Sunday, January 15, 2017

Color Bumper Plates: The Difference in Training and Competition Bumper Plates and Why You Need to Know When Equipping a Facility


NC State Weightlifting Championships Warm Up Area at Athletic Lab 

Firstly, we need to talk about the sport of weightlifting.  Bumper plates would probably not have been invented if not for athletes dropping huge amounts of weight from overhead.  Weightlifting has existed as an Olympic sport since 1896.  The first Olympic Weightlifting events featured both one-handed and two-handed lifts, although the one-handed lifts were later phased out during modern weightlifting competition. 

Current weightlifting competitions are comprised of three attempts at the Snatch, followed by three attempts at the Clean and Jerk.  The weightlifter’s heaviest successful Snatch is combined with his/her heaviest successful Clean and Jerk to create the Total.  Naturally, the Total determines the overall result of the competition within a body weight category. 

While other weight sports test limit strength, Olympic Weightlifting tests aspects of human ballistic limits (explosive strength).  The Olympic lifts are executed with greater speed and  more range of motion than other strength movements performed with a barbell. 

Rubber bumper plates were reportedly not used in Olympic Weightlifting competition until the 1960’s, but did not become a competition standard until the early 1970’s. As records escalated, quite naturally the number of plates loaded on the bar also increased.   Early model rubber bumper plates were extremely thick to the extent there was no more room to add weights to the sleeve of the barbell. Making the loadable sleeves of the barbell longer to accommodate the weight was not an option as it displaced the bumper plate weight too far from the weightlifter’s body. This would have ultimately made the lifts more difficult than they inherently are.  As a solution, the steel disc was added into competition bumper plates.  This steel disc center adds weight to the plate without impacting the desired qualities of the rubber surrounding the disc.

The colors of the Olympic Bumper weight plates, as well as Powerlifting plates, are regulated by international sports organizations that govern these respective sports The apparent reasoning is to create uniformity of all equipment  for identification purposes at a glance.
The official color standards are as follows: Red for 25kg plates, blue for 20kg plates, yellow for 15kg plates, and green for 10kg plates.  There is also a similar color code for color bumper plates in pound increments: Red for 55lb, blue for 45lb, yellow for 35lb, and green for 25lb.  Lastly, there are “off brand” low-quality weight plate sets that may use red for 45lb, blue for 35lb, and green for 25lb (or other variations deviant to officially recognized color schemes).



RVA Weightlifting Competition at CrossFit RVA in Virginia


What is the difference between Color Training Bumper Plates and Competition Bumper Plates?

Colored training bumper plates should provide a lower cost alternative and possibly greater durability to competition bumper plates.  Training bumper plates should have qualities that are more beneficial for everyday training for the following reasons:

1.       Equipping multiple platforms with quality competition bumper plates generally is not practical from a cost vs. benefit perspective. 

·         Note:  there are two properties of competition bumper plates that make them superior to training bumper plates for actual competition use.  These same factors are also responsible for the considerably higher price of competition bumper plates.
a)       Accuracy of plate weight:  Vulcan Absolute Competition Bumper Plates are accurate to their designated weight variances within 10 grams.  The accuracy of weight requires calibration which increases the cost of the plates. 
b)      Lower plate profile:  Thinner plates contribute to bringing the bar load more proximal to the weightlifter’s body.  The lifter can apply greater control and force to the load if it is closer to his/her body.  The steel disc makes the low profile possible, but also increases the cost of the plate.  Steel is inherently more expensive than rubber and requires more costly processing and machining to be used in any quality product.

The minimal variance in weight and better weight placement is certainly important for the actual competition or for attempting personal record lifts in training, but it could be questionable how that plays out in the day-to-day “grind” of training repetition after repetition.  The Vulcan Kilogram Training Bumper Plates are accurate within +/-1% of the designated mass, which is only 0.5% over the International Weightlifting Federation standard for competition plates.  The Vulcan Absolute Competition Plates are +/- 10 grams which far surpasses the IWF standard for IWF certified weight plate tolerances.  "The tolerance on the nominal weight of each component weighing more than 5 kg must be + 0.1% and - 0.05%. On parts weighing 5 kg or less, the tolerance must be +10 grams and - 0 grams per part."


BASA Gym in Maryland


2.       Noise pollution and lifter safety.  Vulcan Competition Bumper Plates and Color Kilogram Training Bumper Plates are “low noise” and “low bounce” plates.

·         We talk about excessive noise in a training environment but sometimes our cries fall on deaf ears (forgive the pun).  It is not cool losing your hearing before you are even 50 years old.  If your work environment exposed you to the amount of noise a weightlifting coach endures on a daily basis, you would be justified requesting earplugs from your employer.  As it is, most weightlifting coaches are self-employed so take it upon yourself to treat your most important employee right!
·         Competition bumper plates should not bounce high when dropped on the platform.  It is a wasteful expenditure of energy and effort catching or deflecting nearly waist-high barbell bounces.  That, and it is simply dangerous.  Many weightlifting gyms we visit are 2,000 ft2 or less with very little room between lifting platforms.  Lifters should be able to concentrate on their own lifts in their own area without worrying about the interference of a bar loaded with 10kg plates skipping across their platform from another lifter’s area.  Responsibly equipped gyms provide ideal training environments. 

3.       Competition Bumper Plates just look cool.  They are simply the higher-quality, better performing option.  Few would disagree with this.  For high-level weightlifting gyms and athletic training facilities, the competition bumper plate is highly favored over the training weight plate.  If you have the funds, the people, and the facility for it then yes, yes, yes, equip every platform and power rack with competition plates and professional bearing bars!  If you are starting a gym or weightlifting club as a business, perhaps you want to save some money for marketing and unforeseen expenses as your business grows and opt for more training bumper plates in your gym.  As your business grows you can always add a few sets of competition bumper plates for testing and in-house competitions.