If you are new to the gym environment, all the new lingo and different kinds of gym equipment can be somewhat confusing. Everyone knows what treadmills, dumbbells and barbells are but, there are some things that are a little more unusual and lesser known. One such example includes fractional plates.
Fractional plates, also referred to as micro plates or change plates, are very small plates that typically range from 0.25kg (0.55lbs) up to 0.5kg (1lb). They allow a user to change the weight on their bar by very small increments, known as micro loading.
They can be especially useful for those who lift heavier amounts of weight as micro loading can make the difference between winning and losing a powerlifting competition or achieving a new personal best.
Continue reading to find out more about fractional plates such as who can benefit from them and how best to use them.
WHAT ARE FRACTIONAL PLATES?
The Original purpose of fractional plates was to be used in specific strength sports such as powerlifting and weightlifting with them commonly being used in the Olympics. They allow competitive powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters to make micro adjustments to their bar to help them obtain a competitive advantage over other lifters. As explained above, these very small changes can make a big difference.
Fractional or Micro plates as they are sometimes known are small round steel or cast iron discs with a 50mm centre hole. These plates are used on an Olympic Barbell and provide small increases to the total overall weight helping lifters to break through plateau’s.
As micro loading became more popular many people started to utilise this in order to help them progress and to progress their training. So, aside from being used in competitive strength sports, bodybuilders began making use of fractional plates and even regular gym goers who are keen to see improvements.
WHAT INCREMENTS CAN YOU GET?
These weight plates come in different weight increments and are generally supplied in pairs. Unlike the larger Calibrated Plates micro plates can weigh between 0.25kg (0.55 lbs) and 1kg (2.2lbs), with some manufacturers offering micro plates as low as 0.125kg (0.25lb)
Weights for Fractional plate sets vary depending on the manufacturer. However, they are commonly sold in a set of eight plates comprising pairs of 0.25kg, 0.5kg, 0.75kg and 1 kg.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING FRACTIONAL PLATES?
Whether you are new to weightlifting or an advanced powerlifter, fractional plates can offer a number of benefits making them a worthwhile investment.
FOR THOSE NEW TO WEIGHTLIFTING OR BODYBUILDING
Typically, when someone starts to lift weights they can increase the weight fairly rapidly helping them to build muscle, burn fat and increase their strength.
However, there will come a point when they reach a plateau. This is when they don’t seem to be making any gains in either strength, muscle size or with weight loss, being a cause of frustration for many.
If you’ve reached the limit of what you can lift, adding an additional 2.5kg/5.5lb to each side of a barbell may not be possible. This is where fractional plates come in. By adding on a fraction of what a standard plate weighs, you’re going to be pushing yourself through that plateau.
It may seem a slow way of making progress but it’s important to remember that when you start getting to those heavy weights your progress will slow down.
The fractional plates allow for progressive overload and they are a safe way to continue to increase the weights in your workout and allow you to do it gradually.
FOR THE VETERAN LIFTERS
As touched on above, people who have a lot of experience with lifting weights will eventually notice a slowing down of their progress.
Gone are the days when you can throw on an additional 5kg/11lb plate each side. That extra 10kg/22lb, when you’re already lifting a huge amount of weight, can feel like a tonne!
All human beings are going to reach their genetic potential with how much they can lift. This means that as your body gets used to lifting those heavy weights, eventually this is going to result in diminishing returns. In other words, despite lifting a lot of weight you’re not seeing any progress – this is your plateau.
If you’re squatting 300kg/661lbs but can’t seem to push past this weight, adding on a fractional weight of, say, 0.25kg/0.55lbs can still be achievable and is far safer to progress this way than adding on a 5kg/11lb weight each side.
HOW TO USE FRACTIONAL PLATES?
We now know that micro plates are suitable if you are looking to break through any weightlifting plateaus and increase the weight you can lift safely. By micro loading you can continue making progress without making any drastic changes to your routine.
FRACTIONAL PLATES FOR MICRO LOADING
Let’s assume you are someone who can squat 200kg (440lbs) and this happens to be your personal best. Even with downtime to rest and recover, when you next visit the gym you attempt, what you believe is the next logical increase, by adding a 2.5kg/5.5lb plate either side of your barbell. Yet, the bar doesn’t move – this is more common that you may think.
Consider the percentages. You’ve added 5kg/11lb total from your previous max lift which equates to a 2.5% increase. So essentially, you need to have become 2.5% stronger since your previous lift. That’s a pretty big jump!
By making use of fractional plates the jump would be far smaller. So, instead of adding a 2.5kg/5.5lb plate either side, you opt for a 0.5kg/1.1lb either side, making the total you’ve added just 1kg/2.2lb. That’s an increase of just 0.5%.
If you’ve given yourself sufficient rest and recovery time from your previous lift you’re much more likely to succeed with that 0.5% increase.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FRACTIONAL PLATES AND CHANGE PLATES
Just like fractional plates, change plates also assist in helping you to increase the weight you are lifting in smaller amounts.
Essentially, change plates are simply larger denominations of weight compared to micro (fractional) plates. Both kinds of plates are to be used on standard Olympic barbells with a 50mm (2 inch) diameter sleeve. They are usually made from steel, this is because steel offers a better weight accuracy than other materials.
Change plates are supplied in pairs usually in the following weight increments. These weight increments may vary depending on the manufacturer.
|1.25 kg||2.75 lbs|
|1.5 kg||3.3 lbs|
|2 kg||4.4 lbs|
Fractional plates, offer a lower denomination of weight. They are a fraction of the larger weight standard weights, hence their name. As above, they may vary depending on the manufacturer.
|0.25 Kg||0.55 lbs.|
|0.5 Kg||1.1 lbs.|
|0.75 Kg||1.65 lbs.|
|1.00 Kg||2.2 lbs.|
Both changes plates and fractional plates are unlikely to be of much use whilst you are progressing quickly as it’s usually much easier to make larger jumps with lower weights.
However, as you begin to make headway lifting much heavier weights you’ll find them invaluable to allow you to continue making progress with your training
Most regular gym-goers will likely find that change plates will suffice as whilst the jump is more than if you were to add a fractional plate, it’s usually achievable. A regular gym user tends not to be lifting the excessive weights compared to that of a competitive lifter.
Fractional plates can be much more useful to competitive powerlifters as these very marginal increases in weight can alter the results of a competition and enable a powerlifter to achieve a new personal best.