Weight Benches: The Definitive Guide

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever find a gym that lacks a weight bench. It is a vital piece of equipment and should be included in any home gym set up regardless of whether you opt for a power rack or not.

Finding the right bench for you will depend on how much space you have (this will determine the “footprint”) and what exercises you intend to perform (this will influence whether you require an adjustable bench and any extras. You should always choose a weight bench that has a high weight capacity rather than saving money on a bench that you will eventually break or outgrow.

TOP RECOMMENDATION

Rogue Adjustable Bench 2.0

rogue adjustable bench 2.0

The Rogue Adjustable Bench 2.0 is a fantastic weight bench that is durable, versatile and not outrageously priced. In fact, it was specifically designed to offer more options and comfort that the original model whilst also being more affordable.

It is made from laser-cut 2×3” 11-gauge steel, so you know it will be able to take a huge amount of punishment.

The user can adjust the bench to 6 different incline positions – from flat (0 degrees) to approximately 85 degrees. In addition, you can also adjust the seat to ensure your comfort is maximized throughout the range of incline angles.

Additional features include rubber feet – for floor protection – and wheels, which you will definitely appreciate when maneuvering your bench in and out of your power rack between pressing and squatting.

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Exercises you can do with a weight bench

Even if you only have a flat weight bench, you will be able to perform lots of different exercises, including those that involve compound movements, such as the bench press. This of course assumes that you also have dumbbells or a barbell and weight plates. In general, you will be able to perform more exercises with dumbbells than with a barbell.

You can do the following popular exercises with just a flat bench and some dumbbells:

  • dumbbell bench press
  • dumbbell flies
  • dumbbell rows
  • skull crushers

Even without any weights at all, you can use a bench to perform body weight exercises; for example:

  • dips
  • dragon flags

Should you have an adjustable bench, you will be able to vary exercises by performing them at different inclines. In addition, an adjustable bench will open up a whole range of different exercises – for example those that require you to be sitting upright, such as the shoulder press.

Olympic Benches vs Standard Benches

When it comes to weight benches, the main choice you will have to make is whether to buy an Olympic bench or a standard bench. Olympic benches tend to be sturdier and larger but this is a generalization and one type is not necessarily better than the other. In this guide, we will walk you through the main differences between Olympic and standard benches.

Olympic Bench

The Olympic bench is longer and wider than a standard bench. It is also capable of supporting more weight and so is perhaps more common in commercial gyms. Olympic benches tend to be attached to uprights with hooks to rack your barbell. This can be handy, but also means that they can be less versatile.

Advantages

  • Sturdy. The Olympic weight bench is a sturdy piece of equipment which is designed for use with Olympic barbells and plates. As such it is intended for advanced weight training. Olympic benches will often be constructed out of high quality, durable high-grade composite steel. Due to their size and construction, these benches should not feel unstable.
  • High weight capacity. Olympic benches are heavy duty equipment that can support many hundreds of pounds. In fact, Rogue claims (somewhat tongue in cheek) that its Utility Bench is “heavy duty enough for a tank to sit on“, which should give you comfort that it will meet all of your power lifting needs. Olympic benches typically have thick padding to help support heavy weight loads.
  • No need to upgrade. Given the solid construction and high weight capacity, you will not outgrow an Olympic bench. It’s a lot more cost efficient to buy a good bench straightaway rather than wasting money on a cheap bench you will have to throw out later.

Disadvantages

  • Expensive. This make only be a factor if you are on a tight budget. However, it is possible to buy a reasonably priced Olympic bench, especially if you don’t require it to be adjustable.
  • Large footprint. The Olympic weight bench tends to be bulky and takes up more room than a standard bench. This may be a concern if you only have limited space for your home gym.
  • May not be adjustable. Olympic benches often do not have an adjustable seat and so can only be used to performs lifts in the supine position (e.g. flat bench press).

Standard bench

Advantages

  • Light. The smaller size and lighter weight of the standard bench can be helpful if it needs to be moved often.
  • Small footprint. A standard weight bench is great for small home gyms where space is limited.
  • Adjustable. The standard bench is often adjustable. This opens up the possibility of performing a range of different exercises, as explained in detail below.
  • Cheap. A standard bench typically costs less than an Olympic bench.

 Disadvantages

  • Less sturdy. The main drawback of a standard bench is that it generally isn’t as durable as an Olympic bench and may have a very limited weight capacity. If you do decide to buy a standard bench, make sure you find a model that boasts a generous weight capacity (and be sure to include your own bodyweight in any calculations).

Flat vs Adjustable Benches

Another factor to consider when buying a weight bench is whether you want your weight bench to be adjustable. An adjustable bench allows the user to move the back rest to position it at different angles.

flat v adjustable

Some adjustable benches are incline only, which means that they can only be adjusted to position the back rest at varying levels of incline (i.e. between sitting upright and lying prone). An incline bench is great for working your upper chest. It also allows the user to perform the shoulder press – an important compound movement.

As well as the incline bench, there are also benches that can be adjusted so as to be placed in both incline and decline positions. These tend to be more expensive than incline only benches.

An example is the Ironmaster Super Bench Adjustable Weight-Lifting Bench, which allows the user to adjust to 11 angles from decline to upright.

ironmaster bench

Ironmaster super adjustable bench

If you decide you want an adjustable bench, you should give consideration to the number of different angles that the bench can be placed at. Typically, a bench will have slots at varying distances that the adjustment (usually push-pin) mechanism will slot into to dictate the relevant angles of the back rest.

The more “slots” there are, the greater the number of different positions (angles) you will be able to place your back rest at. If there are too few placements, you may find that you are not able to target a particular muscle group effectively or that you cannot perform a movement comfortably. As such, it is important that you check how many placements there are for your adjustable bench.

A typical commercial grade bench can adjusted to around 6-9 different positions.

Features

Wheels

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If you will be moving your weight bench frequently, it’s a good idea to find a model that has wheels. For example, you might want to move your bench in and out of your power rack when you alternate between exercises like the bench press and squats.

It is less common to see wheels on flat benches because they tend to be very light anyway and are easy to pick up and move.

weight bench

Adjustable Seat

Some benches have seats that can be adjusted as well as the back rest.

Where the seat is adjustable you can change the angle to maximize comfort. For example, you may wish to adjust the seat to ensure that it is always at a right angle to the back rest to maintain posture whilst incline pressing.

adjustable seat weight bench

 

Preacher Curl Platform

Some benches come with a preacher curl platform, allowing you to save money on buying a separate piece of equipment. This is a great addition if you consider the preacher curl to be an integral part of your routine.

However, one downside is that a preacher curl platform might get in the way and prevent you from using your bench for other exercises, such as dumbbell rows. If possible, try to find a bench which has a preacher curl add-on that be removed or folded away if not in use.

It is relatively unusual to find the preacher curl platform on the more high-end benches, so be wary about quality.

 

 

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