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You probably need fractional plates

The first thing I find myself recommending people purchase when working with me is a tripod to hold their phone. The next piece of equipment are fractional ("Micro") plates. These are plates that come in smaller increments than what it traditionally carried in a gym.


Most gyms carry plates as small as 2.5 pounds, and nothing smaller. Fractional plates typically range from 1.25 pounds all the way down to .25 pounds, in increments of .25 pounds.


Fractional plates

The purpose of these plates is simple: They allow you to continue linear progress for much longer, especially on the main upper body movements, the Bench Press and (Standing Overhead) Press.


Mathematically, this makes perfect sense. When you Squat 300 pounds, making a 5 pound jump in your next training session is a very manageable increase of ~1.6%. If you can Bench Press 150 pounds (a pretty standard number for someone who squats 300 pounds), a 5 pound jump is double the percentage jump (~3.2%), even though it is the same 5 pounds. This is where fractional plates make themselves valuable.


Very quickly in training, you reach a point where 5 pound jumps are no longer feasible for the upper body movements. With fractional plates, you can maintain linear progress for longer, with jumps decreasing from 5 pounds to 2.5 pounds, to a pound or even a half pound if necessary.


Programming with these plates looks something like this:

Example Bench Press Performance

Week 1 - 3 x 5 @ 185 pounds (slow final rep)

Week 2 - 3 x 5 @ 190 pounds (last rep is a heavy grind, barely made)

Week 3 - 3 x 5 @ 192.5 (using fractional plates)

Bench Pressing with fractional plates (hard to see, they are small)

In this example, the lifter is clearly reaching a point where an increase of 5 pounds will be too much stress to complete the prescribed 5 reps. They have preserved their linear progress on 3 sets of 5 by adding a smaller increase in stress.


This is why owning these plates for your home gym or putting them in your gym bag for your training session is extremely helpful for continued progress. They travel easy and make a huge difference in your ability to make gains!

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