Weights & Bars Buyer's Guide

Quality is everything when it comes to weights and bars. Read our guide so you can train safely and efficiently.

Strength training is a huge growth category for the fitness industry. More and more customers are asking how to get fitter, stronger and healthier using dumbells and barbells in their workouts.

These versatile products are very popular due to the vast array of exercises that can be performed on them by consumers wanting to improve their strength, shape and functional ability.

There are many variations of these types of products on the market today and we have put this buyer’s guide together to help navigate you through the confusion and highlight the features, advantages, benefits and qualities of them.

The Elite Fitness Difference

At Elite Fitness we have been educating and providing advice to customers on purchasing fitness equipment for nearly 30 years. We have a large selection of strength equipment both online and in-store to meet your budget, health and fitness requirements. No matter if you are a first-time purchaser or if you have experience similar products in the past, we have the range to satisfy your requirements. Our range includes some of the best brands in the world, such as Bowflex and Weider, and we have also invested heavily in our range weight plates and bars by utilising our 25+ years of experience in bringing quality and value for money to the New Zealand exerciser.

When it comes to investing in this type of strength equipment for your health and fitness needs, there are many factors to take into consideration when selecting the right type of weight product for you and your family.

We cannot emphasise the importance of trying or testing out strength equipment enough as the feel of the products can be crucial in your buying decision, especially with a lot of options available.

When purchasing any type of strength equipment make sure the retailer or supplier can service and support your product for years to come. At any given time on the market, there are many suppliers selling “too good to be true” products on Online auction websites for crazy prices. These products are often over marketed and ongoing after sales support is usually non-existent. The companies advertise a product for a short time then disappear. Always buy from a reputable source that can offer parts and service for years to come from experienced and qualified technicians such as Elite Fitness.

Don’t rely on the warranty information alone as a safeguard, the company selling the product still needs to able to support the purchaser for the duration of the warranty.

Weight training bars – Olympic and Standard

When considering Olympic bars, in particular, it is important to understand that there are Olympic bars for weightlifting exercises, e.g. bench pressing and squatting which are stiff in construction and then there are Olympic bars for Power Lifting and cross fit exercises which are being dropped regularly, these are more flexible in construction, still very strong but flex to absorb the impact when dropped.

These two very different types of Olympic bars may look similar but are constructed for two very different types of training.

So before buying a bar make sure that you buy the right one for your training requirements.

Olympic bars for Weightlifting

Olympic bars are weight training bars that are usually 7 feet in length, weight about 20kg and have 50 mm sleeves at the ends, accommodating only Olympic plates which have 50mm holes in them.

The advantage of using Olympic bars ( and plates) is that they are stronger so can handle more weight over time, more stable and rigid when lifting heavier weight and most regular trainers find them more satisfying to use.

Olympic bars are weight rated, which is determined by maximum load weight the bar can handle.

300lb, 700lb, 1000lb and 1500lb ratings are usually in the market. It is important to note these ratings are not dropped weight; it is a static weight for weight lifting purposes.

The weight ratings are determined by the bar construction which, if it is a good bar should be of highly elevated drawn high tensile steel allowing it to become more tough wearing, durable and flexible. Black oxide coated bars are now very popular in the market as well.

The bar sleeves, where the weight plates are held, need to be machine finished for smooth sleeve rotation provided by high-quality bushes or bearings when under loading.

The bar itself or ‘shaft’ needs to have a comfortable thickness for the users particular training type 27mm thickness might feel good and will flex a little more whereas 30mm will feel like it fills the hand grip more. It will be a personal choice. Male and females will have different preferences as well.

Also, the ‘Knurling’ or grip on the bar has to feel like it provides comfortable traction rather than being painful to grip which can be the case on poorly made bars.

Bar weight differs but can vary from 15kg to 22kg but usually for weightlifting the bars will be 20kg.

Bar length for weightlifting bars tend to be 7ft but there are also 6ft versions as well to accommodate for narrow squat stands or shorter trainers.

Rule of thumb for weight training bars is to try them in store, with weight on them to test the feel and always buy with a weight limit that greatly exceeds your current limit to accommodate for progression in the future.

Best option: Elite 700lb 7ft Black Olympic Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olympic bars for Powerlifting and CrossFit Training

Dropping bars with weight on them is significantly different to just lifting a weight. How far you drop and onto what surface has a huge bearing on the quality of bar you need.

Most dropping bars have most of the same fundamental qualities as the weightlifting bars. They are composed of hardened steel, they have bushes or bearings in the end sleeves for rotation and they can come in 6ft and 7ft lengths. They can also be 15kg or 20kg in weight and there are now male and female specific bars available to suit different grips and strengths.

Where the differences occur are in how the hardened steel has been manufactured to increase strength but keep the diameter of the bar to the minimum (28mm). This is to provide flex or “whip” in the bar when dropped providing significant durability and a great feel.

There are a few ways to rate a bar and the best way to rate a bar is through ‘tensile rating’. Most bars manufacturers don’t provide this, just a static weight rating of say 700lb.  If the manufacturer provides tensile rating chances are it’s a very well made bar and if so look for a tensile rating of 190,000psi or above to show real quality.

Bushes and bearings are very important on a “dropping bar”. Brass bushings and German or USA made bearings are a real sign of quality.

This category of the bar needs to be made to the highest standard, therefore, expect to pay more than a standard weightlifting bar and be very wary of cheap imitation bars with high ratings. Not only will they perform badly they could be dangerous to use.

Best options: 20kg Xtreme Mens Bar 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard bars

Standard bars are bars which are ideally 27mm or thinner in diameter, which fit standard plates with 25-27mm holes in the centre. The better made a standard bar the thicker it is. Be wary of 25mm bars or less.

They come in 5ft, 6ft and 7ft lengths to accommodate for different training environments and will weigh 8kg, 9kg and 10kg respectively from a good manufacturer.

These bars are generally favoured by the beginner trainer as they are cheaper and lighter in weight so easier to use to start with.

There are different qualities in the market with the cheapest and poorest quality generally tending to be 25mm in width and usually having pressed on or welded on collars to hold the plates in place. With perspiration, these collars can easily corrode.

A good quality bar will be thicker 27 mm and lathed from one piece of steel including the collars and will have a flake resistant chrome finish.

Best option: Elite 7ft Standard Weight Bar

 

 

 

 

 

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Weight Plates

Cast Iron Olympic Weight plates

The most cost-effective type of plate, the cast iron Olympic plate will only fit on Olympic bars and usually comes in 1.25 kg, 2.5kg, 5kg, 10kg,15kg, 20 kg and 25kg weights.

These plates will vary in thickness and diameter depending on weight with a 50mm diameter hole.

There are a number of different qualities to look for from your plate supplier. An ideal Olympic plate will have contoured hand grips for ease of pick up from the grounds that also act as handles for dumbbell type exercises. The plates will be uniformly pressed with very few imperfections demonstrating a very good manufacturing process. The supplier will be able to guarantee that the plates are made without putties or fillers which are a common practice in cheap iron cast manufacturing, i.e. the plate looks good but has many air bubble imperfections that need to be filled affecting the overall weight of the plate and quality. They will also be able to guarantee the consumer a weight inaccuracy of no more than + or -5%, cheap manufacturing can be + or – 10% and that preferably the plate is manufactured by an environmentally friendly process.

Best option: Elite Ezi-Grip Olympic Weight Plates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast Iron Standard Weight Plate

The most cost-effective type of plate, the Cast Iron standard plate will only fit on standard bars and usually comes in 1.25 kg, 2.5kg, 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg and 25kg weight with an mm diameter hole.

These plates will vary in thickness and diameter depending on weight with ideally a 27mm diameter hole.

There are a number of different qualities to look for from your plate supplier. An ideal standard plate will have contoured hand grips for ease of pick up from the grounds that also act as handles for dumbbell type exercises. The plates will be uniformly pressed with very few imperfections demonstrating a very good manufacturing process. The supplier will be able to guarantee that the plates are made without putties or fillers which are a common practice in cheap iron cast manufacturing, i.e. the plate looks good but has many air bubble imperfections that need to be filled affecting the overall weight of the plate and quality. They will also be able to guarantee the consumer a weight inaccuracy of no more than + or -5%, cheap manufacturing can be + or – 10% and that preferably the plate is manufactured by an environmentally friendly process.

Best option: Elite Ezi-Grip Standard Weight Plates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vinyl or Plastic Standard Plates

These types of plates are at the very cheapest end of the market.

They tend to be filled with iron or sand which makes up the weight, they are thicker which restricts the amount that can fit on a bar and can easily crack or split of dropped.

Usually recommended only for real beginners and occasional trainers these plates come in 1kg, 1.25kg, 2.5kg, 5kg and 10kg increments with a 25mm diameter hole.

Best option: Elite Vinyl Weight Plates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber Coated Olympic Plates

Ideally rubber coated Olympic plates are essentially the same quality as the cast iron Olympic plates with contoured handles and be made to the same accuracy standards including no fillers or putties but have been PVC dipped to add a softer layer to the cast iron plate which makes them more aesthetically pleasing and reduces chipping if dropped on hard surfaces.

These plates will ideally have a steel insert for the 50mm centre hole.

Ideal for training in a garage with a concrete floor.

Best option: Elite Ezi-Grip Olympic Rubber Weight Plates

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bumper Plates

There are many different types of Bumper plate. They are ideally used for training regimes that include dropping the bar and weight plates on the ground like deadlifting or clean and jerk movements for powerlifters or a variety of Cross Training type exercises where the bar can even be dropped from overhead.

They come in 2.5kg, 5kg (technique plates only), 10kg, 15kg, 20kg, and 25kg weights.

The forces involved with these drops is immense which is why there is a range of Bumper plates to suit different training programmes and selecting the right plates is essential for safe training but also the durability of the product.

To ensure manufacturing is up to standard for Bumper plates a number of tests and ratings have been constructed to help guide the consumer into classifying the plate for the right usage and below we have simplified the ratings for easier guidance

  • 10,000 Drop tested. If advertised indicates that this particular plate has been tested to withstand a drop from above head height for the indicated amount onto a regulation platform with regulated weight spread.
  • 100% Virgin rubber. The greater percentage of virgin rubber in a plate the stronger and more durable the plate will be.
  • Urethane Bumper plates. Urethane is a very good quality low smell substitute for rubber. European or USA Urethane is the highest quality.
  • 70-80 SHA. SHA is an abbreviation for Shore hardness. Shore hardness is the amount of bounce the bumper plate has when dropped, the lower the bounce the better for safety.A SHA of 70 -95is an accepted level. Dead blow is a term for the lowest bounce plates if indicated.
  • Weight tolerance. A Weight accuracy tolerance of +/- 2% or less is acceptable. For competition bumper plates the weight tolerance is much lower + or – 10 grammes of the specified weight
  • IWF standard colours. The international weightlifting federation has certified colours, diameters and weight tolerances indicating that if a plate is certified compliant the plate is of the highest quality and can be used in competition.
  • Chemically bonded steel insert. The centre steel insert is paramount to the integrity of the bumper plate if it is chemically bonded then this is the best manufacturing process.

Standard Olympic Bumper plates

At the cheaper end of the bumper plate range, these plates are ideal for general weightlifting and will ideally have a lower drop tested rating less than 10,000 drop tested. They tend to be a thicker plate and will ideally be virgin rubber but cheaper options will be a mixture of rubbers so will be less durable.

Best Option: Elite Black Rubber Bumper Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coloured Bumper Plate

A Coloured bumper plate usually implies an IWF complaint plate, meaning the quality is higher than a standard bumper plate. Meaning that the Sha will be excellent, the weight accuracy will industry standard will usually be Virgin rubber and will have a very good drop rate above 10,000 usually.

Best Option: Xtreme Elite Coloured Bumper Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urethane Olympic Bumper Plate

Urethane is a high-quality alternative to Virgin rubber. They are long lasting, have a very high-quality steel core with very accurate weight ratings + or – 2% usually. European and USA Urethane is the highest quality and these plates are completely odour free.

Best Option: Elite Premium Olympic Urethane Bumper Plates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technique Bumper Plate

These plates are for beginners who are learning their weight training or Cross-training technique.

Lighter plates of 2.5kg or 5kg in a standard bumper plate will bend as the lightweight restriction means that the plate is thinner, therefore, less durable.

Technique plates are usually in 2.5kg and 5kg weight only, to aid with exercise technique and are made from strong polyurethane and are usually a thicker plate than normal for durability

Best Option: Xtreme Elite Technique Plate 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competition Bumper Plate

For the serious trainer, the competition rated bumper plate has to have all of the highest standards available in the market today.

They will need the best Sha ratings – over 90 Sha is best practice. Have the lowest weight inaccuracy + or – 10 grammes with the IWF colouring so can be identified at a glance.

Competition plates will have smart design features like raised rubber flanges which is a raised rubber surface to prevent direct metal-on-metal contact between the centre discs and a steel insert of high quality hardened chrome plated steel disc to ensure the integrity of the plate for years of training.

Best option: Xtreme Elite Competition Bumper Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether looking for your next bar or weight addition to your current training programme or looking for advice on the best combination of strength equipment to improve your health and fitness, Elite Fitness can help you get there.

Visit us online, over the phone on 0800 243 834 or from one of our expert staff in stores located around the country.

Dumbells – Fixed and Adjustable

Dumbells are probably the most versatile tool in a strength trainer’s arsenal. They can be used for strength and size improvements, functional training and general fitness and the beauty of them is that they promote independent movement making them ideal for balancing out weaknesses on the left or right side of the body.

Fixed Dumbells

‘Fixed’ dumbells refer to the weight being fixed, so not adjustable.

They come in a range of sizes usually from 1kg – 10kg in 1kg increments then 2.5 incremental jumps up to 50kg.

There are 2 types of fixed dumbbells, Rubber hex and Cast iron hex.

Rubber hex

Rubber hex is the most the common type of fixed dumbbell. These are hexagonally shaped so they don’t roll away, have a chrome knurled (grippy) handle and a steel weight end with a heavy rubber coating for protection, safety and overall are nicer to use.

A good quality rubber hex manufacturer will use high-quality rubber (with a %age of virgin rubber) for durability, high-quality non-flaking chrome handle and welded plates on the end of the handle inside the rubber ends giving the rubber moulding a better more durable connection to the bar ensuring the rubber ends don’t break off when dropped.

Best option: Elite Chrome Handle Rubber Rubber Hex Dumbbells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast Iron Hex

Cast iron is cheaper to manufacture than Rubber hex. Cast iron dumbbells are usually the same shape and approximately the same size as the rubber hex; they have a very hard exterior and usually have knurling on the handle for a better grip.

Qualities vary hugely with this type of dumbbell from a poorly moulded shape with sharp edges to easily chipped outer coating.

Inspect them well.

Adjustable Dumbbells

The problem with fixed dumbells is that they take up a lot of space, they are great to use but trainers quite often need bulky racks or stands to store the dumbells when not in use.

Adjustable dumbbells are, as their name suggests, have the ability to change to a variety of weights within one dumbells size. So dumbells the size of a 20kg dumbbell can also adjust from 1kg with incremental changes through to 20kg, saving space and quite often cost when you factor in buying a full range of rubber hex dumbbells from 1-20kg + a storage rack.

Adjustable dumbbells are extremely complicated as the mechanisms that select the desired weight to have to precisely engineered and durable therefore they are manufactured to exacting standards.

The initial price outlay for these dumbells is usually high but is certainly worth it if the trainer is looking for a range of dumbbells and a rack to store them.

USA brand Bowflex has pioneered this technology and had been hugely successful in doing so.

Be wary of inferior unknown brands as there are a lot of copies of this technology on the market. Only buy from a reputable source.

Best options: Bowflex SelecTech 552i Dumbbells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjustable Dumbbell Sets

There are a lot of dumbbell/barbell sets on the market today and they are very good value for money and can offer a huge variety of adjustable weight options within these sets.

They usually comprise a number of standard cast or plastic/vinyl plates, single handlebars (spinlock) and also some have barbells.

The plates come in a variety of configurations 0.5kg, 1.25kg, 2.5kg and 5 kg are normal and the weights can be added to the bars and taken off easily via the spinlock mechanism to adjust for progression.

Make sure that the spinlock collars have rubber inserts to secure the plates and dumbells with rubber handles are more comfortable to use. Thinner cast plates designs are preferred also as there is only a limited amount of weight that can fit on the bars.

Best option: Elite 52kg Ezi-Grip Barbell Dumbbell Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether looking for your next bar or weight addition to your current training programme or looking for advice on the best combination of strength equipment to improve your health and fitness, Elite Fitness can help you get there.

Visit us online, over the phone on 0800 243 834 or from one of our expert staff in stores located around the country.