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Making sure you get the best bumper plates for your UK home gym is a really important step – your plates are barbell are the ‘meant and potatoes’ of most home gyms and they are used ALL THE TIME. It’s hard to accept compromise on equipment we use EVERY TIME we’re in the gym.
So let’s jump in and run through the best bumper plate sets available in the UK!
At a glance…
- UK’s best value bumper plates: Bulldog Gear Hybrid 2.0 bumpers
- MOST people would do best with a set of 45cm diameter, virgin rubber, black bumper plates
- Where the metal insert attaches to the rubber is the weakest point in a rubber plate
- To mitigate the risk, avoid cheap and unbranded plates and look for a warrantied set
- You can spend more on competition or colour coded plates if you like, but they don’t add much for most people
The 4 best bumper plate sets in the UK
There are a ton of options out there, here are a few of the best bumper plate sets here in the UK:
Best Value: Bulldog Gear Hybrid Bumper Plates 2.0
I’ve got these plates in my gym right now and they’re my top pick for MOST people because:
- Reasonably priced
- Unique knurling around the chamfered edge making gripping and picking these up a breeze
- Two moulded handles again to make manoeuvring around a home gym much easier than with regular bumpers
- Virgin rubber so they DO NOT SMELL!
- Full 450mm diameter for all 5kg – 25kg plates
- Thin plates: A 25kg plate is 80mm thick allowing around 250kg (or 550lbs in old money) on a standard barbell (including the barbell itself @ 20kg)
- Black finish with coloured accents means the plates are less likely to get scuffed up while still having some visual differentiator
- Stainless steel insert
The main negative with these is the 1 year warranty.
While I trust Bulldog to honour this I think they could easily extend this at little cost to them given the quality of the plates. This would give us buyers an extra confidence boost.
In use these plates are FANTASTIC! I’m still working on my full review, but suffice to say these have BLOWN ME AWAY.
The handles, the fit on the barbell, the lack of noise when lifting – overall I’m mega-pleased with these plates and I’m sure many others would be too!
Best ‘money no object’: Bulldog Gear Competition Bumper Plates
If you’ve got the cash to spend then competition plates will be right up your street. With their premium price comes a few premium features:
- Thinner plates: Each 25kg plate is only 67mm thick allowing you to load around 290kg (640lbs in old money) on a barbell (including the barbell itself @ 20kg)
- Hub instead of a stainless steel insert is more robust for repeated drops
- IWF compliant colour coding
Overall these weights are ACE, but in my view are too EXPENSIVE for most home gyms when compared to the Hybrid plates above.
BUT if you want the best gear, you need to pay the price…
Best for outdoors: Ballistic Bumper Plates 2.0
Made from recycled rubber crumbs which are moulded in a glue, these plates are much thicker than the others and as a result have a higher bounce.
- Recycled rubber is more eco-friendly
- Coloured flecks in the construction are a great compromise combining the best bits of colour coded and plain black weight plate sets
- Thickest plates (96mm for a 25kg plate) limit the loading on a barbell to around 210kg (460lbs in old money)
- Metal insert is moulded in to the plate during construction to add some longevity
Various videos by Bulldog state these ballistic plates can be used outdoors with NO matting, but I note their warranty wording is ambiguous on this. If you plan to drop these on bare concrete I would reach out to them and check your rights first.
I love the versatility of these plates, but the extra thickness and potential for smell with recycled rubber pushed me towards the Hybrid 2.0’s for my own gym.
Best on Amazon: BodyRip 150kg Bumper Plate Set
I’m not a huge fan of much home gym equipment on Amazon as there just isn’t the depth or quality you find going direct to manufacturers, but it is undeniably easy to deal with them.
The best set I could find was this one offered by BodyRip. The colour coding was a nice touch and it was great to be able to order a reasonably heavy set instead of individual pairs on Amazon.
The downside is, for the money, I think they look expensive compared to the equivalent offered direct from other manufacturers.
Bumper plate buying guide: What to look for
Big, heavy circles… How much can there be to picking out a set of plates? Quite a lot, as it happens…
Design and shape
Most bumper plates are basically a solid disk with an indent a few millimetres deep on each side. In this recess most most manufacturers mark the weight and add any other branding.
As bumpers are designed with being dropped in mind the plates are solid with no cut-through handles or holes.This can make grabbing them or manoeuvring around in tighter home gyms with them a bit more difficult.
Look for ones with a decent lip to help you work around this – the Bulldog Gear Hybrid 2.0’s I’ve got at the moment have moulded grips built in to their circumference with knurling added for grip. This combination makes them so much easier to handle.
Crucially, when buying a set make sure they are full size. That means a 45cm diameter – from 5kg right the way up the range. This means you can start from the right height when deadlifting, power-cleaning, Olympic lifting or doing anything else from the floor.
Which type of rubber is best?
Most bumper plates are made from one of three different materials:
- Urethane – This is cost no object specification and is very rare in the UK. Urethane plates are EXTREMELYhard with a dead bounce. Their hardness makes them almost plastic-like. This makes them harder to grip as it’s a bit slippery, but they are more resilient to damage than the other rubbers.
- Virgin rubber – ‘Virgin’ basically means the rubber has not been recycled or used previously. Most plates are virgin rubber and it offers great bang-for-buck by being a durable material with moderate to low bounce and very little smell. The downside is that the rubber can scuff or scratch if you mistreat them – note this is less obvious on black plates.
- Hi-temp or crumbed rubber – Made from recycled rubber these are more eco-friendly, but the downside is they can seriously STINK. To make these old rubber (like car tyres) is broken down in to crumbs and then remoulded in to a bumper plate using a glue (which can also smell) to bind it all together. Given the construction these plates are most likely to chip and break apart over time both on the rubber body and around the metal insert which again is a weak point. The rubber is not as dense as virgin rubber and therefore these plates are usually MUCH thicker with more bounce, but the trade off is they can often be used outside on bare concrete.
If money is no object urethane is great, with virgin rubber being the most common and best overall for most.
I would only choose hi-temp or recycled rubber plates if I was looking to lift outside on bare concrete, otherwise I think they are inferior to virgin rubber plates mainly due to the smell and their additional width.
Metal inserts are a weak point
To get your plate on to your barbell you pass it through the metal insert in the centre of the plate. It’s a smooth cylinder which will typically be around 50.4mm in diameter to accommodate a 50mm Olympic barbell sleeve.
The rubber used in the body of the plates is not sticky.
So what does this mean? It means binding the metal insert to the rubber body of the plate is TOUGH.
Cheaper plates simply INSERT the metal in to the rubber at the end of the process. Mid-tier plates often have the insert MOULDED in to the rubber when the plate is being manufactured.
This is a nuanced but important differentiator. When inserts are moulded in to the plate they usually have rods protruding out from the metal insert deep in to the rubber body.
As the rubber is then moulded around this insert, the rods simply form part of the plate.
Why is this important? Well if you’re using and abusing weight plates then the impacts will put pressure on the weakest link – in the case of bumper plates this is the connection between the metal and rubber materials.
If you drop 100kg from overhead height to the ground repeatedly, how many times would it take to dislodge an insert that was simply popped in at the end of the process?
Compare that to one that’s been embedded in to the rubber.
Competition plates take it even further by adding a HUB in to the mix which is even more robust (for a price!)
Bounce & noise level
Bounciness is measured using the shore A hardness scale which can be measured using a shore A durometer.
That mean anything to you? Me neither.
Basically the hardness scale runs from 0 (softest) to 100 (hardest).
For bumper plates the 75-100 rating bracket will have a dead bounce – that is minimal rebound so the weights virtually stop dead when dropped similar to metal plates.
Anything below this will have a bigger rebound, but will be much quieter as a result.
Too much bounce can be unruly, not enough can be too noisey!
My virgin rubber plates are MUCH quieter than steel, but they do also have a LITTLE bounce to them as a result.
Coloured vs black bumpers?
On balance I’m happy with the functionally identical, but much cheaper black bumper plates, but then my home gym has a splash of colour already with my steel plates so I can see both sides of the argument!
Colour coding is mandated by certain lifting federations e.g. the international weightlifting federation (IWF) or international powerlifting federation (IPF) – in order to make it easier for those watching to quickly calculate the weight on the bar.
The colours each correspond to a weight:
- Red = 25kg
- Blue = 20kg
- Yellow = 15kg
- Green = 10kg
- White = 5kg
Change plates are also colour coded and are easy to differentiate from the above as they are much smaller:
- Red = 2.5kg
- Blue = 2.0kg
- Yellow = 1.5kg
- Green = 1kg
- White = 0.5kg
Are colour coded plates needed in a home gym where there are no (or at least few!) observers? It’s completely down to personal preference.
A few things to consider when deciding between black or coloured plates yourself are:
- Colour plates show scuffs more readily. This can be mitigated by opting for more expensive urethane plates which are harder than the usual virgin rubber
- Coloured plates are easier to identify from a distance. Having tested this out back-to-back with my black bumper plates and colour coded steel ones I now believe this is overrated. I can honestly say it’s a piece of cake to identify the bumpers based on their thickness alone.
- Most high-end plates will be colour coded – top end competition plates will be coloured to comply with IWF/IPF guidelines.
- Correspondingly they are also more expensive than black rubber plates
More expensive black rubber plates will often come with a splash of colour on them somewhere. From an aesthetics point of view this is nice to simply break up the solid disk.
It can be as simple as a pinstripe around the rim or circumference, or even colour coded letters in the branding. This offers a pretty good halfway house if you’re on the fence between coloured vs black plates!
Why are bumper plates expensive?
In general bumpers cost a bit more than metal plates as the process to manufacture them is more involved.
Steel inserts or hubs need to be designed and made, these need moulded in to the rubber body of the bumper to maximise the build quality of the plate and then any colour coding or detailing needs picked out with paint.
This is a more elaborate process than is needed when making a steel plate that can be turned out of a single mould and then simply painted.
Regardless I would say neither steel or bumper plates are pocket change and never will be – this is simply down to the cost of raw materials. 100kg of rubber or metal is going to cost a fair bit to procure.
Add to that the fact they are bulky and then shipping costs become also begin to mount up. My 100kg bumper plate set arrived on a pallet!
This all contributes to the ‘buy once, cry once’ approach – your weight plates will be KIND OF expensive even if you go for the cheapest available.
I’d rather spend a little MORE up front and get a set that is AWESOME and I will NOT want to upgrade later.
Price: Are bumper plates worth it?
Price is what you pay, value is what you get.
While competition bumpers are a step up from traditional bumper plates in a few areas the step is not large enough to be a worthwhile VALUE proposition when cost is considered.
Think of it like going from a 2020 Ford Mustang to a 2021 Ford Mustang, it’s probably a little nicer in a few areas but the cost to change is a heck of a lot.
So, on balance, I think paying MUCH less for plates that are a LITTLE thicker is a sacrifice worth making and I think the secret to finding the best value bumper plates is to look at the mid-range options.
These come with better build quality than entry level plates but with a much more affordable price tag.
So, are COMPETITION plates worth it?
In short, no.
Competition bumpers can be identified by their larger metal hub which the barbell passes through. This hub offers a couple of benefits:
- It allows more accurate weight calibration through micro loading inside the hub. This is how they get the plates to be +/- 10g.
- Durability is improved. Competition plates are designed for heavier use and abuse and the larger hub is pivotal to this helping distribute drop forces more evenly and providing a stronger connection between the rubber and the barbell
A couple of other general benefits to competition plates are:
- The plates a little thinner than regular bumpers so you can fit a few more kilos on the bar if you’ve run out of room. This is a benefit if you lift more than 250kg
- Aesthetics – more people prefer the look of more expensive things…
The main downside is COST. If you’re lucky competition bumpers will cost twice as much as a set of standard bumpers, and often it’s more!
Weigh this (see what I did there?) against the very limited number of times you will actually benefit from competition spec bumpers over regular ones and I think it’s a no-brainer to keep your money in your pocket and use it for something else in your gym.
If you compete, train those who do or have your equipment in use A LOT (like all day everyday) then it MIGHTmake sense to consider competition plates for their slight advantages in these areas.
For the rest of us? They’re a really nice luxury so are great if you have the money to spend and want the best kit, but they are not essential and for most of us there are more productive places to invest in our home gyms (buy MORE plates, an extra barbell, speciality bars, cardio equipment, etc.)
Do bumper plates smell?
The Hybrid 2.0 bumper plates I have in for review do not smell, even when brand new there was no odour. If you held the brand new plate up and smelt it – sure, there was a rubber scent, but they did not make the garage smell AT ALL. Note that they are virgin rubber.
Cheaper crumbed rubber or “hi temp” bumpers WILL smell more as they are recycled rubber from car tyres and the like.
Some users have reported odours from cheaper imported virgin rubber sets as well, but as noted I’ve never experienced this so can’t comment on this personally.
Who makes the best bumper plates in the UK?
Comparing plates between manufacturers can be tricky so I’ve pulled my list above purely from Bulldog Gear as a pretty reliable supplier based in the UK (albeit not all of their range is manufactured here).
This means I’ve focused comparing the different types of plate (hybrid, competition, hi-temp etc.) which I think is most important.
Once you know the style you like you can then narrow the market down to a manufacturer.
Personally, I think Bulldog Gear make the best bumper plates in the UK – I have put my money where my mouth is and bought a 100kg set to test and review! There are other great options out there (Strength Shop, BLK BOX, etc.) but I found availability and price were better at the time with Bulldog when I was buying.
How long do bumper plates last?
A good quality set of bumper plates with a robust metal insert moulded in to the plate as part of the build will last a long time – somewhere between a few years and forever 😉
The more you abuse your plates the higher the risk that they will need replaced – so frequent dropping from overhead will put MORE strain on the plates and those precious metal inserts. A good quality plate will cope with this well and should last several years.
MOST solid brands will offer warranties for their plates as extra reassurance, although how quick, easy or cheap it would be to post bumper plates back and agree they are covered is something I wouldn’t like to have to try first hand.
If you buy poorly made plates you will have an issue with the metal insert. As noted above we want one that has been moulded as part of the design often with spikes extending out in to the rubber body.
The cheapest plates tend to have this simply inserted without the same integration and it’s this that causes the issue as the drops work the steel loose over time.
Once this falls out that’s pretty much the end of the line for the plate.
Pros and cons: Why bother with bumpers?
I think the pros to owning a decent bumper plate set far outweigh the cons, but as everyone’s priorities are different I wanted to lay out the main pros and cons for rubber plates:
|Quieter than metal plates||Wider plates take up more bar space|
|Less wear and tear on your home / garage floor||Cost – tend to be more expensive|
|Can be dropped when performing Olympic or CrossFit workouts||Some build issues exist particularly around metal inserts|
|Virgin rubber often odourless||Crumbed rubber can smell|
One of the key points to draw out is that they are far quieter than steel plates. While they still make a loud noise, the tone and volume is much more pleasant compared to that generated by steel plates.
Just ask my other half!
I also like the versatility that rubber plates offer over traditional metal ones. Being able to drop them when Olympic lifting or doing CrossFit is great and I also love that they are far easier to use when taking workouts outside.
For example you can lay them on concrete slabs as they don’t chip like metal ones.
On the downside, the rubber body of the plate needs to attach to the steel insert so the plate can be loaded on to a barbell. This is the single weakest point and many cheap plates will have an interior moulding technique to insert this.
Mid range plates have inserts that have long spikes extending out in to the plate itself and inserted during the moulding process.
Top of the line competition plates have large steel hubs which are even more robust and offer the opportunity to calibrate the weight to within 10 grams of the target amount.
Why Olympic-style free weights are best for a home gym
When building a home gym free weights are one of the best places to start.
With an Olympic barbell, some dumbbell handles and a set of plates (rubber or steel) you can train your whole body with a ton of different movements.
The alternatives are far less flexible:
- Fixed weights – for example dumbbells or barbells that are at set weight increments. These cost a load and take up a ton of space
- Isolation machines – these tend to focus on a specific movement, take up a load of space and cost a lot. They are great to supplement training (I’d love a leg press if I had room, for example) but they are not an efficient use of space or money if either is scarce in your household!
- Standard (non-Olympic) weights – these plates have a 1” diameter hole through them compared to the 2” found on Olympic plates and the sleeves are fixed in place (i.e. they do not spin). Typically this gear is rated to lower weight limits, plates come in non-standard diameters (e.g. 45cm for a 20kg plate) and many barbells won’t be wide enough to be rackable in a squat rack. Overall they are fine for getting some work in, but they pale in comparison to the proper Olympic specification kit.
It’s pretty clear that if you’re trying to build a decent home gym you will want Olympic free weights as a mainstay.
The choice is then simply steel vs rubber plates… Not always a straight forward choice either 🙂
Phew… A lot to take in! There is a TON to consider when trying to find the best bumper plates, never mind the best in the UK where we have a bit less choice!
Most people would be best with a reputable branded set of full size (so 450mm diameter) bumper plates made from virgin rubber.
I bought the Bulldog Gear Hybrid 2.0 plates and have been putting them through their paces – I’m impressed. Impressed enough that I now think bumper plates are better than steel for MOST home gyms… There, I finally said it!
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