Being able to add a pound at a time is beneficial because it allows for small improvements over a long period of time. Allowing you to overcome some plateaus when a 5lb jump is just too much weight. The problem with fractional plates, micro plates or change plates is that the dollar per pound cost is quite high when compared with regular weight plates.
A quick glimpse at the Rogue website shows a selection of weights available.
Pricing starts at $12 for a pair of 0.25lb plates, or $65 for a set of plates totaling 5lbs.
A quick search on Amazon yields, Ader Fitness Olympic Fractional Plate Set, 5lbs for $44.
Even at the cheaper end of the market, $44 for 5lbs, is close to $9/lb of weight, when compared with a 45lb plate being bought brand new for close to $1/lb, you can see the huge price differential. This price differential is fair, since we’re now comparing finely measured plates with gross measured plates. I have regular weight plates that vary by 1.5lbs than what is listed, so this is clear why there is such a difference in price. The machinery and tolerances used to make these plates are much more refined and precise.
I have no doubt that the price paid for the fractional plates is fair and worth it, that is not my argument here. For those of us that don’t have the budget to spend $50 on 5lbs worth of weight might want a cheaper option, (That $50 could have been spent on another 45lb plate, for instance). My DIY solution has been to use chains, a bolt cutter, a scale and a vice or carabiner.
All you need is a bucket of chains from Harbor Freight for $30, find a coupon for an even cheaper price. The smallest I could go was 0.5lbs worth of chain links, because any smaller wouldn’t fit around the barbell.
The process is pretty simple, but I wouldn’t say it’s as accurate as a machined set of plates. Have a scale and weigh out as many links needed to get to the desired weight and then using a pair of bolt cutters, cut the links. I had some cheap carabiners lying around that I used to attach it to itself, however when I ran out of those, I just used a vice and closed the link on itself around another link to create the loop needed.
I currently only created a pair of 0.5lb & 1.5lb chains. As you can see in the picture, it only required around 17 links to create a 1.5lb weight, so there is plenty of chain left in the bucket to create more weights and more increments as needed. I plan on creating more in the future.