weight plate size title card

Weight Plate Sizes. What to Buy and Which Ones to Skip.

In Equip Your Gym by Tim Steward

Shopping for weight plates can be confusing. Not only is it challenging to know exactly how much weight you need in total, but knowing what weight plate sizes to buy can be tricky as well.

If you were to train at an old-school powerlifting gym, the odds are that they would only have five different plate sizes available: 2.5, 5, 10, 25, and 45 pounds.

The reason for that assortment is that those were the only sizes made for many years. If you’ve looked at weight plates or sets recently, you will see that this has changed.

The most noticeable additions to that traditional lineup are 15 lb, 35 lb, and 55 lb plates. They can be purchased individually or as part of sets. But are these newly(ish) available plate sizes worthwhile? Do they really benefit us in our basement or garage gyms?

Fringe Sport contrast bumpers in 5 different weight plate sizes
My current plates (I sold my pair of 55 lb plates)

Key Takeaways

  • The total number of plate denominations has grown from 5 to over 10.
  • 2.5, 5, 10, 25, and 45 lb plates are all that are needed to equip your gym.
  • 15, 35, and 55 lb plates can save a small amount of time changing weights between sets.
  • 15, 35, and 55 lb plates allow more weight to be loaded on your barbell.
  • Adding 15, 35, or 55 lb plates to your gym is a personal preference, not a necessity.

What Size Weight Plates Do You Need For a Home Gym?

The only weight plate sizes needed for a functional and effective home gym are 2.5, 5, 10, 25, and 45 lbs. With that assortment, you can add any weight to a barbell in increments of 5 lbs. This is more than sufficient to allow progressive overload without adding too much weight at any one time.

People have been training with weights for years with only those sizes. Many old-school lifters like Dave Tate (of Westside Barbell and Elite FTS fame) don’t provide any other sizes in their gyms. In fact, Dave’s company, Elite FTS, only sells 2.5, 5, 10, 25, and 45 lb plates (source).

So, if you’re looking to make your life simple and your shopping easy, you now know what to buy! Honestly, if you never put a 15, 35, or 55 lb plate in your gym, odds are you’ll never miss them even once.

My Very Expensive Mistake When Buying Plates

bumper plate storage
My plate storage

When I bought my set of bumpers from Fringe Sport (still the ONLY place I recommend buying bumper plates from), I purchased a set with 15 and 35-pounders and a separate set of 55 lb plates too. I’ve rarely used any of those plates in the five or so years I’ve had my bumpers.

First, when storing your plates, you’ll find that the sizes you use most often are at the front of your storage pegs, and the lesser-used sizes find their way to the back. That’s exactly where my 15, 35, and 55 lb plates live 90% of the time.

That means that I have to move other plates out of the way to get to them. It just doesn’t make sense to move a 25 lb and a 10 lb plate out of the way to get to the 35. Same with getting the 55 lb plates out from behind the 45 lb plates they live behind. It’s so much easier to load the 45 and throw on a 10!

Second, I spent way too much money on my set of bumpers! Why spend money and a 15 lb plate when I already have 5’s and 10’s?! Same with 35’s and 55’s!!! If you have the basic lineup of 2.5, 5, 10, 25, and 45 lbs, buying those other sizes is entirely unnecessary!

Not buying those 15’s, 35’s, and 55’s would have saved me $645.00! That’s a lot of money spent on things I never use.

Benefits of 15, 35, and 55 lb Plates

Now that I’ve done my best to talk you out of those newer plate sizes, I want to take a moment to highlight a few reasons you may decide to buy them anyway.

As I try to drive home here on GymCrafter repeatedly, the best home gym is one tailored to your specific needs. And there are some legit reasons to buy 15, 35, or 55 lb plates.

Plate Width. One of the few times I pulled out my 55 lb plates (I’ve since sold them) was when I was trying to hit a PR on the hex bar deadlift. The sleeves on my hex bar at the time were too short to accommodate a lot of weight.

55 lb bumpers are slightly over half an inch thinner than a 45 and 10 lb plate stacked together. That extra space allowed me to load an additional 30 lbs (two 15 lb plates) that wouldn’t have fit otherwise.

This may be a good solution for you if you find yourself running out of room on your bar. Another solution is to buy a better trap bar!!!

Titan ez load hex bar v2
This is my old trap bar. One of its drawbacks was the length of its sleeves.

Time Savings. I don’t buy this one, but enough people have talked about it that I’ll mention it here.

Technically, it takes less time to load a 55 lb plate than a 45 lb and then a 10 lb—exactly 3.5 seconds less. Across an entire workout, you might save 30 seconds. A good reason to spend an extra $600? I don’t think so. But it does take less time.

Training Without a Barbell. There are quite a few exercises that can be done with a plate by itself. Pinch grip holds, pullovers, lateral hinges, roman situps, and a host of others can be done with only a plate.

If this is you, you might need those in between sizes. Using single plates is a must when working with plates and no bar. That said, there are plenty of other ways to train those movements without specialty plate sizes!

Buying Plates in Sets.

One of the best ways to save money when buying weight plates for your garage gym is to buy premade sets. While some manufacturers offer a wide choice of plate sets, others do not.

That means that sometimes you’ll end up buying 15 lb or 35 lb plates because they are part of a set. Please don’t kill yourself trying to find a set without them. If you’ve found the set you like, it meets your needs in total weight, and you like the design, go for it!

Conclusion

It’s easy to spend almost $1000 (and sometimes more!) on weight plates, especially if you are going with bumper plates. A lot of people out there recommend buying used plates or mismatched sets to save money.

While those are good ways to save, not buying things you don’t need is even better! So before you buy a set of plates for your home gym, take a quick minute to consider which size plates you need first. You may find yourself spending a lot less than you thought you would!

FAQ

How many of each size weight plate should I buy?

When buying your plates, I recommend starting with the following:

2.5 lbs x 2
5 lbs x 4
10 lbs x 4
25 lbs x 2
45 lbs x at least 2 (most people do well with 4)

Who makes the best bumper plates?

Fringe Sport. There is no one out there making anything as good as these guys. They are the only company using virgin rubber (perfect bounce and almost NO smell!). They also make the most durable plates on the market. 

Are used bumper plates a good way to save money?

Yes, as long as you buy them from a reputable person or company. Facebook marketplace and eBay are good places to look. I also love Freedom Fitness for used gear, and they usually have the best deals on used bumpers anywhere in the country!

Can you mix bumper plates with other types of plates?

Yes, you can. There are a few guidelines to ensure the safety of your bar, floor, and plates, but if followed, this is a common practice. I wrote a detailed article showing exactly how to do this that you can read here.

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