Working out at home offers a lot of benefits over training at a commercial gym. But it also carries certain risks. At your local gym, you can be pretty sure that the equipment you work with is solid, secure and fit for purpose.
Not so with home gym equipment.
That’s why you need to do your research when kitting out your home gym.
In this article, we focus on what to look for when finding a weight bench for your home gym, so you can make the right purchasing decision! (You can also check out our top picks HERE)
A weight bench is the support structure on which you perform a lot of your exercises. It is vital that you are sitting or lying on a bench that is solid and secure. If it isn’t, you will be risking serious injury. When you’ve got a huge weight hovering above your body, an unstable base can cause you to fall, with the weight coming crashing down on your body.
Even if it doesn’t, the very thought that it could happen can rob you of your confidence so that you shy away from lifting to your maximum potential. On the other hand, a solid, rigid bench gives you confidence to be able to handle the heavy weight.
A high quality home gym weight bench will allow you to be more versatile in your home gym. If you’ve got a power rack, you’ll be able to use your bench to perform bench presses safely in the rack without the need of a spotter.
A bench with a multi angle back pad will also allow you to work your upper body at a variety of angles. This is especially useful when working your chest, as it permits you to hit the pecs at a flat, incline and decline angle. The angled bench will also allow you to do such biceps exercises as incline dumbbell curls.
Weight Bench Buying Guide
Because it will be forming the stability base for much of your workout, a home weight bench is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will purchase. Here are a half dozen things to look out for when shopping for your next bench:
Home weight benches vary markedly in their build quality, from flimsy to commercial gym quality. Look for a bench that is made from solid square steel framing. It should have a weight bearing capacity that will handle not only your body weight but also the weight on the bar you are lifting. If you are going to be using the bench for bench pressing you will want a weight bearing max of at least 500 pounds. Of course, the higher the weight bearing capacity of the bench, the more heavy duty the framing will be.
You will generally find that the fewer moving parts a bench has, the higher its weight rating will be. Moving parts place stress on the bench, which potentially creates points of weakness. You will notice that the highest rated bench on our top 5 on this page is the very simple Rage Fitness flat bench, which provides a max capacity of 1,000 pounds. In contrast, the much more versatile Body Champ BCB5860, with lots of moving parts, only allows for a max weight capacity of 300 pounds!
Padding and Upholstery
When it comes to the padding on a weight bench, you need to get a happy medium to be not too soft and not too heavy. If there is too much padding, you will not have the stable support beneath your body when lifting (think of trying to fire a cannon from a canoe!). On the other hand, too little padding will make it uncomfortable for your upper body when you are lying on the bench.
To see whether the bench has the right amount of padding, press your thumb down on the padding. Your thumb should only be able to go down about halfway to the base of the bench. If it goes all the way, then the padding is too soft! The padding should be about an inch thick.
When it comes to the upholstery that is covering the bench, it should be sweat and slip resistant and sewn in box stitch style to ensure the best durability.
The width of your home gym bench will determine how effectively you can do your free weight bench exercises. Some benches are so wide that the natural movement of your arms, shoulder blades and lats is restricted. The bench should allow you to comfortably lie on it without getting in the way of your natural movement as your arms come down lower than your torso.
When it comes to the height of your home gym bench, you want your knee bend to be at a 90 degree angle when you are lying on the bench. This will position your body in the most stable and secure alignment for your pressing exercises. If the bench is too high, you will not be able to comfortably plant your feet on the floor with a natural right angle knee bend. On the other hand, a bench that is too low will require you to bring your feet too far back with the result that your lower back will not sit naturally on the bench.
Not all benches are adjustable and you may prefer one that is simply flat. However, if you are after an adjustable bench, then you will need one that is reliable. There is nothing worse than lying back on an angled bench only for it to slip out of position and fall back to a flat position. Check the reviews on the reliability of the adjustment mechanism. You also want a quick change adjustment. Having a range of between 5 and 7 angle adjustment options is best.
The best home gym benches will be easy to transport around your training space. They will have wheels on one end and a handle on the other to grab onto.
If you have limited space available in your home gym, you will want a compact bench. However, don’t compromise on functionality. The bench should securely support your head when you are lying on it. If it doesn’t, you will be risking spinal injury when you do heavy exercises like the bench press.
Some benches are foldable for storage. Be aware, however, that foldable benches are usually not as strong as those that do not fold.
Types of Weight Benches
A flat bench is the most simple and the least expensive. It consists of a flat bench that does not have any uprights and is not adjustable. Because they do not have any moving parts, these benches are usually pretty solid, but many cheaper ones will not support a decent amount of weight.
A racked bench is a flat bench that has the addition of a support rack for you to place a barbell when you are bench pressing. Check that the position of the rack supports does not impede your natural hand positioning when benching. Some benches have an adjustable back support but most of them will be fixed flat.
An adjustable bench provides you with the ability to adjust the angle of the back support. This will allow you to work your muscles from a variety of angles. A good bench will allow you to incline the angle as well as declining it.
An Olympic bench is created specifically for the Olympic bar user. As a result, it is larger than a standard bench. It is also more solid. Olympic benches have a max weight bearing capacity of 1,000 pounds or more.
A specialty bench is a flat bench that has attachments that allow for extra exercises. These may include a preacher bench attachment for working the biceps, a core attachment to work the midsection or a leg developer to target the quads and hamstrings.
Which is Best?
As can be seen from the above, each bench type is designed for a specific purpose. However, if you were to buy just one bench, the one that we recommend would be an adjustable bench, otherwise known as a utility bench. This bench will provide you with the rigidity of a flat bench but also give you the option of incline and decline angles. You are also able to bring the back support all the way up to 90 degrees to provide the support you need when shoulder pressing.
An adjustable bench is compact enough to be easily moved around your home gym (look for one with wheels). This allows you to position it on your power rack for bench pressing work.
One of the downsides of an adjustable bench is that it is often higher from the floor than a flat bench as it needs to provide room for the adjustment arm. Be sure to check the height before buying - in general around 16 inches is ideal. They are also not as solid as a flat bench because of the number of moving parts that are included.