I’ve been looking to add a bit more iron to our collection, but have been struggling to find decent deals. Craigslist is an obvious source of cheap (used) plates, but the selection around here is abysmal. And the same goes for used equipment dealers like Play It Again Sports.
I’ve thus been reduced to sniffing around for new plates. My preference is plain old iron, as I already have a decent-ish collection of Hi-Temp bumper plates, and iron is typically cheaper (and also thinner). And besides, who doesn’t love the sound of clanging iron? I know that I do.
Where to buy Olympic plates?
As with just about everything, there’s a huge selection of Olympic weightlifting plates online. That being said, shipping can be a major deal killer when you’re talking about sending hundreds (and hundreds!) of pounds of iron on a cross-country journey.
You can pick up 300 lb Olympic barbell sets (usually 255 lbs plus a cheap-o barbell) from big-box retailers like Academy Sports and Dick’s Sporting Goods for around $220, but I’m a bit of a barbell snob. I have a (very!) strong preference for the old school look of the “Standard” barbell plates.
Sadly, around here at least, the big box resellers have migrated to funky looking “grip” plates. Even worse, some of these have non-standard diameters. For example, the 45 lb Fitness Gear plates from Dick’s are 15.5 inches in diameter. This means you’ll be pulling deadlifts from a deficit vs. a “normal” (450 mm, or 17.7 inch) Olympic plate.
Yes, there are workarounds for non-standard plate sizes but, like I said, I’m a barbell snob. So I’ve continued my search…
All-in-one Olympic weight sets
Perhaps the easiest route for “Standard” olympic plates would be a 300 lb set from Amazon. In particular, if you time it right, you can get a CAP barbell combo set (in grey or black, with a starter barbell) shipped for $300-$400. Prices fluctuate wildly, though, so your mileage may vary.
Note: Their grip plates usually cost a good bit less than the standard plates but, once again, I’m a barbell snob so that’s not what I’m after.
Other, arguably better alternatives for sale on Amazon include sets from Troy Barbell and York Barbell. You can find these 300 lb sets (including a starter barbell) in the $350-$450 range (shipped), with Troy typically being a bit cheaper than York.
Both the Troy and York sets review quite well (better than the CAP sets), with the Troy plates edging out the York plates in terms of overall reviewer ratings despite their somewhat lower cost.
- CAP Barbell (300 lbs incl barbell; also in grey)
- Troy Barbell (300 lbs incl barbell)
- York Barbell (300 lbs incl barbell)
The primary downside of the all-in-one sets is that you don’t have any say over the mix of sizes that you get. Instead, you’ll typically get 2 x 45, 2 x 35, 2 x 25, 2 x 10, 4 x 5, and 2 x 2.5 lb plates, for a total of 255 lbs (plus a 45 lb barbell). If you want a different mix you’re out of luck.
Related: What’s the best (cheap) barbell?
In that case, you’ll want to buy your plates à la carte. This approach will cost a bit more, but it allows you to get exactly what you want. Want some extra 45 lb plates? No problem, you can have them. Want to skip the 35 lb plates? Again, no problem, you don’t have to get them.
One popular source for gym equipment is Rogue Fitness. They offer some very nice steel plates (I have some myself) that can be combined into whatever mix of weights your prefer. The downside is that Rogue gear can be costly, especially once you factor in shipping.
Consider, for example, that the total cost of the same plate combo that you get in one of the 300 lb sets (but minus the barbell) is $319.75 plus shipping from Rogue. In my case, shipping totals $138.39, so we’re talking about $458.14 to get them to my door. And that’s without the (admittedly cheap) barbell included with the sets above.
Another possibility would be FringeSport. They offer Troy Barbell plates on a mix-and-match basis, and their prices include shipping. Unfortunately, they didn’t have 25 lb plates listed as an option. But here’s the cool thing: I e-mailed to ask was told that, though they don’t normally stock them, they could get them for me from their supplier for $65 shipped.
So… With that info in hand, I did the same math as above. The price? $345 including shipping. That’s over $100 less than Rogue’s out-the-door price. Yes, I could get an all-in-one set, including a cheap barbell, for a similar price, but… I don’t need a crappy barbell, and I don’t want that mix of plates.
I don’t need (or want) the 35 lb plates, and I don’t need (or want) an extra pair of 5 lb plates. Instead, I want two pairs of 45 lb plates, and a pair each of 25 lb, 10 lb, 5 lb, and 2.5 lb plates. That’s 265 lbs of glorious steel to add to our collection, and it costs way less to buy it from Fringe.
And the winner is…
At the end of the day, I’m still undecided. I’m leaning toward ordering the Troy plates from Fringe. For my wants/needs, that seems like a good solution, but I’m not in a huge hurry. [See update, below.]
Update: I ended up waiting until Black Friday and ordering more plates from Rogue Fitness. What can I say? I like uniformity. And their $5 shipping special helped level the playing field.