I am one of the few, the proud, the strong- those that work out from home. There are plenty of advantages to working out from home- never having to wait for a bench to clear, never having to wipe down a seat in between sets, never feeling the need to lift more than I should to impress someone, etc. On the flip side, I have to purchase my own equipment which is a definite downside. Thankfully I’ve been able to amass a weight room I’m proud of (and will feature at a later date). In fact, it’s not really the benches, power racks, etc that are expensive. It’s all the friggin’ weight!
No weights add up as quickly as dumbbells. In order to not spend forever changing weights between sets and exercises, it’s worthwhile to have dumbbells of all sizes, and if you use the calculation of a dollar a pound as a rough estimate, you can see how buying pairs of 25′s, 30′s, 35′s, 40′s, 45′s, 50′s, etc can add up to 1000+ dollars easily. And it’s a lot of redundant money since a 35 lb’er is not much different than a 30. Skipping and going by 10′s is not a smart move because there are many exercises you can easily hit twelve at 30 lbs, but not even 8 at 40! So you need smaller increments.
Pace Weights and Plate Mates are two competing products that aim to increase the load of a lighter dumbbell and lighten the load on your wallet. The concept is simple- take a small weight increment, stick it to a magnet and the lifter can attach the weight to their dumbbells. Both products function using this basic idea, but their execution is a bit different.
Pace Weights are 0.5lb stick on (magnetic) weights. They are about 1 inch by 2 inch in size, and you can fit at least one on each of the sides of a hex dumbbell with ease. On 40lbs and up, you can actually fit 2 per side. Of course they can stick to weight stacks and weight plates as well. You buy either 9 lbs or 18 lbs worth at a time. Weird amounts right? I know the thought is that you don’t need to add 10 lbs to a weight stack since it already has 10 lb increments. But for dumbbells, having 9 lbs means having to add a max of 4.5 lbs to each side. So if you’re using dumbbells and want to save money by buying 10 lb increments, you’ll need the 18 lb variety.
Plate Mates are a bit different- they are designed to stick on to the side of the dumbbell and are really not as useful for weight stacks though they can sort of still be used on them. They are also in varying increments, either 5/8 lb, 1.25 lbs, or 2.5 lbs. So if you’re using it as a replacement for buying 35, 45, 55, etc increments for your dumbbells, these are ideal.
If you did just this, however, you’d be missing the real point of fractional plates. The main purpose these serve are not just to save you money on your dumbbell investment- they enable you to make better gains in shorter amounts of time. Here’s why- let’s say you’re curling 40 lb dumbbells and you find you can curl them 12 times and feel ready to move up to the next increment. If you have 45s, you may find you can only curl them 6 or 7 times. That’s falling outside the range of hypertrophy growth and especially with arms, you typically don’t “power lift” dumbbell curls if you want to see results! So you’re stuck between the two weights. If you had the ability to go up by 2 lbs on each dumbbell, you’d probably still be at 9 or 10 per rep and your body would still be able to respond to the increase stimuli you’re hitting it with. If you can imagine doing this and then growing the 42 lbs you’re doing to 44 a few weeks later, you’ll find a more managed, controlled growth path where you’re able to stay in the rep ranges you desire for your goals.
For me, I find often times when I hit a sticking point on an exercise, where at one weight I can do 12+ and the next increment I can only do 6-7, it is hard to grow that 6-7 to 12 again- takes a long time! But when I go up in smaller increments, I can see growth and PRs almost every week.
So which of these should you choose? That is honestly a tough one- they are both great products. Pace weights are great for making small increments and they can be used just about anywhere. But if you’re trying to stick 10 of these onto a set of dumbbells to make your 30′s into 35′s it can take a lot longer than sticking two 2.5 lb Plate Mates on- precious time when doing things like pyramids or conversely when dropping weight pyramid style. One other negative of the Pace Weights is that they won’t last forever. I’ve had mine almost 2 years and one of the magnets lost it’s stickiness to the weight. So far, it’s the only casualty but I’m sure over time the glue will dry out and they will start coming apart. But 2 years of almost daily use is well worth it, and they are still going.
The negative of the Plate Mates are that they really don’t work well on Olympic barbells despite their claim that they do- they certainly don’t have a big enough opening to slip on, and finding a smooth enough spot to stick them on the actual Olympic weights can be tricky for most weights out there. For me, that was not an issue as I have smaller increment weights in my home gym- my needs are for dumbbells mainly.
In my opinion, having a set of 9 pace weights (4.5 lbs total) and four to six 2.5 lb Plate Mates would be the ideal situation. You’d be able to jump by 0.5 lb increments all the way up until your next dumbbell, and have all the flexibility you need.
Where to get them? Pace Weights are only sold via their website here, and Plate Mates can be bought on Amazon: