Iron weight plates

How Many Weight Plates Should You Buy For Your Home Gym?

In Equip Your Gym, Plan Your Gym by Tim Steward

Last updated on March 4th, 2021 at 06:40 pm

Overbuying can both kill your budget and leave you with a gym full of gear you never actually use. In very few places is this more of a risk than when buying a set of weight plates.

Far too often people buy sets that are both too expensive and that contain way too many plates. I’ve already addressed the type of plates I recommend, but let’s take a closer look at how many of each size should be purchased when building a set that is right for you.

How many weight plates should you buy?

Figure out the weight goal on your biggest lift. Buy that much in total weight. Add some additional larger plates for ease of loading. Include some extra smaller plates for versatility.

The “standard” set

A basic starter set of Olympic or bumper plates is a pretty standard affair. The set will typically come with these plates:

  • 2 x 45 lb.
  • 2 x 35 lb.
  • 2 x 25 lb.
  • 2 x 10 lb.
  • 4 x 5lb.
  • 2 x 2.5lb.

Add a 45 lb. bar and you get a total of 300 lbs. This isn’t a bad place to start, but as with most “starter sets” of anything, there are often better and more appropriate options available.

For my metric readers out there, the above set works out to:

  • 2 x 20 kg.
  • 2 x 15 kg.
  • 2 x 10 kg.
  • 2 x 5 kg.
  • 4 x 2.5 kg.
  • 2 x 1 kg.
  • Add a 20 kg. bar for a total of 122 kg.

Are on a budget, but still want a great set of plaets? Look here on Rep Fitness at their cast iron options.

Want to go a little nicer and get yourself a set of bumper plates? Fringe Sport is the place to go for those.

Weight plates

Whether you decide to go with standard Olympic plates or bumper plates, the per plate prices seem fairly low at first glance. Once you start adding up the cost of a complete set, though, you are suddenly well over $500-$800. This makes figuring out exactly how many of each weight you actually need very important.

How much do you want to be able to lift?

Notice I didn’t ask how much you can lift. While that’s an okay place to start, it’s not what determines what plates you should buy. There are several other factors to take into consideration. The first is how much do you want to lift at a foreseeable point down the road?

I don’t mean a pie in the sky “I’d like to deadlift 3000 lbs. someday”. I mean to realistically look at what you’d like to be able to lift in a year with regular training.

If you can currently deadlift 250 lbs. and you’d like to end the year pulling 350 lbs., use that as your baseline. You’ll probably end up buying a bit more than 350 lbs., but that’s a great place to start. Same goes if your realistic target is 400 lbs, 600 lbs, or any other amount.

When determining this number, use the lift that you have the highest capacity for. For many people, that’s the deadlift or the squat. It could also be the bench press if you regularly skip leg day.

Ease of loading the bar

Once you determine your upper limit number as described above, it’s time to think about how you’ll get that weight on the bar. In my experience, you aren’t going to want to have to load every plate you have just to hit that number.

Using the starter set assortment I listed above, in order to load up 300 lbs., you’d need to put 14 plates on the bar. That’s a giant pain in the ass. It would be much easier to use 4 x 45 lb. plates plus 2 x 35 lb. plates plus 2 x 2.5 lb plates to get to the same 300 lb. weight.

This means that you will most likely want to add a number of extra 45 lb. plates to your set over and above what it takes to get to your max lift amount. This is why your max lift number doesn’t necessarily determine the total number of weight plates you’ll buy. It’s just a starting point. The more you lift, the more important ease of loading the bar will become.

How many bars do you have?

I’ve seen some home gyms on You Tube that have an entire wall lined with barbells. Personally, I think that’s a little silly. As I’ve stated before, my goal in building a great home gym is NOT to try and replicate a huge commercial gym. In my opinion, if you buy one nice barbell, it will serve you well for a lifetime.

That’s why I don’t recommend buying a starter weight set that comes with a barbell. I’d recommend buying the weight plates on their own and then investing in a nice barbell separately.

That said, I do think there is a place for a couple of specialty bars. In fact, I think a great home gym should have a base of 3. Once you have more than one, that can have an impact on how many plates you’ll need.

For me, each of the bars has a totally different purpose. During a workout, I often want to move from bar to bar quickly. I might want to bench press with a standard barbell and then go straight to deadlifting with a trap bar. I might superset barbell curls with sets of tricep presses with an EZ bar.

When switching exercises at this pace, the last thing I want to do is unload weight from one bar in order to load up another. Partly because it makes my rest periods too long and partly because I’m kind of lazy that way. Whatever the reason, it means I need multiples of different denomination weight plates. Especially the middle and lower sizes.

It’s totally possible that I could be using 2 x 35 lb. plates on my Olympic bar and also need 2 x 35 lb. plates on the EZ bar. Same with all the weights below 35 lb. (25 lb., 10 lb., 5 lb., 2.5 lb.).

Bumper plates or standard plates?

For me, bumper plates are the easy choice in the sizes they are available. That said, I also advise mixing in some standard size Olympic plates. If you aren’t sure of the difference, or what you should buy, see my full article on that topic here. For the purposes of this article, the difference is plate diameter.

I wouldn’t do this if all you have is a single straight barbell. A full set of bumpers is perfect for this application. It’s the EZ bar and the trap bar where smaller diameter plates become very useful.

For me, most of the lifts I use the EZ bar for are more manageable with smaller diameter traditional plates. They can be done with bumpers, I just think it’s easier with weights that are smaller in overall size.

For the trap bar, I find it a lot easier to load and unload it for deadlifts (my primary use for that bar) if the outer plates are smaller around. The bar rests on the inner 45 lb. plates, but the lighter outer plates slide on and off easily without scraping the ground. If you’ve ever loaded up a trap bar on the ground, you know what I mean!

CHANGE PLATES

I wrote an entire article on the benefits of fractional plates you can see here. Those are plates that can add increments as small as ½ lb. at a time to your bar. But what about the space between 10 lb. plates and the much smaller fractionals?

That space is filled by “change plates”. These lower weight plates become important when trying to fine tune the amount of weight on your bar. Most gyms will have 5 lb. and 2.5 lb. change plates available. On line you will find a wider variety.

The brand of weights you go with will determine what change plate set you need. The manufacturer will make a set that compliments the larger weights they carry. I recommend getting a full set of change plates as well as one extra pair of 5 lb. (2.5 kg.) weights. This is a very useful and functional addition to your weight plate set. See what I recommend on my recommended gear page here.

Determining how many weight plates to buy

You can see the specific plates I recommend over on my recommended gear page. As for how many of each weight to buy, I’d figure it out like this…

Start with your max weight goal.

If your max lift goal is 300 lbs. or less, start with:

  • 4 x 45 lb. bumper plates
  • 2 x 35 lb. bumper plates
  • 2 x 25 lb. bumper plates
  • 2 x 10 lb. bumper plates
  • 4 x 5 lb. standard plates
  • 2 x 2.5 lb. standard plates

For every 90 lbs over 300 lbs that your goal is, add 2 x 45 lb bumper plates. Some companies make 55 lb plates, but I really like sticking with the 45 lb plates.

***For lifters using kg. plates, that’s 4 x 20 kg., 2 x 15 kg., 2 x 10 kg., 2 x 5 kg., 4 x 2.5 kg., and 2 x 1 kg. Here, add 2 x 20 kg. plates as your top end goal goes up.

If you are using additional specialty barbells, add:

  • 2 x 35 lb. standard plates
  • 2 x 25 lb. standard plates
  • 4 x 10 lb. standard plates
  • 2 x 2.5 lb. standard plates

Remember a standard barbell weighs in at 45 lbs. (20 kg.) and a trap and EZ bar will most likely come in at 35 lbs. (15 kg.) each.

***For lifters using kg. plates, that’s 2 x 15 kg., 2 x 10 kg., 4 x 5 kg., 2 x 1 kg.

Remember a standard barbell weighs in at 45 lbs., a trap and EZ bar will most likely come in at 35 lbs. each.

Here’s a couple of examples…

Rob’s max lift of any type is 400 lbs. He wants to get to 475 in 12 months. He only uses an Olympic straight bar in his gym. Rob should buy:

  • 8 x 45 lb. bumpers (this will allow Rob to get 405 on the bar with as few plates as possible)
  • 2 x 35 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 25 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 10 lb. bumpers
  • 4 x 5 lb. standard
  • 2 x 2.5 lb. standard

Susan’s max lift of any type is 300 lbs. with an end of year goal of 350 lbs. She also uses an EZ bar in her workouts. Susan should buy:

  • 6 x 45 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 35 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 25 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 10 lb. bumpers
  • 2 x 25 lb. standard
  • 2 x 10 lb. standard
  • 4 x 5 lb. standard
  • 2 x 2.5 lb. standard

To see what plates I’ve chosen for my own home gym, see my recommended gear page here.

With that simple system, you’ll get a set of plates you can effectively use and you won’t buy too many or too few. Weights are the centerpiece of most home gyms. Take a few minutes to plan what you’ll buy and you’ll be happy with your purchase. Your set will work for you today and will grow with you as you get stronger over time.

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