Do you want to complete your home gym setup or upgrade to more solid equipment? If so, one of the equipment you will probably need is an adjustable workout bench.
Weight benches are integral in your gym equipment collection as they provide a number of options for exercising all your body muscles. Having a good weight bench is also necessary for proper form. You can use the benches with cages, dumbbells and other accessories to give your body a full workout.
Overview of Weight Benches
Lifting weight is not child’s play. Whenever you are lifting substantial weight, your muscles are at risk of getting injured. This being the case, it is important to ensure the equipment you are using can handle the task and keep you safety.
If you are lifting weight at a local gym, you will probably be confident that the gear available can handle anything you put them through. However, things are different when it comes to home weight benches.
There are many home gym equipment, some of which are not built to last for the tasks they are meant for. The equipment may look sturdy but after a few weeks of use, will break down or simply make your workouts a pain. The last thing you want is to fill your gym with equipment that will make it difficult for you to hit some heavy iron right.
In this article, I will guide you through what you should consider when buying weight benches. But first, let’s start with some basics.
Adjustable Workout Bench Basics
There are four main types of home weight benches you can go for:
- Utility Benches. These benches are also known as adjustable and can be adjusted to a flat, incline or decline positions.
- Olympic Benches. These benches have a built-in racking system, which makes weight lifting safer. These benches are also known as bench stations.
- Flat Benches. These are the standard benches found in most gyms. The benches are simply flat and do not adjust.
- Specialist Benches. These benches are not geared towards all-round versatility but more on specific muscle, groups, movement types and exercises.
Olympic benches have two uprights to support a bench press bar. The benches are popular in many gyms and most come with extra options such as leg curls and leg extensions.
Utility benches are also known as adjustable benches from the fact that they can be adjusted. The benches can be adjusted either by using steps or pin-pops. The adjustment enables them to allow for a wide range of workouts. While most of them are not built for heavy compound lifting on their own, some models come with wheels and handles that allow them to be easily moved in and out of racks.
Flat benches are typically recommended for beginners and are cheaper compared to bench stations and utility benches. The benches are simple yet durable. However, before you buy a flat bench, make sure you verify its weight capacity.
Specialist benches are usually found in gyms and are more focused on training of specific muscles through specialized movement types. Examples of these are the abdominal bench and the preacher curl seat or bench.
How to Choose the Right Workout Bench
Now that we know the types of weight benches, it’s time to choose the right one for your workout.
There are many brands of benches available in the market. As such, you can easily get overwhelmed with the choices available and end up choosing a bench that will not be right for you. I know this because when I was starting weight training, I made a couple of mistakes that lost me money and made my workouts a pain. I don’t want you to do the same mistakes I made. This is why I am providing you with the tips you should consider before buying a weight bench.
Safety is crucial when choosing a workout bench. The bench you buy should be comfortable, sturdy and make your workouts enjoyable. This way, you can maintain proper form and build muscles quickly.
So, what should you consider when choosing a weight bench for your home gym?
What to Look For in an Adjustable Workout Bench
Consider the following when comparing weight benches:
1. Weight Rating
Regardless of the type of bench you want, consider its weight rating. Benches are rated according to the amount of maximum load they can handle.
The maximum load rating refers to your body weight as well as the iron you will be lifting. For example, if you weigh 250 pounds, the bench you choose should be able to handle at least 500 pounds. However, given that the whole point of weight training is to get stronger, you should go for benches that are at least 3 times your weight.
Benches with high weight rating are constructed to be sturdy and with minimal moving parts. Benches that have a lot of moving parts cannot handle as much weight as those with a few moving parts. The moving parts create various stress points on the benches and this reduces the amount of weight that can be handled.
2. Bench Height
You should also consider the height of the bench you want to buy. If a bench is too high, you will have a hard time getting your feet on the floor. As a result, your ability to push through the floor as you bench will be limited. Moreover, it will be difficult to attain a proper lower back arch.
Still on height, avoid benches that are too low. If a bench is too low, you will not be able to sit in the ideal position. Therefore, you will not be able to exert maximum force when pressing overhead.
3. Pad Firmness
Another thing to check is the firmness of the bench pad. You will be pressing a lot of weight on the pad as you lift iron. If the pad is not firm enough, it will wear off within a few weeks and leave your back in direct contact with the hard metal or steel wooden of the bench. Therefore, make sure the pad is firm.
A simple exercise you can do to find out if the pad is firm is pressing it with your thumb. If you press the pad with the thumb firmly and feel the wooden base, this means the pad will wear out quickly. In this case, you should look for another bench with a firmer pad.
4. Bench Width
The width of the exercise bench can also affect your weight lifting training. If a bench is too wide, the movement of your lats (latissimus dorsi – the large muscles down the back) may be restricted and hence you will not be able to fully extend resistance as your elbows go below the body line. As such, your lifting motion and the weight you can lift will be restricted.
A good adjustable exercise bench should allow you to extend the lats over its sides.
Generally, weight benches can be categorized as either utility benches or rack benches.
i) Utility Benches
Utility benches do not have a rack and most of them are adjustable. However, you can also find those that are flat and fixed. The benches are usually less expensive since they do not require a lot of accessories.
The benches are usually used for dumbbell exercises.
If you are a heavy lifter, these benches will not be right for your workouts because they don’t have a safety “catch” to return the weight when you have finished an exercise.
ii) Rack Benches
These benches are tailored for heavy weight lifters who use barbells in their training. Barbells make compound movements more stable and the benches have the safety “catch” that utility benches lack.
Benches with racks can be separated or fixed. The separated benches are more versatile and can be used as a squat, with dumbbells, or combined.
Look for a bench that has a great build quality. The bench should have a firm base and be stable when you are working out. Apart from this, it should be made from high quality materials that are sturdy. A good rule of thumb is to choose weight benches with frames made from commercial grade steel tubing. A bench with a light frame can begin wobbling when you are engaging in intense workouts.
Before you buy a bench, check the manufacture’s specification about it. Make sure the weight load and user weight rating are within your range.
For the most effective workout, you should choose an adjustable workout bench. The bench should allow the back pad to be adjusted over a variety of angles. The adjustments should allow you to exercise at the flat, incline and decline positions.
An adjustable weight bench will give you more options for weight training and allow you to efficiently target different muscles when working out.
8. Bench Size
Since you are looking for a home gym bench, consider the amount of space available for your workouts. Most weight benches do not take a lot of floor space. Moreover, some of them are foldable and can be easily stored out of sight. With foldable benches, you can store them under the bed to make room for other things you may want to do.
Generally, utility benches take less space than weight rack benches. Rack benches are not easy to tuck away and store.
Weight benches with racks are safer since they have a safety catch. If you are lifting heavy weights or bars, rack benches will be ideal. This is especially if you are working out alone at home.
Check the material used to make the seat and back support padding. If the padding is thin, your workout will not be comfortable. Go for a weight bench that has at least 2” thick of upholstery. Moreover, make sure the upholstery is box-stitched to prevent wear and tear.
11. Workout Stations
Some weight benches come with additional features such as high pulley stations for exercises such as tricep pushdowns and lat pull-downs, preacher pads for forearm and bicep exercises, and leg developer attachments for extensions and curls. The weight benches allow for a variety of workout exercises and hence make excellent additions for your home gym.
Irrespective of the weight bench you decide to buy, you will need some weights to use it with. If you have bought a utility bench, you can use dumbbell weights with them. On the other hand, rack benches need more equipment; a weight and barbell set.
Confirm that the length of the barbell you want to buy is compatible with the rack. Moreover, the length of the bar should be wide enough to fit the width of the rack
Personal Traits to Consider
Now that we have checked the most important things to consider in weight benches, you need to consider your personal situation. You are unique in your own way and a bench that will work for another person may not be necessarily the best for you. Moreover, you know your weight training goals better, which may be quite different from another person’s goal.
Therefore, you should also consider your personal characteristics and preferences when looking for an exercise weight bench. Here are some questions I suggest you ask yourself:
i) Is a decline bench important for my workout?
The adjustable workout benches available in the market do not all offer a decline position. Decline-only benches can be purchased separately. Therefore, if you already have one at your home gym, it will not make sense to add another one.
If most of your weight training involves decline work, look for a bench with decline function.
ii) How much weight can I lift?
You should know the amount of weight you can lift to determine the weight capacity to look for in an exercise bench. If you are carrying substantial weights, go for benches with a high weight capacity. Avoid low-capacity benches as they can easily get damaged if they can’t support you and the additional weights.
If your aim is to simply stay fit through light weight training, you can go for low capacity, entry-level benches.
iii) How many positions do I require?
The adjustable workout bench you choose may be used in various positions. Cheap workout benches usually offer a handful positions while high end benches can offer over 10 positions.
Think of the training you usually engage in and what you plan to do with the bench. Are you looking to grow your chest and torso muscles and hence need a bench that will make it possible for you to hit many different inclines? Or will your training be easily accomplished with a few different inclines?
iv) Will the bench be long enough for my height?
Consider your height before buying a weight training bench. If you are over 6 feet tall, it can be difficult to find a bench that will accommodate your height. Make sure you check the length of the bench you want to buy. If you already have a weight bench, use it to guide you on the length to work with.
v) Where will the bench be set up?
Consider the space available for the bench setup. Are you going to set up your bench in a permanent position at your garage gym or will you be occasionally moving it around? Also, will you want it to be rolled away in storage? Answering these questions will help you make the right decision regarding the type of adjustable workout bench to buy.
If you plan to store the bench under the bed, choose a foldable one, probably an entry level option. If you are going for a high-end heavy duty bench that comes pre-assembled, keep in mind that it may not be foldable and hence can be difficult to store out of sight.
vi) How does the bench look?
Some people prefer weight benches that look awesome. Others are more concerned about functionality rather than aesthetics. It will be up to you to decide on what to go for. You can go for a traditional weight bench design or choose one of the new modern designs that are a little bit pricier.
vi) How much budget do I have?
Finally, consider the budget you have for the weight bench. The budget should be informed by how frequently you will be training. For instance, it won’t make sense to fork $1200 for a weight bench if you only lift occasionally. On the same note, budgeting $100 for a bench that you will be using every other day will be a waste of money.
Generally, with weight benches, price dictates quality. You can find excellent entry-level class benches that are about $100. These benches can last long when taken care of well. However, if you are planning to be carrying weight regularly, you will need a bench that can withstand a lot of shock and wear. In this case, you should be prepared to pay slightly more for a good bench.
Benefits of Weight Benches
Before the invention of weight benches, the most common ways of exercising the pectoral muscles was through a supine press. This involves lies with your back on the floor and engaging in various exercises. Most people without weight benches still engage in supine press routines.
However, by using weight benches, you can build your muscles faster and more conveniently than the antiquated supine press or standing exercises can allow you. Below are some benefits of using weight benches for your workout:
1. Great for Beginners
When you are new to weight training, you may find it difficult to maintain proper breathing, technique and posture at the same time. A weight bench will make it easy for you to learn new training exercises without falling over or using the momentum of your body.
2. Can Be Used for Multiple Purposes
You are not restricted to using weight benches only with weight equipment. More than this, you can use the benches for calisthenics, core exercises, pushups, and step-ups. This makes the equipment great if you want to set up a home or garage gym.
3. Target Hard-to-Reach Parts of the Body
The inflexibility of the muscles makes some exercises hard to complete. Sometimes, you can easily access the muscles by sitting rather than standing. A good example of this is when you are exercising the rear deltoids using dumbbells.
When you sit on a weight bench, your body is more stable. This makes it easier to exercise the deltoids.
4. Target Different Muscle Angles
One of the most difficult parts of doing weight exercises is hyperextension. However, this becomes easy when you are using weight benches. The benches will help to keep your posture straight and hence strengthen your lower back muscles. As a result, your core stability will improve during workouts.
Other benefits of using weight benches include:
- Regular weight training helps to increase your lung capacity and bone density. Training also helps to tone your muscles, improve stamina and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Weight benches provide excellent lumbar and core support through exercises. When using the benches, you can remain focused when working on the muscle. The benches are ideal for beginner weightlifters because they promote proper posture and reduce the risk of injury until the exercise becomes familiar.
- When you exercises on a regular basis, for example between 2 -3 days a week, your stress levels and likelihood of suffering from depression will reduce. This is because when you exercise, the body produces endorphins which act as a positive stimulant to the brain.
- Buying a weight bench will help you save on expensive gym fees. When you have a bench at home, you can train at your own convenience and without worrying about time restrictions.
- Weight benches allow you to carry out a variety of exercises that can be done at the gym. For example, you can choose to use barbells or dumbbells with the benches for various workouts.
- Unlike is the case with a multi gym that forces a fixed path of motion, weight benches allow you to follow a more natural path using free weights. In turn, you can reduce the risk of injury and focus better on the correct muscles for quicker development.
Weight Bench Exercises
There are a number of exercises that can be accomplished with a weight bench. For beginners, I have summarized the major exercise regimes that will get you started in the right path.
1. Ab Crunch
For this exercise, you will need Barbell
To do the exercise;
- Make sure the bench angle is set to decline
- Get your feet underneath the foam roller at the front
- Keep your core tight
- Without arching your back, recline your upper body slowly backwards to about 45°
- Hold on for a second or two before coming back up.
2. Leg Extension
For this exercise, you will need Barbell
To do the exercise;
- Hook your legs underneath the foam rollers on the leg developer
- Make sure there is a suitable amount of weight at the weight post
- Curl upwards with your legs until they are almost straight
- Hold the legs for a second or two and then bring them down slowly.
3. Seated Bicep Curl
For this exercise, you will need Barbell
To do the exercise;
- Adjust the back support pad to a 90° angle
- Let the dumbbells hang by your side
- Make sure your palms are facing out
- Curl upwards without moving your elbow
- Hold the contraction at the top for a second or two
- Bring the weight slowly back until your arm is straight
- Repeat the exercise
4. Tricep Press
For this exercise, you will need Barbell
To do the exercise;
- Lie on the bench in a flat position
- Align the barbell above your chest with a shoulder width group
- Bring the bar slowly to just above your chest (make sure your elbows don’t flare out)
- Push back the barbells up quickly
5. Seated Shoulder Press
For this exercise, you will need dumbbells or barbell.
To do the exercise:
- Make sure the bench is set to a full 90° position
- Lift the weight directly over your head
- Bring your weight down slowly to your elbows to form a right angle
- Then push the weight upwards
6. Seated Include Dumbbell Row
For this exercise, you will need dumbbells.
To do the exercise:
- Set the bench at 45° incline and lay on it with your chest
- Take the dumbbells when they are palm facing in a neutral grip position hanging below you
- Bring the weight slowly upwards towards your core as you keep the elbows in tight
- Hold the weights for a second or two at the top
- Return them to the starting position
7. Chest Presses
For this exercise, you will need dumbbells or barbells.
To do the exercise:
- Lie down either in a flat, incline or decline position
- Lift the weight vertically to align with your chest
- Bring the weight down to your chest while making sure the elbows are in tight
- Bring the weight down just when you are about to touch the chest
- Hold the weight for a second or two and then push it up quickly.
Hopefully, you now know what you should consider when looking for a weight bench for your garage or home gym. At the end of the day, you should get a quality bench that will take your training to the next level.
If you are just starting with weight training, you can find excellent benches that are under $100. On the other hand, if you are lifting more weight, you definitely need a high quality workout bench that will stand the test of time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Weight Benches
I am just looking to start weight training. What bench would be suitable for me?
If you are starting weight training, you may be tempted to just go for a cheap and cheerful little starter bench. However, it is worth spending a little bit more to benefit from durability and safety. Generally, you should be looking to spend from $150 to $200 for a decent bench. Check the best benches under $200.
I have a small space at home. What weight bench will be ideal?
If you have small space for the area you intend to set up the home gym, you should choose a foldable weight bench. The benches are only recommended if it is an absolute necessity you have them. This is because the folding mechanism can affect their overall stability.
Generally, foldable benches are less solid than the non-foldable options. However they are a great option if you will have small space, for example, you live in an attachment. Check the selection of foldable benches here.
How difficult is it to assemble weight benches? Do they take long?
Some weight benches come already assembled. For those that do not come assembled, it is not difficult to fix them up.
All benches come with clear instruction manuals on how they should be assembled. If you buy a utility bench, it can take you about 40 minutes to assemble (most people take less than 20 minutes). On the other hand, for a rack bench, you may take longer, about one hour maximum to assemble.
Weight benches generally feature pulley systems and hence are not difficult to assemble. However, with some benches, you may need someone to help you hold the pieces as you fix them.
How do the benches come delivered?
The package will depend with the company you are ordering a bench from. Majority of the benches are fastened and come packed in sturdy boards.
There are different types of workout benches that can fit your particular needs. If you are just starting out and are overwhelmed with the variety of options, I recommend you go for a flat bench.
On the other hand, if you want to supplement your existing gym equipment, an Olympic/bench station will make sense. If you want an all-encompassing piece of equipment, you should check the variety of adjustable benches available.
Keep reading this website for tips and reviews of the most popular and highly functional weight benches in the market. You can either go to all reviews or jump straight to the top rated weight benches I recommend this year.