Back in September I told you about the small grooves found on the sleeves of most modern olympic barbells, and what it’s all about. As I described, the one problem is they make noise! It’s not fingernails-on-chalkboard bad, but as plates slide onto the bar they do make an annoying and loud sound.

So what do to about it? One solution we posed was to get one of several brands of bars that are made with smooth sleeves.

The other solution is to use a certain type of weight plate. What you want is a plate with a steel insert in the hole that can’t catch on the barbell’s grooves. Normally you’ll only find that with bumper plates, which are solid rubber. However, there are some iron plates and rubber-coated iron plates like the Rep Fitness rubber coated plates that use this same type of steel insert design.

steel insert on weight plate

I’ve used plates like this, and the curved steel insert slides easily over the grooves on a bar sleeve with no chance of catching, totally negating the effect of the grooves, and it seems like it even slides easier on grooves rather than smooth sleeves because of the less surface it contacts.

Just to be clear, they are NOT bumper plates. The smaller weights are all smaller sized like normal iron plates. The steel insert is based directly off the design of bumper plates, as below.

rounded steel insert on bumper plate

The steel inserts were not originally meant to negate the grooves on a bar sleeve. That’s just gravy. They were meant to provide a solid center structural component to bumper plates, which are solid rubber all the way down. The hole would distort otherwise from repeated dropping, and you would have rubber cracking and breaking.

That’s true for “economy” style bumper plates. Competition bumpers are a different matter.

Here’s a good angle where you can see that competition style bumper plates have squared-off holes in a larger machined center piece. This is the case for all bumpers of this style that I’ve seen. This is an intentional design feature that keeps the plate hugging the bar sleeve snugly at a secure angle so as to stay fixed in place when dropped. Plates with this design will bump off the bar sleeve grooves and make noise the same way iron plates will. (Thanks to JJY for pointing this out!)