What are Fake Weights? (Should You Use Them?)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: July 19, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Videos emerge now and then where people lift an incredible amount of weights that leave everyone amazed. Well, this might be what we call fake weights. Fake weights look realistic and similar to real weights, but they don't have the presumed weight.

Today, we are going to understand what these weights are and answer the question if you should use them. I consulted other fitness experts to get their opinions, and I'll use my years of fitness experience to help you identify fake weights in videos or at the gym.

Quick Summary

  • Fake weights, designed to look like real weights but significantly lighter, are often used deceptively in fitness videos and social media.
  • These weights can be easily identified by their appearance, lack of exertion by the lifter, and absence of bar bending under the weight.
  • According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, the authenticity and quality of resistance training equipment significantly impact training effectiveness and safety.
  • Personally, I believe using fake weights undermines the integrity of fitness achievements and misleads aspiring athletes.

What Are Fake Weights?

Fake weights are realistic-looking weights that do not actually contain any weight at all and are much easier to lift than real weights.

In fact, anyone can lift them and make weightlifting look easy, even those with no strength training. They can be very deceptive when used in an inappropriate manner.

Anyone can purchase fake dumbbells from websites like fakeweights.com or prop companies that make props for film and television productions.

From my experience, lifting fake weights is more harmful than beneficial. It gives a false sense of strength, endurance, and fitness.

Controversies on Using Fake Weights

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of fake weights.

Specifically, there is a lot of controversy around those who use fake dumbbells under false pretenses to gain fame and notoriety. Famous Instagram powerlifter Brad Castleberry has undergone scrutiny for using fake plates in his videos.

On his Instagram account, he can be seen with dumbbells doing bench presses, barbell curls, and more, with enough weight plates to equal over 1,000 pounds. Many critics on YouTube have been able to prove that he uses fake plates.


Gracyanne Barbosa, another Instagram powerlifter, is a Brazilian fitness model who is also under a lot of scrutiny for using fake weights.

One video in particular where she lifts 495-pound dumbbells for 10 reps rather easily has sparked the rumor that she uses fake plates.

Critics have taken to social media to prove that the weights are, in fact, fake.


Even Kali Muscle, a popular bodybuilder who rose to fame after leaving a life of crime and going on to star in a number of commercials for brands like Taco Bell and Honda, has been accused of using fake plates.

One bodybuilding forum has an entire thread dedicated to proving that he uses fake weights.

How to Spot Fake Weights in 3 Ways

fake plate

In my years of training, I've come across fake weights a few times. It's almost shocking the first time you pick one up, expecting a challenge and finding none.

Luckily, there are several different ways you can spot fake strength training plates the next time you’re watching a powerlifting video.

If you are concerned that the person you are watching is faking it by using fake weight plates, then look for these signs.

1. Appearance of the Weights

If a weightlifter is in a gym and is using weight plates that do not look like all the other plates in there, this could be a sign that they are using fake plates.

Most gyms will have uniform equipment, so this is something that could be easy to spot.

2. Exertion

Take it from the old saying,

“if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Lifting a lot of weight successfully is a hard feat and you can tell it in the body language of those lifting it.

Heavy lifting, and any strength training, really, will make the lifter pant and turn red in the face. Their arms or legs might even shake or wobble from all the weight they’re trying to lift.

If the person you are watching shows none of these signs after doing a set, then they could be using fake weights.

3. Bar Bending

bar bend

The bar of the barbell the weights are on will bend slightly under all the weight of the plates.

If the barbells in the videos you are watching do not bend and remain completely straight, the person using them is probably fooling you with fake plates.

Now those weights are surely not fake.

Why Do People Use Fake Weights?

Despite their deceptive use on social media, there are several valid uses for fake weight plates.

1. As Movie Props

Fake weights are used as movie props so actors won’t have to lift real ones in their scenes.

It makes certain scenes more believable and it would be too hard for actors to deliver lines if they were lifting real weight plates at the time. It’s also easier for the backstage crew to change sets around between scenes.

2. For Photoshoots

Photoshoots need to be believable, too. So it is common for magazines, brands, and more to purchase and use fake plates for fitness photoshoots.

If a model needs to hold a pose for a very long time while holding some of these weights, it would be much easier for her to stay composed if the weights were fake.

3. For Circus or Wrestling Stunts

We’ve all seen those crazy stunts where strongmen are holding up weights with one hand while riding on a horse, or of wrestlers pelting each other over the head with weights.

These stunts defy reality, keep the audience’s attention and are super fun to watch, but would be downright impossible without fake weights.

4. To Brag On Social Media

gym social media

Unfortunately, some people do use fake plates to deceive others.

In today’s day and age, people do a lot of things just because it will result in viewers and followers on social media and make their image look good [1].

How does that happen?

Instagram stars use them to make their skills look even more impressive and gain fans, and potentially earn money in the process.

...Using fake weights and showcasing strength that exceeds human potential can lead highly-impressionable individuals to attempt their own supra-human lifts."
- Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D.

How Does it Affect the Fitness Industry?

sleeping on gym

Using fake weight plates is very disrespectful to legitimate powerlifters.

This sends a problematic message, as according to a study in the National Library of Medicine authenticity and quality of resistance training can significantly impact training effectiveness and safety [1].

The use of fake plates could even lead to injury. Some people look up to the achievements of fake plate users and might try to do the same lifts themselves, even if they do not have the proper strength training.

They think the lift is extremely doable because they don’t know the dumbbells are fake when, in reality, they’d need a lot more strength training to pull off those lifts.

The danger lies in the false sense of strength fake weights create, causing potential overexertion when transitioning to real weights.

According to Dr. Lushun Wang who is a double-fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, this is dangerous because this can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains, strains, or even more serious conditions like disc herniation over time.


  1. https://www.lifehack.org/681037/the-secrets-that-fitness-figures-on-instagram-dont-want-you-to-know
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7706636/
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About The Author

Isaac Robertson
Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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