Training with weights is serious business. Every time you pick up a decent amount of resistance, you are putting your body on the line. That’s why the equipment that you use has to be up to the job. If it’s not, you risk serious injury.
When you join a gym, you can feel pretty safe that the benches and racks are going to take anything you throw at them. But the home gym scene is something else entirely. A lot of gear, especially adjustable weight benches, falls into the cheap and nasty category.
Finding the best adjustable bench for your needs is fundamental to getting your workout right. The right bench will provide you with a more efficient workout. It will also set you up with the rigid, stable base that you need to attack the iron with confidence.
We’ve scoured the marketplace to find the 5 very best adjustable weight benches that are out there. In this article, we’ll share with you the results of our search.
Summary: The Best Adjustable Benches
Know Your Weight Bench
The huge range of home benches in the marketplace can be divided into 3 categories:
- Bench Station – this is the type of bench that you see in a commercial gym – it has two uprights that hold the bar above your head. Often a bench station will have extra attachments to allow for such exercises as leg extensions/curls, preacher curls, and lat pull-downs.
- Adjustable Benches – also known as a utility bench, this is the most versatile option and can be adjusted for flat, incline or decline work.
- Standard Flat Bench – the most basic home bench, this one has a flat base that is fixed.
What to Look For in an Adjustable Bench?
The most important thing to take note of when looking for an adjustable bench is the amount of total weight that the bench can handle safely. The rating given to a bench is an indication of the total maximum load they can handle (your weight plus the total weight of the bar).
Be aware that if you are able to bench press 250 pounds, and you weigh another 200 pounds, you will want a bench with a rating of at least 550 pounds. After all, your goal is to increase your bench weight. So you will want to buy a bench that will give you a decent amount of strength increase – 100 pounds is about right.
You will find that flat benches will give you the highest weight rating. That’s because they have fewer moving parts. Adjustable benches have a number of moving parts that create stress points. This brings down the weight rating of the bench.
To achieve a high weight rating, a bench needs to be very rigidly constructed. The welds need to be solid and it needs to have a minimum of moving parts.
The height of the bench is extremely important. You need to be at the ideal height in order to produce the force that you need on the bench press. A bench that is too low will have your body angling downward. This will put your torso at an awkward angle, preventing you from being able to exert the force you need when pressing.
If the bench is too high, you might not be able to reach the floor with your feet. As a result, you won’t be able to push through the floor, which is an important aspect of bench press success.
Comfort is an important aspect of exercise. If the bench is going to pinch your neck and spine, you will not be able to give your full concerted effort to the exercise at hand. That’s why pad thickness and firmness is important. You don’t want a pad that is either too hard or too soft. If you are able to press your thumb into the pad and touch the base, then it is too soft. If you can’t get your thumb down more than a centimeter, it is too firm.
Some benches are so wide that you are unable to get free and natural movement of your latissimus dorsi muscles. You’ll notice this to a certain extent when you do the bench press, but even more when you do exercises that take your arms below the line of your body, like dumbbell flyes. A bench that is too wide will, therefore, minimize your range of motion and the amount of poundage you can handle.
A bench that is of correct width for you will have your lats (that’s the upper back muscles) slightly off the bench.
Should You Buy an Adjustable Bench?
The obvious advantage of an adjustable bench is that it is adjustable. It allows you to vary the angle of the back support so that you can perform your exercises on an angle whether it is an incline or a flat. Some, but not all, adjustable benches will also allow you to angle the bar on a decline that is below the flat level.
There are, however, some factors that may not make the choice of an adjustable over a fixed bench so straightforward. Let’s consider the pros and cons:
- You can adjust the angle of the bench to bring to 90%. This makes it ideal for such moves as the shoulder press.
- You can set the angle of the bench to an incline to more effectively target a portion of the working muscle.
- Adjustable benches often have a leg brace feature to hold your lower body firmly in place when you are doing angled pressing movements.
- Adjustable benches are more expensive than standard flat benches
- Adjustable benches are not as rigid as flat benches and will not have as high a weight rating. This is because they have more moving parts.
- Adjustable benches generally sit higher off the floor to allow for the incline mechanism, which is housed under the bench.
Adjustable Bench Reviews
The Bowflex SelectTech 3.1 is a great home bench at a great price. Though not as versatile as the Bowflex SelectTech 5.1, it still provides for a decent range of angle adjustment and provides the rigidity that most home users will need.
The Bowflex SelectTech 3.1 is a slightly less beefed up version of the 5.1. Rather than 6 adjustable bench settings, it only has 4, including an upright and a decline position. The bench, though solid in its own right, is not quite as robust as the 5.1. The bench features a wide, comfortable seat. You also get a removable leg brace. The bench is finished in top quality vinyl and provides a good level of padding that is comfortable but not too soft.
Value for money
The Bowflex SelectTech 3.1 is listed online for around $135. It carries a Bowflex 15-year warranty on the frame and a one-year warranty on the upholstery.
The Bowflex SelectTech 3.1 is a very well constructed model that looks like it should cost more than it does. The saddle is very firm and all the movable parts fit together securely. The frame is made from heavy-duty commercial quality steel. It also comes with wheels for ease of transport. The maximum weight rating is 480 pounds.
The Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 is a top quality bench that provides everything that you need in an adjustable workstation.
The Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 allows for adjustment to six different bench angles. This provides you with a lot of variety to hit your muscles from just the right angle. Seat adjustment is quick and easy, requiring a simple lift and slide action.
This bench allows for decline angle work. It even provides a leg brace to secure your body when doing angled pressing work.
Value for money
The Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 can be purchased for around $230.
It comes with a Bowflex 30-year warranty on the frame and a one-year warranty on the upholstery.
The Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 is a very sturdily constructed bench. The backrest is wide enough to support your head and shoulders but not too wide that it will restrict the movement of the lats.
The bench comes unassembled. It will take some 30 minutes to put this bench together. The bench is finished in stylish red and black. It comes with wheels for ease of movement.
The CAP Barbell Deluxe Utility Bench offers an impressive selection of seat adjustments but does not provide a decline bench option. It’s a well-priced unit that is a solid and reliable basic bench. Taller people may find that the indented bench shape doesn’t give enough shoulder support.
The CAP Barbell Bench provides 3 angle settings for the seat of 0, 15 and 30 degrees. The back (main part), however, has a total of seven angle settings, including a 90-degree angle to allow for upright barbell and dumbbell exercises. The angle adjustment is quick and easy. There is no decline on this bench.
Value for money
The CAP Barbell Deluxe Utility bench is available online for around $140. This makes it comparable with the Bowflex 3.1, which also offers a decline function.
The CAP Barbell Utility bench has a heavy-duty steel frame. The mechanism works well and all parts fit together securely. The seat and back support are generously padded, but not too soft to impair your workout performance.
The Body Solid Powerline Folding Bench is a solid, versatile bench that comes in at a good price point. The variety of angles is impressive, although at 17 degrees the decline may not be pronounced enough for some users.
The Body Solid Powerline Folding Bench provides a good fit for most body types. It provides plenty of head support and is not too wide that it impairs movement of the lats. It is adjustable to flat, incline, and decline through a quick and easy mechanism. The bench has 7 angle positions from -17 degrees on the decline to 85 degrees on the upright.
Value for money
The Body Solid Powerline Folding Bench can be purchased for around $150. This represents very good value for a seven position foldable bench.
The Body Solid Powerline Folding Bench has a sturdily constructed frame. The bench arrives mostly pre-assembled, which is a nice bonus. In factory fitting of the individual parts ensures that they are very solidly put together. This bench provides a locking bar for the feet. However, this is not the most robust or comfortable of features, especially if you intend to use them to perform crunch type movements.
This bench is foldable, making it easy to store away when not in use.
The Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench is a heavy-duty bench for the serious weight trainer. If you’re into throwing heavy weight around and are after the best adjustable bench to handle the heat, then this is the one for you.
The Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench has a firm but comfortable bench pad. The pad is made from durable, double-stitched vinyl. The ladder mechanism on the underside of the bench is made from bare metal. This means that you’ll never have problems with paint flecking off the machine. Both the seat and the back are adjustable. You get seven different angle settings on the back support, including a decline.
Value for money
The Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench is available for around $320.
The Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench is rated to support over 1,000 pounds of weight, making it probably the sturdiest home adjustable bench in the marketplace. It comes out of the box partially assembled, making it a breeze to out together.