I'm lucky enough to have been gifted a half squat rack and 160kg of "standard" weights. I'm happy with this and not looking to upgrade in the near future but I was wondering what the advantages are of having Olympic plates?

Are these more durable? Why do novice/beginner lifters typically buy/gravitate towards them instead of the significantly cheaper standard plates? Is there an advantage to Olympic plates that I'm missing?

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    Another thing to consider is the curvature of the plates, as many will be octagonal whereas others are perfectly circular. Circular is much better as it makes it much easier to position the weighted bar on the ground. It's not much, but a super pet peeve of mine when doing deadlifts with octagonal plates. – Moses Aug 31 '12 at 3:11

While your abilities are still below lifting 160kg on any given weight, and you are performing the major powerlifting movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press) then there isn't a major advantage one over the other.

However, there are reasons why you would opt for Olympic plates:

  • Standard bars are roughly 1" diameter, but there is enough variance that there is no guarantee that plates from one manufacturer will fit on a bar from another manufacturer.
  • Olympic plates have tolerances that must be met: the hole must be 50mm, the largest disk is 450mm on the outside dimension. This ensures you can mix and match your plates and know you can use it on your Olympic bar.
  • Olympic bars also have tolerances that must be met: 20kg bar, sleeves must fit plates with 50mm holes.
  • The sleeves on Olympic bars spin allowing you to do cleans and snatches with minimal stress on your elbows.
  • Olympic bars can use either less expensive metal plates, or bumper plates which are designed to be dropped without being damaged or damaging the bar. Bumpers are useful for Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches, but don't do a whole lot for powerlifting lifts.
  • Standard bars cannot handle much more than 160kg before they permanently bend.
  • Olympic bars can be made to handle weights in excess of 500kg.

There are more subtle differences between Olympic style bars that are outside the scope of your question which deal with its suitability for one barbell sport over another.

When you are starting out, it makes sense to use the cheapest weights you can get your hands on. However, if your focus is on strength, there will come a time when you outgrow what the standard set will be able to do for you. At that time you will be forced to upgrade.

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    My back hurt just thinking about lifting 500kg. :-( Ow. – corsiKa Aug 30 '12 at 23:00
  • The current world record for deadlift is 1155 lbs / 525 kg, currently held by Strongman Zydrunas Savickas. It was using a special bar that could accept Hummer tires. However, there are Olympic bars that can handle more using traditional plates. – Berin Loritsch Jun 10 '14 at 11:36

Here's a link that describes the differences: http://www.newgrip.com/gain.html

Basically standard bars are typically shorter (but you can get a 7' one) and can hold less overall weight prior to bending. I've lifted 400lbs standard, but have a slightly bent bar because of it and like lifts. Unless you're going heavy standard is a good beginner/intermediate set to have.


Olympic bars are sturdier, heavier, are a well-known and well-followed standard, and allow you to do the fast lifts (cleans, jerks, snatches) much easier. It's easier and safer to load them with lots of weight.

Standard bars are good, particularly to start with. If you can load it heavy, keep doing that. Don't mess with a good thing.

If you run out of space on the bar, or the bar starts to bend, or it doesn't fit your squat rack or power cage, it's time to get an Olympic bar.


The 20kg Olympic bar is thicker and hence ensures better grip. Olympic weights have no torque. if you are looking for a black OR white answer it would be to get an Olympic set period!

  • Hi and welcome to fitness.stackexchange! While I agree with your points, you might notice that Berin's answer already mentioned them. As such, your answer doesn't really add any new insights. – LarissaGodzilla Aug 2 '14 at 11:29

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