Should you buy weight plates in lbs or kilos?

In Equip Your Gym by Tim Steward

Last updated on March 3rd, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Weight plates are something we should only have to buy once. If we buy right the first time, they typically won’t wear out. That means there are a few decisions we need to make when buying weight for our home gyms.

Steel, coated, or bumper plates? How many? What sizes? New or used? I answer most of those questions for you here in my comprehensive guide to buying weight plates for your home gym. One question I didn’t answer in that article is should you buy your plates in the lb or kilo/kg variety?

For those that live in a country that uses the metric system (aka people outside the US), kilo plates are the easy choice. If you live in the US you’ll most likely only want to buy kg plates if you plan on lifting competitively. Otherwise, plates measured in lbs will be the way to go.

There are some other possible reasons to look at kg plates, though. Before you make your final purchase decision, let’s take a look at why someone in the US may or may not want to buy kg plates.

If you just want to skip straight to the plates I recommend (they come in both kg and lb versions), head on over to the Fringe Sport website here. They make some really great options for every home gym owner’s needs.

Are they really the same thing?

If you spend any amount of time online, you’ll quickly run across conspiracy theories of all types. One of those theories is that lb and kg plates are the same thing, just labeled differently.

Those that hold this view say that since most people will never actually weigh their plates, companies get away with this mislabelling. In their view, all lb plates are just kg plates that have been labeled with the closest lb alternative.

20 kg weighs 44.1 lbs

This is simply not true. At least as far as the major weight plate manufacturers go. I took the time to weigh several different company’s plates prior to writing this article and can attest that a Rogue 45 lb plate does in fact weigh 45 lbs. Their 20 kg plate weighs in at 44.1 lbs. One is not the other.

This remained true across Fringe Sport, Vulcan, and American Barbell as well. I cannot speak to the low end, made in China plates you find on Amazon or other online sources, but I suspect this is true across all brands of weight plates.

I didn’t weigh those low-end options, so I don’t know for sure. For me, that’s not a concern as I also wouldn’t buy them. As I noted before, when it comes to plates, we should be buying nice the first time. You’ll keep them for a lifetime if you do. 

My first set of “real” plates was a set of competition bumpers from Titan Fitness. I’m a big fan of Titan for some things, but bumper plates are no longer one of them. The smell coming from these plates was unbearable and it didn’t go away over time. 

I should have taken my own advice and bought nice to start with. Instead, I ended up buying twice.

I replaced them with this set of virgin rubber bumper plates from Fringe Sport and I haven’t looked back (seriously, check them out if you are in the market for plates, they are amazing!). I bought the lb versions for myself, but they also come in the kilo variety.

Reasons to use kg/kilo plates

Are you competing?

Are you planning on competing in Olympic lifting or powerlifting competitions? If so, you owe it to yourself to equip your home gym with plates measured in kilos.

One of the oldest rules in sports is to practice how you play. 

Practicing with lb plates while competing with kg plates doesn’t make any sense at all. 

If there’s any chance at all you think you’ll be competing, go kilo. It’s an easy choice!

Calibrated plates in action

Another benefit for competitors is the ability to buy calibrated plates. If you really want to train with what you’ll be lifting in competition, you should not only look at kg plates, but you should look at calibrated kg plates.

A calibrated plate is measured and adjusted (with an insert added after the plate is manufactured)  individually to be exactly the weight it is supposed to be. A non-calibrated plate will usually be very close to the listed weight but almost never exact. Calibrated plates are exact.

This is critical when preparing for competition. Every fraction of a kg matters. 

They come in colors

One of the reasons people like certain bumper and competition plates is their system of color-coding. The official governing bodies for weight lifting, the IWF and the IPF both have an official color scheme for competition plates.

Plate WeightIPF colorsIWF colors
25 kgredred
20 kgblueblue
15 kgyellowyellow
10 kggreengreen
5 kgwhitewhite
2.5 kgblackred
Standardized IPF and IWF competition plate colors

This is so that everyone knows what weight each plate is by its color. If you like the look of color-coded plates, your selection quickly narrows to mostly kg plates.

Color-coded plates not only look cool, but they also make working out easier. You know exactly what you are loading on the bar and never have to double-check. I’ve seen quite a few people use colored tape along the edges of their black plates for just this reason.

Wanting colored plates doesn’t require you to go kg, it just gives you more options that way. There are some very nice sets of colored plates available in lbs, but there are more in kilos. Since the standardization is for kilos, the color-coding for lbs is not standard from brand to brand.

For some, when building a home gym, having colored plates is an attractive option. It gives their home gym character and just plain looks cool. If this is you, you might want to look at kg plates.

If you just want the character and cool looking part, you owe it to yourself to click here and check out Fringe Sport’s savage line of bumper plates. They are absolutely sick!

If I was buying new plates today, these would be it!

Adding weight is more intuitive

Progressive overload is the primary goal of resistance training. That means lifting more this week than you did last week. Sometimes that means more reps and sometimes that means more weight.

Traditional weight plates (of the lb variety) come in 5 lb, 10 lb, 25 lb, and 45 lb increments. That’s a 5, 15, and 20 lb jump between plates respectively. When moving up in weight, you are always juggling a mix of the larger plates along with one or more of the 5 and 10 lb versions.

With kg plates, you have 5 kg, 10 kg, 15 kg, 20 kg, and 25 kg. It’s an even step between each plate size and thus easier and more intuitive to add or subtract weight from the bar.

For me, I went with bumpers and added 15 lb, 35 lb, and 55 lb plates to fill those gaps, but I also realize that these sizes are relatively new and not found in some gyms or in many brands of plate.

Fringe Sport contrast bumpers
My set of Fringe Sport bumper plates includes non traditional sizes

In fact, some well-known powerlifters refuse to even consider using these newer sizes. Dave Tate, a world-renown powerlifter and owner of Elite FTS mentions this fairly often on the Elite FTS YouTube channel.

If you are looking for a more common-sense method of loading for progressive overload, kg plates might be something to consider.

Buying Used

Buying used gear is a great way to save money when building your home gym. I wrote an entire step by step guide to getting great deals on used gear that you can see here. One of the best things to buy used is your set of plates.

Good quality plates and bumpers will last a long time. With some care, you can usually find great deals on gently used plates.

If you find a great set of plates at an amazing price, don’t pass on them just because they are kg plates! It will take a little bit of adjusting, but once you do, you’ll be fine.

Going top of the line

For folks who aren’t interested in used gear, but are instead interested in top of the line, elite level gear, kg will be your best option.

When you are looking at the top of the line plates by companies like Ivanko and Eleiko, your only choice will be kg. They just don’t make that level of weight plate in a lb variety!

This will usually only apply to competitive lifters as I mentioned before, but if you are a top of the line type of person, it may apply to you too.

Reasons not to buy kg plates

If you live in the US, and still aren’t sure after reading the pros of kilo plates, there are some disadvantages too. It’s actually for some of these reasons that I chose to go with lb plates.

Conversion

If you’re from the US, it’s hard to use metric anything without trying to convert every metric measurement to the imperial system. Our brains just don’t know how long a cm is. We have no idea how heavy a kg is (it’s 2.2 lbs, by the way).

Sooooo, how many lbs is a kg?

So when faced with kg plates, we spend half our workout time trying to figure out just how much weight is on the bar. It’s frustrating at best.

The way around this is to simply commit to lifting kg. Forget all about lbs and make the shift. It will take a couple of weeks, but it will click eventually. 

It won’t click for your friends, though. They will no longer be impressed with your bench numbers. To them, 100 kg will not be near as impressive as 220 lbs.

Bragging rights

As I just noted, you won’t be able to share your weights with others in the US and have them know what you are talking about. Telling someone you just squatted 135 kilos will mean nothing to most people.

In fact, it will be remarkably unimpressive to most. Telling someone in the US that you lifted 135 of something isn’t near as impressive as telling them you lifted over 300 of something. They’ll know that 300 lbs is a lot. They won’t necessarily know that 135 kilos is the same thing.

It’s no fun to brag if the person you are bragging to doesn’t get it. Of course, you could just not brag, but I know enough weight lifters to know better on that one!

You have More Options

If you are buying plates in the US, and you are on a budget, you’ll actually have more options available to you in lbs.

I mentioned buying used above, but in reality, if you are buying used in the US, there is a high likelihood that all you’ll find are lb plates. There will be very few, if any, kilo plates on the used market here.

This is also true if you are buying your weights on Amazon or another lower-cost marketplace. Almost all of your options in those places, when shopping in the US, will be measured in lbs.

Training outside the home

When you leave your home gym in the US to lift at a commercial gym or weight room, you are almost always going to find lb plates and not kilos. If you are used to kilos at home, you’ll be at a bit of a loss when hitting the local gym.

This is also true if you decide to CrossFit. All nationally published WODs (workouts of the day – how CrossFit does its programming) are done in lbs, not kg.

If you think you’ll ever be venturing out, even on vacation, to a commercial gym, then lb plates are probably a better choice for you.

what to buy?

For me, the choice is easy.

If you live in a country that uses the metric system, buy kilo plates. If you live in the US and aren’t planning on competing, but lb plates. I wouldn’t muddy the waters any more than that.

Most of all, don’t let choices like this slow you down when building your home gym. Check out our recommended weight plates page here, pick a set, and get to training!

Additional Questions

Can you mix lb and kg plates?

You can as long as you are careful to keep things equal from side to side. Load a 10 lb plate on one side and you should balance that with a 10 lb plate on the other.

That said, I can’t imagine trying to figure out what my gains are week to week doing things this way. I would strongly recommend picking one measurement and sticking with it.

Can you mix brands of weights?

Absolutely. Make sure you buy pairs of each weight for the reasons noted in the last questions, but outside of that, mixing brands is just fine.

Don’t all plates weigh what they are labeled?

Absolutely not. The cheaper the plates, the variance there is between what the plate is supposed to weigh and what it actually weighs. The real trouble comes in when the same listed plate is off by different amounts.

If you load your bar with a 45 lb plate on each side and one side weighs 42 lbs while the other weighs 46 lbs, you are in for some trouble.

You can avoid this by sticking to reputable brands of plates. This doesn’t mean you need to buy expensive plates, just reputable ones. For me, I would stick to fitness companies you can find outside of Amazon. Fringe Sport, Rep Fitness, and American Barbell are all great places to look for plates that will weigh out correctly.

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