Weight plates come in different weights and sizes. Just buying a random set of plates might not have the best results once you notice there is a certain weight you don’t have the right combination of plates for. What is the most efficient set of weight plates so you can load the bar with every weight you want?
The most efficient set of weight plates that can load a barbell from empty to 175 lbs. in 5 lbs. increments is;
- 2x 2.5 lbs./1 kg
- 2x 5 lbs./2.5 kg
- 4x 10 lbs./5 kg
- 2x 25 lbs./10 kg
- 2x 45 lbs. /20 kg
For more total weight, simply add extra pairs of 45lbs./20kg plates.
Why that is the most efficient starting set of weight plates and what if you need more weight? Keep reading to find out.
Best combination of weight plates
When buying weight plates, it’s a good idea to buy the right combination of plates so you can fine tune the amount of weight on the bar. It’s no good if you just have a choice between 10 and 45 lbs. plates because the jumps are just way too big.
To get bigger and stronger, it’s generally accepted that beginners should try to add 5 lbs. to the barbell every workout. So if you bench press 90 lbs. one workout, try to go for 95 lbs. the next bench press workout and 100 lbs. for the one after that, etc. The same goes for other compound exercises like the squat and deadlift.
That means you want to have a combination of weight plates that allows you to increase the weight on the barbell from 0 to what you want to lift with 5 lbs. /2.5 kg increments. That’s 5 lbs. in total so 2.5 lbs. on each side. The good news is that you can compile a complete beginners set and once you’ve got it, you can always find a combination of plates that provides exactly the amount of weight you want. And once you’ve got the basic set, it’s easy to expand from there.
Here’s the set of weight plates you need to get started. There are more ways to accomplish the 5 lbs. increments but this setup requires the least amount of plates.
- 2.5 lbs. x2
- 5 lbs. x2
- 10 lbs. x4
- 25 lbs. x2
- 45 lbs. x2
This is for a home gym where you’ll be the only one using the plates at one given time. If you’re wondering if this setup can really do the 5 lbs. increase without gaps, scroll to the bottom, you can see it worked out there.
This set allows you to load a barbell from empty to 87.5 lbs. per side in 2.5 lbs. increments. Or 175 lbs. of total load in 5 lbs. increments. A full sized barbell weighs 44 lbs. which means this set + a barbell can weigh a maximum of 219 lbs.
That might not be enough for you but the beauty of this set is that from here, you can just add pairs of 45 lbs. plates and still be able to increase the weight by 2.5 lbs. per side. More on how that works below.
5 lbs. increments will work for linear progression for quite a while. However, after a certain amount of time you’ll hit a wall where increasing by 5 lbs. every workout becomes too much. Also, the 5 lbs. increments are for the big compound exercises like squats, deadlift and bench presses. However, there are a lot of lifts you can do with a barbell that requires a lot less weight. These other exercises often also have less room for improvement so a 5 lbs. jump is just way too big.
Things like barbell curls, overhead presses and upright rows are performed with a barbell but usually much lower weight than the big compound exercises. You might be able to add 5 lbs. to the bar on the first few weeks you do these lifts but that fast progress will stop pretty quickly.
For those reasons, adding a set of micro plates is a good idea. A good set of micro loading plates will have pairs of plates that weigh; 0.25 lbs., 0.5 lbs., 0.75 lbs. and 1 lbs. This allows for increasing the weight on the bar by 0.25 lbs. increments.
If you should get a set of micro plates depends on which exercises you plan on doing and how advanced you are. A beginner that just wants to focus on the big compound exercises doesn’t need a set of micro plates. However, if you plan on doing smaller exercises or are a more advanced lifter, getting a set of these weights on top of the starter set listed out above is very useful. They don’t cost that much anyways.
How many weight plates do you need?
The set above will give you the option to load the bar from empty to 219 lbs. with 5 lbs. increments or even smaller increments if you get a set of micro plates.
After getting this ‘starter set’, it’s really easy to expand after that. Just add extra 45 lbs./20 kg plates to get to a weight you need. You’ll still be able to increase the weight with 5 lbs. increments just like with the starter set. Since the set above allows you to go from 0 to 87.5 lbs. on the bar with consistent increments, adding more 45 lbs. plates on top of that allows you to use the same lighter plates just on top of those 45’s.
How many do you need? Enough for you to lift what you can plus a little bit extra. It’s a good idea to have enough 45 lbs. plates to cover a bit more than your heaviest lift at the moment. For example; You can squat 300 lbs. at the moment. The barbell weighs 45 lbs. so you need to load 255 lbs. on the bar. 225/45 is 5.66. Of course you always want to have an even number of complete plates so in this case you would need 6×45 lbs. plates.
This is more than you can lift now but this way you always have some weight in reserve to get stronger. It’s no fun if your strength/fitness goals are hampered by simply not having enough plates.
You always want to load the bar with as many 45 lbs. plates as you can without overshooting the weight you want. After getting close to the desired weight with 45’s, fill up the rest of the weight with the fewest amount of lighter plates. This is the most efficient way to load the bar.
Once you lift enough to load all the 45’s you have onto the bar and you’re making your way through the starter set, it’s time to order an extra pair of 45’s. Sometimes it can take a while for the plates to be delivered so order them on time.
Bar Loading examples
See here why the setup above works and is efficient. You’ll see that you’ll use all the plates in that setup to load a bar in small increments but don’t need any more. Keep in mind, the chart you see below is per side of the barbell.
|Target weight per side||Lbs.|
|12.5||1x10 + 1x2.5|
|15||1x10 + 1x5|
|17.5||1x10 + 1x5 + 1x2.5|
|22.5||2x10 + 1x2.5|
|30||1x25 + 1x5|
|32.5||1x25 + 1x5 + 1x2.5|
|35||1x25 + 1x10|
|37.5||1x25 + 1x10 + 1x2.5|
|40||1x25 + 1x10 + 1x5|
|42.5||1x25 + 1x10 + 1x5 +1x2.5|
|47.5||1x45 + 1x2.5|
|52.5||1x45 +1x5 + 1x2.5|
|55||1x45 + 1x10|
|57.5||1x45 + 1x10 + 1x2.5|
|60||1x45 + 1x10 + 1x5|
|62.5||1x45 + 1x10 + 1x5 +1x2.5|
|65||1x45 + 2x10|
|67.5||1x45 + 2x10 +1x2.5|
|70||1x45 + 1x25|
|72.5||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x2.5|
|75||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x5|
|77.5||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x5 + 1x2.5|
|80||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x10|
|82.5||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x10 +1x2.5|
|85||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x10 +1x5|
|87.5||1x45 + 1x25 + 1x10 +1x5 +1x2.5|