got tired of having to keep several sets of dumbbells around. They took up too much space, and our floor is kind of uneven, so they rolled all over the place.

I decided to get some rubber coated weight plates. Somehow, these just seem less intimidating than the ones with metal showing. I got five, ten, and fifteen pound plates to use for different exercises.

It is nice to be able to take them off of the barbell and stack them in a corner neatly. I can stand the barbell up vertically behind them for storage, and I never have to worry about tripping over weights as they roll across the floor.


My dad has a stack of the cast iron weight plates in his workout room. The smallest one is ten pounds, and you can tell which one it is just by looking. It is the smallest circle in the stack.

The more a plate weighs, the further outward the circle extends with these particular weights. I cannot even lift most of them without the barbell.

I use the ten pound plate to do bicep curls. I once tried the twenty pound one, but I strained too much while lifting it, and I knew that this was not good for my muscles.


I have a few weight plates, but the ones I use the most are the five pound plates. I once used the ten pound set, but after a long hiatus from lifting, I had to start over with the five pound ones.

One exercise I do involves holding both weights with my palms up but my arms down in front of my legs. I slowly curl the weights toward my chest, and then I twist my wrists and push them all the way up into the air. Then, I lower them the same way, twisting my wrists again when the weights reach my chest. I do twelve reps like this.

Another exercise I do strengthens my triceps. I hold a weight in one hand with my arm down by my side and my palm facing inward. Then, I slowly bring my arm backward, bringing my elbow to a 90 degree angle. I lower the weight back to the starting position, and I do about thirteen reps.


I have a set of grip weight plates that was well worth the money. I regularly work out several times a week and use these weights to stay toned up and in shape.

This set is coated in rubber and the grip design around the weight really helps me get a good hold on it. I like the feel of the rubber much better than the steel weights I used to use.

They are also much easier to hold and I don't worry about banging up the floor or wall if I accidentally drop it.


I like to add weights and resistance to my aerobic workouts, and use dumbbell weight plates all the time.

What I like about this set is that it comes in different weights for what I want to do. I usually use it for my arms, so don't have on the heaviest weights for this.

If I am going to use them for my legs, all I have to do is add some heavier plates, and I have more resistance.

This way I don't have as many dumbbells sitting around and it takes up less space and works great. My set even comes in a case if I want to take it anywhere, but I have just always used it at home.


@lonelygod - I absolutely hate it when people slam the weight plates down. The clang it makes always scares me half to death. I expect to see someone squished on the equipment every time it happens.

A good idea for anyone out there, is that if you can't afford a personal trainer, you can still ask the gym to show you how to use the equipment. Their service is free and it can make all the difference in the world.

Basically the rule is, you should only be lifting enough weight that it strains you a bit on your last rep. You shouldn't be at the point where you drop it, but just struggling a bit. A good work out is one where you train your muscles to do just a bit more every time.


I have a weight building machine in my work out room in the basement that came with a weight plates set. This set is nice to have as you gradually increase the amount of weight and resistance you want to use.

When I first started out it had been so long since I had lifted any kind of weights, that I was at the lowest amount of weight.

As I continued to get stronger, I always felt good about being able to add on more weights. If I take off all the plates and go back to where I was when I first started, I can't believe how out of shape I was.

Having the option of weight plates sets gives you a lot more flexibility and choices when it comes to customizing your work out plan.


Using a machine with weight plates at the gym is a really good idea if you are new to weight lifting or just want to be able to easily switch between weights. Most weight machines just have a little peg you move up and down to lower and raise the weight.

I have noticed a lot of people at the gym I go to struggling with finding the appropriate weight, or clanging the weights down loudly. Your motion should always be smooth and you should never slam the weight plates together when you are working out. It can damage the equipment or you could hurt yourself.


I once went to a gym in a city that I didn't live in that was for women only. It wasn't a Curves but it was a very similar idea. Here is the kicker though, all of their weight plates and barbells were pink. I've never seen anything like it. Frankly, it looked pretty absurd and it kind of goes against the idea of the gym. It was supposed to be a place for women to get strength, speed and confidence. Instead it made us seem like a bunch of powder puffs.


Using weight plates, barbells and really any kind of free weight is the best thing to use if you are trying to build muscle. Free weights allow you the greatest range of motion, and because there is nothing supporting the weight except you it activates all kinds of stabilizer muscles that would not be used on a weight machine. You will see bigger muscles faster if you use free weights rather than weight machines.


My dad had a roommate in college who was apparently an amateur body builder. He had grown up in relative poverty in a rural part of Missouri and he did not have access to any traditional weight lifting equipment.

He was forced to improvise and it sounds like he was pretty clever about it. According to my dad he used manhole covers instead of weight plates. This might be a tall tale but it makes some sense. The shape is right and manhole covers are really heavy. You may not be able to use them to bench press but I bet you could build some muscle for sure.


@jholcomb - That's a really good idea! I've only used the weight plate for doing a lower back lift (on a special piece of equipment) but I can see how you could do a lot more with them. I get tired of waiting for machines; I'll look up other weight plate exercises I can do in between. Thanks!


Besides using them with a dumbell, weight plates can be used alone for certain exercises, too. (I think in the class I took, we were using the lighter technique plates, but I'm not sure what the difference is.)

You can do squats with them, lie down and do a triceps pullover, hold one and lunge, etc. I see people sometimes at my gym exercising with just the weight plates when the gym is crowded and the equipment is mostly full.

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    • Dumbbells feature weight plates.
      By: Rido
      Dumbbells feature weight plates.
    • Standard weight plates are usually round and made of cast iron.
      By: sumnersgraphicsinc
      Standard weight plates are usually round and made of cast iron.
    • Olympic plates have two-inch central holes to fit Olympic sized barbells.
      By: dacasdo
      Olympic plates have two-inch central holes to fit Olympic sized barbells.
    • Weight plates can be attached to barbell or dumbbell bars.
      By: Ljupco Smokovski
      Weight plates can be attached to barbell or dumbbell bars.