Bumper plates are too damn expensive.

Posted: September 4, 2010 in Posts

There’s a whole world of cheap, heavy things out there.

Rubber bumper plates are required for the O-lifts because there’s a real risk of back damage while trying to slowly lower the weight from a heavy Clean or Snatch. Dropping the bar, preferably with a great deal of macho swagger, is a necessity. Bumper plates keep you from damaging both the cast iron weights and the floor. The downside to bumper plates is the cost. $150 is a deal for a single pair of lighter plates. 45 pound plates will run you $250 per pair.

Nothing sucks worse that buying a really expensive something and progressing past it in a couple of months. (Look for more on this in my upcoming rant about kettelbell prices.)

For the frugal athlete, tires provide everything you need in a bumper plate. They’re cheap, heavy and bouncy. The problem with tires is that the center hole in the rim tends to be either a little or a lot too big to fit on the bar properly. I looked around for a set of bushings that would allow you to put tires on a bar securely. I found plenty of pictures and plans but nothing pre-made. I have a contact at work with enough tooling and experience to make me a couple, and when I move up to a heavier set of tires I might go that route. However, I decided that sacrificing a pair of 2 1/2 pound plates was the better route. I had three pairs, and you really only need one pair.

To ensure I got everything center I used the oh so precise method of holding the plate where I wanted it and marking the center of the lug holes. From there it was off to the drill press.

A playground for fingers you aren't afraid to lose...

You could do this with a cordless drill by clamping it to a scrap piece of wood but it might be a pain in the ass. Plates are cast and not hardened so they aren’t particularly hard to drill but your precision would drop a little with a cordless drill. Either way, be careful as you pass through the final 10% of the thickness, the uneven surface will grab the bit if you bear down too hard.

The real trick is to use hardware on the smallish side. You want your holes spaced as perfectly as possible but if one comes out a little off, you can still get the plate centered and bolted down. I used 1 and 1/2 inch long 3/8’s bolts, flat washers, cut washers and standard 3/8’s hex nuts.

Use the star pattern to tighten it down, just like a car. It helps keep it from shifting off center.

I put the flat side of the plate on the rim. This helps it seat to the rim better and lets the bolt heads hide down in the recessed area where the writing is. That way your other plates will fit snugly against them and the bolt heads won’t tear them up as bad.

The other side.

The nuts and bolt ends fit over the collars on my bar pretty well. The collars ride on the washers some, but not enough to tear anything up or make it slop overly much.

If this doesn't make you feel like a redneck...

The old “donut” type spare tires weight between 25 and 30 pounds each with the plates attached. This makes them an excellent starting weight. They cost me $10 each at an auto salvage. Bolts and hardware ran another $10. Time invested was about an hour.

This guy is bad ass.

There’s a little slop in the tires, but with two spring type collars holding each one it’s no worse than a pair of 45’s.

Damn that's sexy!

The whole thing is the perfect weight for my lagging Military Press and Power Clean. Which will tell you just how far I have to go on those lifts. However, I can Clean it and Front Squat it in the Rack Position which means it’s good to go for Lintinov workouts at the track.


  1. Dave G292 says:

    Brilliant! !!

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