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What Is a Plate Load Machine?

A plate load machine is a weight lighting machine that combines the features of traditional weight machines with the free-range motion of free weights. Plate load machines first became popular in the 1980s. These machines are designed with a large frame. The frame includes a standard barbell where the weights are held. On the plate load machine, the weights are loaded onto a barbell. The load of the weight on the barbell is customized for each person. This is different from a traditional weight machine where weights are stacked together permanently and a pin is used to select weight. The barbells typically are designed to hold a range of weights, allowing for lifters to customize their load from light to heavy.

Work Limbs Independently

One benefit of several plate load machines is that they allow for the lifter to work each side of their body separately. Unlike many other traditional weight machines, where the weights are individually connected to the moving arms of the machine, lifters load the weights on each independent arm of the plate machine. This allows for individuals to work each limb separately and even to lift a different weight on each limb.


A major appeal of the plate load machine is that it creates an environment that is very similar to lifting free weights, yet it is much safer. When it comes to lifting free weights, individuals can injury themselves by dropping a weight on their foot or by having incorrect form injure a muscle, tendon or ligament. The plate load machines offer the same benefits as free weights, yet provide an environment that forces lifters to complete the lift with correct bio-mechanic form. The plate load machines most closely mimics the motion and feel of free weights, yet with additional safety benefits.

Increased Range of Motion

Several varieties of plate load machines include free-floating levers, which allows you to customize the way that the machine moves based on your needs. This is different from other traditional weight machines, which force you to move in a fixed path.

Types of Plate Load Machines

Almost all traditional weight machines are now available as plate load machines. The most common plate machines include the leg press, chest press and lateral pull down machine. Additional plate load machines include:

  • 70 degree leg press machine
  • 45 degree leg press machine
  • Shoulder press machine
  • Incline shoulder press machine
  • Seated calf machine
  • Leverage row machine
  • Hip kicker
  • Trap machine
  • Deadlift machine
  • Leg extension machine
  • Power squat machine

Anyone can use a plate load weight machine--from a competitive athlete to someone who is new to strength training. The most important part is being taught how to use the machine correctly. These machines are easy to use, require little coordination and individuals can quickly and easily personalize the amount of resistance that they want to work with.

Next time you are at the gym, ask a trainer or gym employee to show you how to use the plate load machine. These machines offer numerous benefits that cannot be found with a traditional weight machine or free weights.

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