Barbells & Attachments

For weightlifting, barbells allow you to develop the musculature in your upper body and to build endurance without restricting your range of motion. Barbells are straight metal bars with sleeves at each end on which weights are balanced. The heavy attachments that are attached to barbells are known as plates.

What types of barbell plates are available?

The two types of bar plates are metal plates and bumper plates.

  • Metal plates - Metal plates are typically made out of cast iron or chrome-plated steel. For the typical home-gym setup, they come in a variety of weights that range from 10 to 100 pounds. These plates are intended to be balanced. In other words, if you want to work out with 20 pounds of extra weight, you will use two 10-pound plates. Those two plates will be attached to either side of your bar.
  • Bumper plates - Bumper plates are made of hard rubber. They come in the same assortment of different weights that metal plates do.

Even if you were training without plates, you would still be lifting something, since the bars themselves have weight. Standard bars weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. Specially engineered Olympic bars for training weigh 45 pounds. A standard lifting apparatus can carry up to 200 pounds. A specially engineered lifting apparatus has the capacity of more than 800 pounds.

The type of plate you buy for your bar will depend upon the type of lifting you plan to do. If you are doing CrossFit training or some other kind of workout where you are moving swiftly, bumpers are recommended. Bumpers are safer if you drop them by accident.

What do barbell attachment colors mean?

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) uses colored plates in all the competitions that it sponsors. Bar attachments that weigh less than 10 kilograms can be metal plates. All other bar weights used in these competitions must be bumper plates. These plates are designed to be thinner than the bumper plates that are generally available commercially.

The color coding scheme and specifications that the IWF uses for its plates are as follows:

Bumper plates at the higher weights must have a diameter of 450 millimeters.

  • White - One-half kilogram
  • Green - One kilogram
  • Yellow - One and a half kilograms
  • Blue - Two kilograms
  • Red - Two and a half kilograms
  • White - Five kilograms
  • Green - 10 kilograms
  • Yellow - 15 kilograms
  • Blue - 20 kilograms
  • Red - 25 kilograms
What are Olympic plates?

Olympic plates are attachments that are engineered to be used with Olympic barbells. In addition to being longer than standard barbells, Olympic barbells also have revolving ends to facilitate snatch-and-curl lifts. To allow for this, Olympic plates have larger holes than standard plates. The holes in these plates are two inches, while the holes in standard plates are one inch. This makes standard plates slightly smaller than Olympic plates of a comparable heaviness. These plates can be used on standard barbells. However, you will need to purchase an adapter to compensate for the difference in the hole size.