You can go ahead and add StrongArm Sport to the list of quality up-and-coming equipment manufacturers.
This Canadian based company was started by Mike Armstrong, one of the strongest and most well known Canadian powerlifters in the history of the sport. He has been competing and refereeing powerlifting meets since 1985. In that time, he has lifted in over 60 contests, where he has also collected world records and gold medals.
The way StrongArm came to be is actually an interesting story. When one of Mike's training partners was looking to purchase an ER combo rack, he learned that A) nobody sold them in Canada, and; B) USA dealers wouldn't ship to Canada. Mike started the company, then called ‘ER Canada', to fill this void by serving as the Canadian dealer (which he still is today).
From there, it evolved into StrongArm Sport, which now has a growing product line including plates, racks, bars, benches, and more.
Just in the past year, we have seen some impressive offerings, including a power bar, a conventional deadlift bar, a sumo deadlift bar, a buffalo bar, and quite possibly the best calibrated powerlifting plates for the money.
In this review, we're going to be taking a close look at these calibrated plates.
These plates are priced incredibly well, they look great, and they're perfectly accurate.
When you compare these to some of the more expensive options, some of which are much more expensive, it becomes clear that StrongArm has something very good going for them.
let's dig in.
- StrongArm Sport Calibrated Plate Overview
- Why Buy Calibrated Powerlifting Plates?
- Thickness & Diameter
- Price & Set Options
- Pros & Cons
- Full Rating
If you're looking for calibrated plates, I can all but guarantee you've come across the options from Rogue, Eleiko, Ivanko, Titex, Vulcan, etc… Am I right?
Those are all awesome plates by nearly every account… accurate, durable, sexy… but, let's face it… they're PRICEY.
Calibrated plate pricing is no question the biggest barrier when it comes to someone making a purchase decision. I mean, the lightest set (159 kg) will run you well over $1k after shipping.
That is… until now.
StrongArm Sport has these plates on the market for a substantial discount in comparison…and guess what…
They're just as good!
No, they aren't IPF approved, but this is simply due to the outrageous fees imposed by the IPF.
BUT, they are 100% spec'd to IPF standards.
As you'll read in this review, I think the StrongArm calibrated plates are an absolute steal.
Material: Cast Iron
Diameter: 25 kg – 450mm; 20 kg – 450mm; 15 kg – 400mm; 10 kg – 325mm; 5 kg – 228mm; 2.5 kg – 190mm; 1.25 kg – 160mm
Weight: 25 kg, 20 kg, 15 kg, 10 kg, 5 kg, 2.5 kg, 1.25 kg
Thickness: 25 kg – 27.2mm; 20 kg – 23.5mm; 15 kg – 21mm; 10 kg – 21mm; 5 kg – 21.5mm; 2.5 kg – 16mm; 1.25 kg – 12mm
Collar Opening: 50mm (1.96″)
Color: 25 kg – Red; 20 kg – Blue; 15 kg – Yellow; 10 kg – Green; 5 kg – White; 2.5 kg – Black; 1.25 kg – Blue
Flanges: Inner flange
Calibrated plates are awesome, but they're not for everyone. Generally speaking, if you're asking yourself if you need calibrated plates, then you likely don't. That said, if you ARE trying to decide whether to buy calibrated plates (as compared to standard iron or bumpers), consider these reasons why calibrated plates may make sense:
1.) You're a competitive powerlifter – If you compete in powerlifting, you will be using calibrated plates in competition. It is advantageous to train with specificity with regards to your training goals. While calibrated plates aren't a necessity in this respect, they are absolutely superior.
2.) You demand accuracy – Calibrated plates are simply the most accurate plates you can buy when it comes to weight accuracy. The StrongArm calibrated plates, as you will read below, are incredibly accurate. With standard iron plates, you will often times see deviations from the stated weight. While 44 lbs or 46 lbs may not seem like a big difference on the surface, when you're talking about loading several plates on each side, it can be quite meaningful.
3.) They're significantly thinner – Calibrated plates offer an extremely thin profile, which is good for a couple of reasons. The first is that you can load more weight onto the bar (duh). Secondly, it keeps the load closer to the center of the bar. This weight distribution can be felt when compared to plates that extend further on the sleeve.
4.) You like the look – Calibrated plates just look better than standard plates, in my opinion. Some people prefer the old school look of iron, which I totally get – I love that look also. But the refined look of a calibrated plate is just really sexy. Don't worry – if you prefer the vintage look, the calibrated plates will eventually get there. The paint will eventually chip, wear through, etc… exposing that used look that many people cherish.
The downsides of calibrated plates are A.) They're considerably more expensive (in most cases), and B.) They're not as versatile compared to a bumper plate. Something tells me though that if you're looking at buying calibrated plates you've already decided that you don't need the versatility of a bumper plate.
Oh, I almost forgot… you'll also look weaker since they take up less space on the bar.
With that covered, let's dig into the StrongArm Sport Calibrated Plate review…
The StrongArm calibrated plates are made of cast-iron and they have been machine calibrated to ensure utmost accuracy. They also include two calibration plugs on the back of the plates to really dial in the weight. In essence, each plate has two slugs of iron removed and then filled with a brass insert that has been perfectly calibrated to satisfy the weight tolerance.
When you receive the plate, you will notice that each calibrated plug is covered with a blank sticker. You can either take them off or let them come off naturally. They will eventually come off, so I personally just removed mine. This leaves the brass plug exposed, which I actually think looks really cool. If you really abuse the plates, there may be a possibility of the plugs coming loose. This is a rare situation from what I've heard and I personally haven't experienced it. The plugs have a flat-head notch that can presumably be used to tighten, remove, etc… the plugs in the off-chance you ever needed to.
Another element of a calibrated plate that differs from other non-calibrated plates is the hole diameter. These plates offer a 50mm hole diameter, which is equal to just over 1.96″. A standard barbell sleeve is 1.96″. This leads to an incredibly tight fitting plate that tends to stay in place on the barbell very nicely. If you're using a specialty bar that has a smaller sleeve diameter (totally normal), of course this means it will not fit as snug.
Either way, your bar sleeves may have paint rubbed off on them… at least until the paint rubs off of the inner plate hole. This is a drawback to calibrated plates in general and it's not limited to just StrongArm. I will say, however, that the smooth-sleeved bars I used really didn't experience the issue. Grooved-sleeved bars did, and so did my Elitefts Safety Squat Bar. I was still able to clean it off relatively easily. In my opinion though, and in the opinion of many others I'm sure, the paint should simply be left off of the inside edge of the center hole.
One thing to keep in mind is that more inexpensive bars will often have 2″ sleeves, which will not accommodate calibrated plates. Generally speaking. most people buying calibrated plates are going to have the proper barbell(s), but it's an important consideration nonetheless.
Now that we know the process by which these plates are so accurately made, let's look at how accurate they actually are. In the image above, I have weighed each of my plates and shown their respective results. As you will note, they are exceptionally accurate. StrongArm Sport also independently weighed a random sample at a Canadian government certified testing lab in February 2019, where the results were found to match the stated weight exactly.
Thickness, as mentioned, is an important quality of calibrated plates. In the photo above, I have measured the width of each plate and shown the result. In the table below, you can also see these measurements along with the diameter of each plate. You will note that 25kg and 20kg plates have the same diameters and subsequent plates get incrementally smaller as you go down in weight.
What all this means is that you can load over 700 kgs onto the bar. Wouldn't that be quite the feat!?
One could argue that calibrated plates might be the sexiest plates money can buy. They just look fantastic. The StrongArm plates are color-coded using the same internationally recognized scheme down to the 10 kg plates. Once you get to smaller plates, the colors can be different from company to company. As compared to Rogue, for instance, the only difference is the 1.25 kg plate (blue vs. chrome). Titex, on another hand, has a purple 5 kg, a red 2.5 kg, and a black 1.25 kg. Here is a breakdown of the StrongArm color system:
- 25 kg – Red
- 20 kg- Blue
- 15 kg – Yellow
- 10 kg – Green
- 5 kg – White
- 2.5 kg – Black
- 1.25 kg – Blue
Overall, the paint is well applied throughout. There are a few areas across the set where the paint appears a little thinner, but you have to really be looking for it. There are also a few small areas on the fronts where the plate appears smooth vs. the texture the rest of the plate offers. Neither of these things are consequential, but they do exist, and they're purely aesthetic.
Overall, I'm very happy with the general look of the plates.
These plates do NOT ship free. This is a popular misconception. They ship freight the same as the other companies, and the price depends on weight and on average distances. If you need a rate check, you can contact Mike/StrongArm and they will pull one for you quickly.
The StrongArm plates, again, will ship to your house via freight, meaning you will need to be there to sign for them. The freight company that delivered my plates left something to be desired in the service department. For one, oddly enough, they (the freight company) completely removed the shrink wrap that StrongArm used to secure the plates to the pallet. Very bizarre.
This resulted in two things: Firstly, it led to the freight company losing a 10 kg plate. Mike/StrongArm immediately resolved this by sending me a replacement via FedEx. Kudos to great customer service. Secondly, two of the plates got slightly dinged up on the edges, presumably due to the plates shifting and falling off the pallet after they removed the wrap. I doubt they were shipped like this. Either way, it's sort of inconsequential in the long run – the plates will see the paint chip off over time anyway – just the same as any calibrated plate from any company.
Here is where the big differences are found between the StrongArm calibrated plates and the others.
First of all, StrongArm does their set options without 0.25 kg plates or 0.5 kg plates. So, when I'm displaying the sets below, please keep this in mind. As an example, the lowest StrongArm plate set you can purchase is 157.5 kg, whereas other companies offer 159 kgs as the lowest set. The difference is, of course, those two fractional plates.
Secondly, StrongArm organizes their sets by how many 25 kg plates you choose. There are seven total set options ranging from 157.5 kg to 457.5 kg. Rogue, as an example, has a 159 kg option and a 457.5 kg option. If you want a set in between those ranges, you would need to build it up from the 159 kg set with however many 25 kg plates you wanted to add.
I've included two tables below. The first is set pricing and the second is the StrongArm discount relative to the others. As you will be able to tell, the discount is rather substantial in most cases.
As compared to Rogue, you're getting a discount ranging from over 13% to over 24% depending on the size of the set. Vulcan is the closest in terms of pricing, but you're still getting at least a 5% discount, and up to over 22%. Compared to Eleiko and Ivanko, it's staggering!
- As you would expect with calibrated plates, the StrongArm Sport plates are incredibly accurate. In fact, mine were all completely spot on.
- The PRICE! My goodness, what a deal this is on calibrated plates. The savings you get compared to other brands can be significant, and they offer exceptional quality.
- They're beautiful aesthetically. The colors are vibrant and the paint is well applied outside of a few minor areas.
- The 50mm hole size makes for a very snug fit on the bar, which is great to reduce plate slide and sleeve rattle.
- The plates are very thin, which means you can load over 700 kg onto the bar. What's up, Big Ray!?
- They're very durable. These plates are built to withstand a ton of abuse from some of the strongest people in the world.
- This isn't limited to StrongArm, but the painted inner edges of the plate holes may rub off onto some barbell sleeves (until the paint is gone on the plate).
- This too isn't limited to StrongArm, but calibrated plates are harder to grip/move given their perfectly smooth backs.
- This TOO isn't limited to StrongArm, but calibrated plates' paint tends to chip rather easily.
- I'm not sure if I had a one-off situation with the freight company, but if my experience is similar to others, StrongArm may consider switching freight companies.
Overall, there isn't much not to like about these plates. They're highly accurate, they look great, they're durable, and they're the best-priced calibrated plates out there right now!
If you're looking for calibrated plates, give these a hard look.
If you have any questions about these plates or calibrated powerlifting plates in general, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own the StrongArm Sport Calibrated Plates and you want to chime in with your own thoughts, please do so!
As always, I appreciate any feedback.
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The bar is loaded,