If you are serious about working out and want to boost muscle mass and increase your strength and power, you may want to consider adding a weight bench to your home gym. According to Kyle Kercher, a certified strength and conditioning expert and assistant professor of sport management in the Kinesiology Department at Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington, a weight bench can be useful for lifters of all skill levels. “It’s a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for body weight, dumbbell, barbell and kettlebell exercises for beginners, intermediate or advanced lifters, and it offers additional opportunities for upper-, lower- and full-body exercises,” he said. He added that weight benches can be pretty affordable and don’t take up as much space as other pieces of equipment, like a treadmill or squat rack.
While the experts we spoke to agree that weight benches are an excellent fitness tool, they also stated that if you are a casual lifter or more into high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a weight bench is not essential. Your health should also be a consideration, they said. “If you have problems with balance and coordination or suffer from vertigo or have problems lying down and getting up on your own, you should probably avoid a weight bench,” said Chris LaMarco, owner and head coach of CrossFit Nauset in Orleans, Massachusetts.
SKIP AHEAD How to shop for weight benches | Best weight-lifting benches
If you or your doctor thinks incorporating a weight bench into your exercise regimen is a good idea, it can provide a stable surface for a variety of strength-training exercises, like chest presses, barbell bench presses, dumbbell bench presses and dumbbell pull-overs (more on this below). To help you decide which weight bench is for you, we reached out to experts to break down the differences, including the pros and cons of a flat bench versus an adjustable one and gathered their top picks with high user ratings.
Flat weight benches versus adjustable
Flat weight benches, which typically cost between $150 to $250, are generally less expensive than adjustable weight benches, which range from $200 to $500. The different between the two is functionality: according to CrossFit’s LaMarco, a flat bench provides a solid stable platform, but an adjustable bench, which can be set in a variety of positions, including flat, inclined, declined and seated, offers more variety and allows you to train different muscle groups in the chest, shoulders and triceps. “ You can triple the number of exercises with an adjustable bench,” he said, “and some adjustable benches also have an adjustable seat to keep you in a safe seated position while you lift overhead.”
Flat benches are also lighter, so they are more portable, but many adjustable benches can fold up to be stored away. Whichever you choose, both experts agree that finding one you are comfortable with and best suits your needs is most important. Here are the key factors our experts say you should consider when looking for the perfect weight bench for you.
Shopping weight benches: 6 things to consider
- Stability: “From a safety standpoint, you want to make sure you can count on your weight bench to maintain its structure while you are lifting,” said Kercher. Whether a bench is stable enough for you will depend on how much weight you lift. Kercher said that if you’re an advanced weight lifter who lifts more than 100 pounds, you might want a sturdier bench that can withstand and support more weight, whereas beginners can settle for a basic, more affordable bench with a lower weight capacity (around 600 to 700 pounds, including body weight). As you become a more advanced lifter, the weight you lift will usually increase, Kercher noted, so a bench that works for you as a beginner may be insufficient as you gain experience. In any case, our experts said you should always make sure the bench sits flat on the floor and has rubber grips to prevent it from moving around.
- Bench Weight: The heavier the bench, generally speaking, the more stable it is, said certified strength and conditioning specialist Kristina Jennings. Kercher added that a bench’s weight also impacts how portable it is — if you plan to move it around or store it away after use, then you might prefer something lighter. “Some weight benches have handles and wheels so you can roll it around,” said LaMarco. “You don’t want to have to lift and carry a cumbersome weight bench.”
- Weight capacity: Your bench not only needs to support your body weight but the weight of the equipment you are lifting. Our experts advise investing in a bench that has a maximum user weight of around 600 to 700 pounds.
- Size: If you are taller than 6 feet, you need to make sure the bench is long enough so that it supports your neck and head. According to our experts, a 45-inch weight bench, when lying flat, should be sufficient for most people. If inclined, the portion that supports your back should be about 30 inches so it can properly support your torso and back. Always try it out before purchasing to see if it’s comfortable.
- Padding: LaMarco recommended looking for padding that’s about 1 inch thick. “The padding keeps your spine aligned while performing certain movements. If it’s too thin and you lose your balance, it can cause an injury,” he said. To test the bench pad’s durability, press your finger into the padding – if it depresses more than halfway, the pad is not supportive enough.
- Accessories: Some weight benches come with accessories and attachments, like barbell racks, elbow pads and leg extenders. But you can always buy these separately.
Best weight benches, according to experts
Using the criteria above, we asked our experts which weight benches they recommend for an at-home gym. Here are their top picks, which include both adjustable and flat benches, from the most budget-friendly to splurge-worthy, all with a weight capacity over 600 pounds for all skill levels.
Flat weight benches
Tru Grit Flat Utility Weight Bench
LaMarco said he has this budget-friendly bench in his gym. “It’s from a great new company and is a little more economical but still great quality,” he said. “It isn’t going to wobble when you lay on it, and it’s wide enough so you can remain stable under weight and get both of your shoulder blades to remain on the bench.” The Tru Grit is 50 inches long and 23 inches wide and has a maximum weight capacity of 600 pounds, says the brand.
Rogue Fitness Monster Utility Bench 2.0
Both LaMarco and Kercher recommended the Rogue Fitness 2.0 as a premium flat bench option for advanced lifters. “This would be the pinnacle of flat benches for home,” said LaMarco. The frame is constructed of steel and comes in several options for height and pad thickness. You can get the bench in Shorty (15.25 inches with a standard pad and 17.5 inches with Rogue’s Fat Pador Standard height (17.5 inches with a standard pad and 19.75 inches with the Fat Pad. The Standard Pad is 40 inches long and 2.5 inches thick; the Fat Pad’s length is 50 inches with a 4.5-inch thickness. The bench has a single-column front foot design, which Rogue Fitness says gives lifters more room to place their feet while lifting and allows users to store the bench vertically. It also comes with rubber foot pads as well as two wheels on one end to make transport easier.
Adjustable weight benches
Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max Bench
Kercher recommended this bench as a lower-cost adjustable option, suitable for someone who needs a bench that’s easily transported, or a beginner who doesn’t want to break the bank. You can switch between 12 angle settings — from -20 degrees to 80 degrees and its triangular support structure and extended leg stabilizers give the bench added stability. The bench, which has a weight capacity of 800 pounds, is also foldable and can be used by people as tall as 6 foot 4 inches, according to Fitness Reality.
Perform Better Extreme Adjustable Bench
Jennings described this bench, which has a welded frame, as “top of the line” and recommended it “if you’re looking to splurge.” She called it a great choice for seasoned lifters because of its durability. The bench back is adjustable to five different angles — 0, 20, 35, 45 and 82 degrees — and the seat also has five adjustable settings. The bench comes equipped with a hydraulic piston assist to help with bench adjustments and a handle and wheels for added portability, according to the company. The bench weighs 100 pounds and has a weight capacity of 1,000 pounds, says the brand.
Flybird Adjustable Bench
Jennings recommended this adjustable, foldable bench as a quality space-saver that’s great for beginners. It’s also Select writer Barbara Booth’s personal workout bench of choice: “ You get a lot of value for the money. It has enough incline/decline settings for the average user, it’s comfortable because it has a nice wide seat and backrest, and it comes almost completely assembled ,” said Booth. You can adjust the bench to six different angles and the seat to four different positions. The frame is made of steel and can hold up to 600 pounds, according to the company. In Jennings’ experience the angle adjustments are simple and the price is reasonable. “It’s held up well for me even with heavier weight, and the cushioning has also been both comfortable and supportive,”said Jennings.
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