Wednesday, February 19, 2014

About Bumper Plates

There are a lot of different choices available in the current market for bumper plates.  Bumper Plates are generally made from Vulcanized rubber, (kind of cool that our company name is Vulcan Strength right).  Bumper plates are generally used for Olympic Weightlifting.  A bumper plate has a metal core or insert surrounded with rubber.  The type of rubber and hardness as well as thickness and color can vary dependent on manufacturer.  The benefit of a bumper plate over a standard iron or steel plate is that bumper plates can be dropped from over head to the floor without damaging the floor.  Bumper plates generally fit together more snugly than iron plates as well.  This helps to alleviate a lot of extra movement from the plates during the explosive aspects of the lifts, giving the lifter better control over the loaded bar and also more efficient use of energy and strength used to control the weight.


In this post, I'll discuss some common misconceptions about bumper plates that I have heard and had many customers to repeat to me or ask when inquiring about our products and also give some info on bumper plate care and maintenance.



  • All Bumper Plates are made form recycled rubber.  False.  Bumper Plates made from recycled rubber or used tires are easy to spot by their grainy and very inconsistent surface.  They are also generally very thick and have very high bounce which can be dangerous if the loaded bar comes high enough to hit the lifter in the shin or bounces away from the lifting are and strikes an unsuspecting person.  Our bumper plates are made 99% virgin rubber, which has a very low bounce or dead blow characteristic.
  • All Bumper Plates are the same and made in the same factory, and all made in China.  False.  At the time of writing this, there are no less than 25 factories that produce bumper plates in mainland China, Taiwan, and even a couple factories in India. There are still only a few factories that produce bumper plates in the US.  There are different levels of qualities within everything.  Quality can vary greatly from factory to factory even though the outward appearance of the bumper plate can be almost identical.  Why is this? Many reasons: experience of the factory overall and their quality processes, integrity of the factory owners, quality and knowledge of the workers, treatment of the workers, quality of raw compounds used, quality of machinery used.  So, it's not simply a case of calling Chinese Factory X and ordering a container of bumpers and everything goes well.  We as company actually have people who work for us in the factories, ensuring our quality throughout the process and making inspections from time to time.
  • Steel is used inside the bumper plates to make the weight.  False.  Although there are some rubber coated steel and iron bumper plates, a true rubber bumper plate is solid rubber with the exception of the steel insert or hub.  Most bumper plates used a thin die cast metal insert that is pressed into the center of the bumper.  There is nothing holding this piece into the rubber other than pressed in lip of the insert.  Over time this insert will begin to deform and move around on the plate, some will even come out.  One of the features that set our bumper plates aprt from many others is the way our insert is anchored into the steel.  We were the first company to use this process in the US and it has since been duplicated by many companies.  Our insert has hooks that extend from the center into the actual rubber.  The insert is actually formed into the plate when the plate is formed.  It essentially creates an impermeable bond between the steel and the rubber.
  • Shore Hardness:  Shore Hardness is a scientific way of measuring the hardness of plastics and rubber compounds.  In the case of bumper plates, if the rubber compound is too hard, the plates will crack in time and can possibly cause damage to wooden platforms if the rubber compound used is harder than the natural wood.  If the compound is too soft the plates will fold and rupture quickly from repeated dropping. A good range for black bumper plates is 87-90.  Most black bumpers will be used on rubber stall mats, bare concrete floors, or "home made" lifting platforms constructed of inexpensive plywood.  A good range for color bumper plates and competition bumper plates is 84-87.  Most color bumper plates and especially competition bumper plates will be used on professionally built lifting platforms.  Very hard rubber compounds can bounce dangerously high when dropped on wood or cause damage to the platform itself.
Care and Maintenance of Plates

Vulcan bumper plates are treated with a substance that helps to preserve the rubber as it cures.  When you receive your bumpers, you will notice an oily substance on the surface of the plates.  Do not use chemicals or cleaners to remove this chemical.  Simply use a dry towel and buff the excess from the surface of the plate.

Vulcan Bumper plates are made for gym use.  Using bumper plates on asphalt and or hot pavement will shorten their life and damage the surface of the plates allowing air and moisture to weaken the integrity of the rubber compounds.

If you ever decide to clean your bumper plates, do not use any type of harsh chemicals to do so.  Generally warm water and/ or a mild general purpose cleaner will suffice.