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STOP Doing Weight Plate Exercises Immediately! Here's Why.

Seen your favorite influencer doing some exotic weight plate exercise? Here's why you should avoid them at ALL costs!

You've seen it all over TikTok and YouTube.

All over Facebook and Instagram.

These jacked, muscular guys promoting some pretty weird, exotic, and novel looking exercises done with weight plates instead of the regular dumbbells and barbells.

They'll claim that these exercises are superior for muscle growth, and use words like 'insane' or 'extreme' to describe their workouts.

Then you'll go into the comments section and find everybody praising this exercise, telling you how good it feels and how crazy the pump was.

However if you look at the science behind it, and really take a look at what you're doing when you use a weight plate to perform an exercise, you'll quickly come to realize that those people are pretty much just wasting their own time.


Let's get into that below.

But first, we need to define what is meant by a weight plate exercise, for those of you that might not know.

What Are Weight Plate Exercises?

A weight plate exercise is any movement that involves weight plates, and only weight plates to be performed.

By this, I mean exercises like:

  • weight plate chest presses

  • weight plate rows

  • weight plate shoulder presses

  • weight plate bicep curls

  • weight plate tricep extensions

  • and many more.

As you'll notice, these are all exercises that use weight plates instead of regular weights like dumbbells, barbells or weightlifting machines.

Now I'll get into why these exercises are bad choices to do most of the time, but here at Gympulsive we actually have a free weight plate workout you can try out if you ever find yourself in the situation where all you've got is a weight plate or two.

Why Are Weight Plate Exercises Bad Choices?

There are a number of reasons why weight plate exercises are suboptimal choices most of the time.

I'll break each one down for you.

Weight Plates Are a Weird Shape

Fit athlete standing in front of weight plate to use for exercise

The primary reason that weight plate exercises are such bad choices comes down to the fact that they're simply much bigger and clunkier than other forms of resistance like dumbbells and barbells are.

They're much harder to hold onto and also much harder to move in space, no matter the exercise that you're doing.

For example, it's much harder to shoulder press a weight plate up and down in front of your head than it is to do the same with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells.

The sheer size and shape of the weight plate is going to be a huge limiting factor in the amount of weight that you can lift, and also the range of motion that you're able to achieve during the exercise.

Just take a look at how much the range of motion and movement changes from a regular overhead press when you're using a weight plate in WeightTrainingCom's video below.

Now compare that to this video of a barbell overhead press by Fit Squad Training.

It's clear that the barbell overhead press is much easier to perform both in terms of balance and range of motion.

It's not that the guy with the plate has bad form or is weak, it just comes down to a difference in the nature of the resistance that they're each using.

And as the weight is harder to move and balance, the weight that you're able to lift is going to be severely limited.

You'll probably find that you're able to lift significantly less weight with plates than you would be able to on barbells and dumbbells.

This is a big problem, because the primary driver of muscle growth is mechanical tension.

This term refers to the amount of weight that you lift, and the number of reps that you perform.

Basically, it's the total amount of stress that you put your muscles through in a set.

So if you're using weight plates instead of more efficient forms of resistance, you're going to basically be limiting yourself in the amount of muscle mass that you can build.

Your body and muscles do not understand how you apply tension onto it. It doesn't understand whether you're using a weight plate, a barbell, a smith machine, or whatever else.

All it knows is that it needs to overcome the weight you're trying to move, and the more weight, the better.

So if building muscle is your main goal, you'd be much better off using dumbbells, barbells or a weightlifting machine instead.

Limited Ability to Apply Progressive Overload

When you lift with weight plates, you also have a very limited scope of progressive overload.

And bear in mind, progressive overload is essential to seeing proper results in the gym, no matter what your goals are.

The heaviest plates that most commercial gyms have would be 20kg or 45lb plates.

And while this kind of weight may feel pretty heavy on some exercises, it's definitely not going to last you very long.

Most people are going to be able to effortlessly squat a 20kg or 45lb plate after just a few months of consistent lifting.

All these strong compound exercises are going to suffer in the long term if you limit yourself to using weight plates.

Fit and muscular man doing weight plate exercise to build muscle

You have no way to increase the weight that you lift, other than to somehow find heavier plates (which is hard and expensive), or to start stacking plates on top of each other.

I've seen lots of influencers using the latter to apply progressive overload to their weight plate exercises.

However, it's clear from just watching their videos that it is very tough to balance, and that they'd be able to lift much, much heavier if they simply used a barbell, some dumbbells or a weightlifting machine.

I know it's not just about lifting heavy, but if you can lift more weight with good form in a rep range that's conducive to hypertrophy and that's your main goal, you have literally no good reason not to do so.

But The Biggest Influencers Use These Weight Plate Exercises!

Yes, you might see some of your favorite and fittest looking influencers using these plate exercises and claiming them that they're better for making gains in some way.

However, you need to realize that being muscular or fit does not automatically mean someone knows what they're talking about.

I've seen videos of top-tier bodybuilders including IFBB pros telling people that exercises like the seated cable row aren't compound exercises.

So no, just because someone is big and looks the way you wish you did, doesn't mean you should listen to absolutely everything they say. You have to look at the science behind it.

If you don't believe me, go and try it for yourself!

Try to see how much weight you can bench press with a barbell, compared to the amount you can chest press with a stack of plates. I guarantee you the numbers won't be the same.

As a side note, it's also more than likely that those influencers showcasing these plate exercises did not build their bodies and physiques by using these plate exercises alone.

They're probably pretty strong and experienced with more classic movements like the barbell and dumbbell exercises as well.

So What Can You Do?

Choose productive exercises over more seemingly novel, cooler or exotic exercises.

Every time you see your favorite influencers promoting some kind of new exercise, just use your common sense and gauge whether or not it's really a good exercise.

If you're in doubt, you're probably going to be better off sticking to the more basic exercises with regular dumbbells, barbells and weight training machines.

Male athlete doing heavy barbell overhead press instead of weight plate exercise

Don't immediately go and switch out an effective, classic exercise for a new one just because it seems cooler.

That's one of the easiest ways you can ensure that you're going to slow down your progress in the gym.

Are There Any Weight Plate Exercises That Are Okay?

Well, there's not really an exercise that you CAN'T do with a weight plate, but there aren't really any where you'd benefit more from using a weight plate over other forms of resistance either.

However if there's an exercise that you want to do with a weight plate for some reason, make sure that it's one where the size and shape of the weight plate don't have a negative impact on the range of motion or performance of the exercise.

And you'll also want to make sure that the exercise isn't a heavy compound, as you don't want to be stacking loads and loads of plates on top of each other.

Ideally, it should be a weak exercise that you can't lift much more than 20kg or 45lb on.

Some ideas could include:

  • Dual arm front delt raises (both hands on one plate)

  • Goblet squats (if slightly smaller plates are heavy enough for you)

  • Dual arm plate hammer curls (both hands on one plate)

  • Plate weighted crunches

  • Lying plate weighted leg holds

  • Russian twists

  • Farmer's carry (if the plates are easy to grip and heavy enough).

While these exercises may be alright when done with a weight plate, it's going to be very tough to think of an exercise where you'd get more out of using a weight plate over more conventional forms of resistance.


Weight plate exercises are generally bad choices if you're looking to build strength and muscle mass.

The majority of the time, you're going to be much better off using more conventional forms of resistance such as dumbbells and barbells instead.

But if you ever DO find yourself in a situation where you're limited on equipment and only have access to a weight plate or two, you definitely can still get a great workout in with them!

Do you like training with weight plates?

Let me know down in the comments section below!


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