Weight training is a great way to bulk up and get healthy. At the same time, you need to make sure that you choose the right equipment for the job. While many people pay extra attention to the quality of weights they use, fitness benches are perhaps even more important. The workout bench that you choose helps make sure that you get the support you need and makes sure that you get the most out of your lifting exercises.
Types of Fitness Benches
There are many different workout bench options on the market today, but almost all of them fall into one of four major categories. The type of bench you choose should be based on your exercise needs and the space available in your workout area. The four types of gym bench include the following:
- Adjustable benches, with positions that can be changed to fit multiple different workout types.
- Flat benches, which are designed to facilitate straightforward lifting exercises.
- Olympic benches, which provide a built-in racking system and are designed with a higher level of safety in mind.
- Specialist benches, which are tailored to one particular exercise.
Each of these different gym bench types are described in more detail below so you can decide which are the best fitness benches for you.
You can typically modify an adjustable bench to fit three or more exercise positions. The most basic positions are flat, included, and declined. You should go with a flat setting if you want to use the equipment as a press bench. The inclined or declined positions work excellently for specialized exercises and resistance training to help tone muscles that bench-pressing along won’t touch. Most adjustable benches have a seat that stays flat and a back portion that you can move up and down to suit your needs. You usually make the adjustments by moving a pin or slider to the desired setting. Despite the moving parts, this utility bench is designed for stability and functionality.
You should consider an adjustable workout bench if the following is true for you:
- You plan to work on both your arms and legs.
- You are looking for one bench that can handle a variety of different exercise needs.
- You value versatility in your exercise routines.
- You have a set workout plan that requires weightlifting in multiple different positions.
If you want a straightforward press bench and aren’t worried about the utility offered, a flat bench is most likely the best choice for you. This bench lies flat and offers no major adjustments after assembly, although you may be able to change the height to fit your needs. Some flat benches are particularly lightweight and can be folded downward, allowing you to store them easily or take them with you when you go traveling. Others are heavy enough to serve as a permanent fixture in your chosen workout room. Regardless of the weight, the common denominator for flat benches in that they cannot be angled or adjusted in shape—the exercises you do on this bench all involve lying flat and benching weight.
You should consider a flat workout bench if the following is true for you:
- You are looking for a bench and have a tight budget.
- You aren’t concerned about having the option for multiple exercise positions.
- The majority of your lifting exercises require straightforward bench presses.
- You want to be able to fold the bench easily and put it away or bring it with you when you go traveling.
An Olympic bench provides both a utility bench and additional equipment to help you store your weights and adjust your workout area to fit your needs. These benches are often ideal for people who take more than a casual interest in weightlifting, as they provide everything you need for multiple exercises in one station. Many Olympic benches also include leg curlers for additional exercises. While these represent some of the best fitness benches available, they also take up more space than most other bench models. These benches are very much stationery pieces of equipment that you want in a workout room or gym, not something that you can move around a lot after the initial setup.
You should consider an Olympic workout bench if the following is true for you:
- You have an interest in developing both your arms and legs.
- You are an experienced weightlifter who wants a complete bodybuilding experience in a single workout bench.
- You have a designated room or large space reserved as your workout area.
- You are willing to pay a little bit more for a higher level of quality.
While many workout benches provide a degree of versatility and can work well with multiple exercises, specialist benches are tailored toward a particular workout routine. This could include a broad focus, such as muscle building on the chest or legs. Other times, the workout bench might be specially designed for one particular exercise. In that case, the bench often comes with an instructional video or other tutorial that lets you know the proper way to utilize the equipment. These benches do have some flexibility and can be adjusted to fit other exercises, but you should only do so if you know the equipment well and are experienced in making such adjustments. Most often, owners of a specialist bench have multiple benches that they can switch between to target different areas of their bodies.
You should consider a specialist workout bench if the following is true for you:
- You have the money and space to purchase multiple workout benches that can target different areas of your body.
- You have one specific exercise upon which you want to focus.
- Your doctor or physical therapist has recommended a particular machine to help build your strength in a specific area.
- You get the majority of your exercise from other machinery or outdoor routines and want something that can help you focus on one underserved area.
Other Factors to Consider
While each of the workout bench types listed above has strengths and weaknesses, the type alone should not be the only deciding factor when you choose your bench. You should also consider the type of exercises you plan to do, whether you need additional leg support, what adjustability levels you need, and whether you need a bench that has a high level of portability. Furthermore, you should be aware of the bench’s weight capacity. Each of these factors is explored in more detail below.
Type of Exercise
First of all, what do you need your workout bench for? Do you plan to lift plate weights or do you simply need a flat surface for dumbbells? If you lift dumbbells or another smaller weight, an adjustable or flat bench will probably work best for you. Plate weights, on the other hand, require a rack upon which you can rest the weight after you are done lifting. If you plan to use multiple types of plate weights, an Olympic bench is almost certainly the choice for you.
Some benches provide a leg brace or other support and some don’t. Whether you need extra leg support on your bench probably comes down to personal preference. Some people like to have the feeling of security that lets them know they won’t slip during an exercise, while others don’t feel it to be necessary. Benches with leg braces tend to cost more money but are usually worth it if you feel that you need that level of support.
Adjustability and Portability
Do you expect multiple people to use your weight bench? If so, an adjustable bench might be right for you. This allows each person to make sure that the bench is optimized for their needs. Portability is linked to adjustability in many ways—if you plan to move your bench often or want to travel with it, you should probably avoid the bulkier Olympic bench models. On the other hand, if you are the only user of your bench and don’t plan to travel with the equipment, then you don’t have to worry about these factors as much.
As you lift weights, you will get stronger. This means that you’ll eventually be able to lift more weight. When you buy a bench, look at the weight allowance of the equipment and select something that allows you to grow. When considering weight allowances, you need to factor in both your body weight and the exercise weights you plan to use. Choose a bench that can support your current maximum combined weight plus a little more so you don’t have to buy all new equipment as you bulk up.
A weight bench is one of the most basic but essential pieces of exercise equipment that you own. Keep the tips above in mind and take the time to shop around for the bench that best supports your needs. By doing so you will put yourself in the best possible situation to get stronger and healthier day by day.