Gym Equipment

What Are Fractional Plates And Why Should You Use Them?

what are fractional plates

Fractional plates, or micro plates, enable lifters to make small, precise weight increments, crucial for progressing in strength training.

Making small weight increments is called micro loading which can result in the difference between winning and losing a powerlifting competition or achieving a new personal record.

fractional plates

Fractional weights, also called micro plates or change plates, are small weight plates ranging from 0.25kg to 1kg. They enable lifters to make micro adjustments to their barbell weight and are commonly used in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting to gain a competitive edge.

Typically sold in sets of eight, fractional plates come in pairs of 0.25kg, 0.5kg, 0.75kg, and 1kg. Some manufacturers offer plates as small as 0.125kg.

incremental 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 Beginners:

New lifters can quickly reach a plateau. However, micro plates allow for small, manageable weight increases, helping to break through these plateaus safely and gradually.

If you’ve reached the limit of what you can lift, even adding an additional 2.5kg to each side of a barbell may not be possible.  This is where fractional plates come in. By making small weight increments you can push through that plateau and attain a new personal best.

It may seem a slow way of making progress but it’s important to remember that when you start lifting heavier weights, your progress is likely to slow down.

Fractional discs allow for progressive overload in a safe and manageable way.

For Experienced Lifters:

As we mentioned above, those who have a lot of experience lifting weights will eventually notice a slowing down of their progress.

powerlifting competition

This is perfectly as all human beings are going to reach their genetic potential with how much weight 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 and struggle to proceed beyond this weight, adding on a fractional weight of 0.25kg can still be achievable and is far safer to progress this way than adding on, for example, a 5kg plate either side of your barbell.

How To Use Fractional Plates For Micro Loading

Micro loading with change plates allows for consistent progress without drastic changes. For instance, instead of adding 2.5kg to each side of a barbell, adding 0.5kg plates results in a manageable 1kg total increase, facilitating steady improvement.

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 add a 2.5kg calibrated plate either side of your barbell.  Yet, the bar doesn’t move – this is more common that you may think.

Let’s consider the percentages. 

You’ve added 5kg total from your previous maximum lift which equates to a 2.5% increase.  This means 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 and more achievable.  So, instead of adding a 2.5kg plate either side of your bar, you opt for a 0.5kg instead, making the total you’ve added just 1kg.  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.

Change plates are larger denominations of weight compared to fractional plates. Both are used on Olympic barbells and typically made of steel for accuracy. Fractional weights are better suited for competitive lifters needing precise weight adjustments, while regular gym-goers may find change plates sufficient for their needs.

Change plates are supplied in pairs usually in the following weight increments.  These weight increments may vary depending on the manufacturer.

1.25 kg2.75 lbs
1.5 kg3.3 lbs
2 kg4.4 lbs

Fractional plates comes in lower denominations 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 Kg0.55 lbs.
0.5 Kg1.1 lbs.
0.75 Kg1.65 lbs.
1.00 Kg2.2 lbs.

Both types of plates are unlikely to be of much use while you are progressing quickly as it’s usually much easier to make larger jumps when you’re lifting lighter weights.

However, as you become stronger and start lifting heavier weights you’ll find them invaluable to allow you to continue to make progress with your strength training.

Most regular gym-goers will likely find that change plates will suffice, as while 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 weights can be much more useful to competitive powerlifters as these very small increases in weight can alter the results of a competition and enable a powerlifter to achieve a new personal best.

Now that you have a better understanding about fractional discs, you’ll know they make a perfect accompaniment to calibrated plates.

If you’d like to know more about this type of weight plate, why not have a read of our article; What is a Calibrated Plate.

Leave a Reply