Sometimes, you just can't beat the classics. Despite the amount of fancy, high-tech home fitness equipment out there, the traditional barbell and weight plate combo is still a go-to for many fitness enthusiasts. With weightlifting continuing to grow as a popular training discipline, more and more people are turning to the iron to sharpen up their physiques.
If you're someone that favors at-home training over waiting your turn at your local gym's bench press, you've probably thought about turning your garage or empty space into a personal strength training mecca. But where's an athlete to start with so many plate and barbell options on the market today? Barbell weight sets are a fantastic option for any budding strength athlete, taking the hassle out of home gym construction by including weight plates and barbells in one bundled purchase.
Before you load your cart with just any set, though, there are some factors to consider. Features like plate composition, barbell type and overall weight included can help you get the most out of training — and your investment.
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Which weight plates should you look for?
One of the most important decisions you need to make when buying a barbell weight set is which plate style to choose. Most sets are available with either cast-iron or bumper plate styles, and whichever you opt for can influence how you arrange your home gym setup, how many plates can be stacked onto the barbell and other factors.
Cast-iron weight plates are the traditional silhouette you'd probably think of when picturing a barbell setup. These dishes can be thinner than rubber or urethane-based weights, allowing for more plates to fit on a traditional barbell. Because of the iron construction, though, you need to be wary of where you set up your strength training space. Cast-iron plates can rust if exposed to moisture, so damp basements might not be the best home — although a little rust can certainly enhance that rugged look. Additionally, cast-iron plates will make much more noise than bumper plates, which is something to consider if you don't want to irritate any children or pesky neighbors with your workouts.
Bumper plates are typically made from a rubber or urethane base, which can help improve durability and lessen potential floor damage when dropped. Some bumpers can be thicker than their cast-iron counterparts, so if you're maxing out with multiple 45s on the bar, you may run out of sleeve at some point. When looking at bumper plates, it's also important to consider the sourced material. Brands will oftentimes use recycled rubber in weight plates, which can carry a strong odor. Virgin rubber is available but can come with a higher price point.
Which barbell is best?
Barbell weight sets cater to a lot of strength enthusiasts but can be especially helpful for newcomers due to their one-stop-shop nature. Because of this introductory aesthetic, most sets will come equipped with a standard or Olympic weightlifting bar. Measuring 7 feet in length and roughly 29 millimeters in diameter at the shaft, these barbells will weigh either 20 kilograms or 45 pounds and are a great option for a multitude of exercises. These barbells will feature medium knurling and two marks per the International Powerlifting Federation (32 inches apart) and the International Weightlifting Federation (36 inches apart).
Naturally, as you progress in your strength training journey, you may want to invest in a more specialized barbell like a power bar or deadlift bar, but for a majority of athletes, these standard barbells will be more than capable of handling your workout intensity.
How much weight should be included?
Okay, so you've narrowed down your desired plate style and understand the typical barbell offerings in most weight sets. Now to choose just how much weight your kit will contain. There are a number of sets available ranging anywhere from 65 pounds and up. While the weight total you choose depends entirely on your fitness goals and experience — no sense in getting 600 pounds of weights when you'll never lift that much in a single exercise — I recommend looking at weight sets between 300–350 pounds in total. This is a good number, as it not only allows for some training progress but also gives you a multitude of plate sizes.
Most of the barbell weight sets included in this roundup feature weights around this mark, and include multiple 45s, 35s, 25s and change plates, opening up your workout possibilities even further as you grow and strengthen each lift. Now, let's get pumped, braced and ready for new totals with these top picks for premium barbell weight sets.