What is Microloading:
Using small fractional plates or weights in order to allow for small systematic increases in weight or to train with very specific weight and minimize the impact of rounding.
Is There a Significant Problem with Standard Weights:
One of the issues faced by many lifters in programming is dealing with jumps in weight or forced rounding to 5lbs increments (i.e. 2.5lbs plates on an Olympic bar being the smallest standard). Ironically this is far worse for novice/weaker lifters or for lifts that don't allow as much weight. For example, 5lbs is only a 1% increment for a 500 lbs squatter but it's 2.5% for a 200lbs squatter and 5% for a lifter with a 100lbs overhead press. Those are big increments but generally the problem is magnified in a progressive series where one can round without huge impact for a few increments and then suddenly be left with either a huge jump or a very tiny increase which would result in a huge jump if ignored. Obviously dumbbell exercises also suffer due to the lower weight being used relative to a barbell alternative and then dumbbells make it even more insidious because they are made in 5lbs increments (so 10lbs total as you have one in each arm). So even for someone using 150 lbs dumbbells (and those people are few and far between) we have 10 lbs as 3% and for the guy using 50 lbs dumbbells we have 10 lbs as 10%. Ouch!
(these are Googled, no specific endorsements and likely some ommissions)
Piedmont Design Associates
Iron Woody Fitness
Discussion on Magnets and Washers
Discussion on Chains and Washers
This idea came from Trance on Dave Draper's Forum and is discussed with pictures in the link here (original link is dead). Anyway, I'm going to clean it up a bit as I've learned a little more about it and some of the info is a bit off (part numbers, original quoted chain size, etc...).
Anyway, the idea here is to take chain links and make weights out of them that then slide onto the bar. This is a cheap and fairly neat idea that works perfectly into a standard weight set. There are two components:
5/16" Chain, Zinc Plated
Home Depot item #163630 (but for some reason this number isn't on any of the displays - look at the picture though very easy to find)
Price is around $2.00 a foot but will obviously vary with the price of raw material
Each link weighs 1.5 ounces
Spring Link Clip Available in Assorted Colors
Home Depot item ##150178 (but for some reason this number isn't on any of the displays) - look at the picture though very easy to find
Price is $0.97
A clip weighs 1 ounce
The minimum size to place over the bar is 6 links and 1 clip (which incidentally slides on an Olympic bar very nicely).
6 links = 9 ounces
1 clip = 1 ounce
10 Total Ounces
10 Ounces = 0.625 lbs
Here's where it gets easy and very elegant:
1 pair = 1.25 lbs
2 pair = 2.5 lbs
3 pair = 3.75 lbs
4 pair = 5 lbs .... oh wait, that's the same as a set of 2.5 lbs plates
In other words, get yourself 6 of these and you have 3 proportional increments to work with between 5lbs using your 2.5lbs plates.
Not bad and very cheap. That will probably do for most people but if you are there anyway and want some other weights to work with to really narrow in on specific numbers you can use these:
10 links + 1 clip = 1 lbs each or 2 lbs per pair
14 links + 3 clips = 1.5 lbs each or 3 lbs per pair
For more than 6-7 links just twist the chain until it's the size of the bar and slide right on. For extra clips just space them evenly. You can even get a different color clip for each weight. You'll figure it out.