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Whether you are setting up a Home Gym, upgrading your current gym bench or setting up a new fitness facility or PT studio, choosing the correct type of gym bench is critical when it comes to getting the best out of your training.
Buying a weight bench may seem like a straightforward decision but with hundreds of variations, styles and sizes available, many people simply choose their bench based on price. However, your decision should consider several main factors which we are going to share with you below.
Asking yourself these nine questions below will ensure you get a bench that is safe, providing you good value for money and will help you to achieve the best gains in your workout.
So lets get to it…
One of the most common pieces of equipment seen in any home gym or commercial fitness facility is the Adjustable Bench and Flat Weight Bench, and there’s a very good reason for that.
A good quality weight bench forms the pillar of at least 40% of exercises performed in a gym, from simple isolation exercises such as the skull crusher or dumbbell fly through to the more physically demanding bench press.
How To Choose A Weight Bench
There are several things to consider before you think about buying a gym bench. Let’s look at these below.
- How often do you work out?
- What is your projected maximum weight?
- What type of gym are you using it in?
- What is your budget?
- What exercise variations do you perform?
- Do you trust the brand?
- What is the warranty period?
- What bench dimensions do you need?
- Is the material selection right for you?
How Often Do You Workout?
The first question you need to ask is how often do you intend to work out?
If you are a beginner to weight training and work out at home infrequently, using light weights, we wouldn’t advise spending significant amounts of money on something as specialist as a pro weight bench.
There is a very simple reason for that
As a beginner, the duration and frequency of your workouts can often by quite low and inconsistent.
The weights you are lifting can be relatively light and therefore the demands placed on the bench are extremely low.
There would be no reason to spend an excessive amount on a commercial gym bench, unless it specifically offers features that a lower cost bench does not.
If on the other hand you are more experienced with your training or are buying this for a business, such as a personal training studio or commercial gym where a bench is likely to encounter more use, a professional weight bench would be a better option.
The quality will, in the higher priced models, generally provide better value for money when compared to a lower cost bench. Therefore putting more money in your pocket over the long run! No one wants to be replacing snapped plastic end caps, ripped upholstery or bent brackets every few months!
The graph below shows the average upholstery wear between home users and professional use over four weeks, using commercial grade vinyl. As you can see the upholstery wear in a Commercial gym has almost 14,000% higher usage when compared to regular home gym use highlighting the importance of investing in a better quality bench for a high footfall gym.
Of course, many beginners still opt for a higher quality bench simply due to the more robust build quality, choice of custom colour frame and upholstery, and lastly better resale value which you may not get on the lower cost weight benches.
It can be very easy to choose the wrong workout bench without factoring in the frequency of your training. Getting it wrong will either see you waste money on something which is overbuilt, or worse yet, something which is simply not going to stand up to the abuse thrown at it.
What Are Your Projected Maximum Lifts?
Every weight bench should have a weight limit which is carried out by physical testing or FEA (Finite Element Analysis) simulated calculation.
Benches in the lower price range should provide a maximum capacity of 250kg (Bodyweight + Equipment) while the higher priced Commercial Gym Benches can start at 400kg/880lb’s and range all the way up to 1000kg/2200lb’s.
When choosing a new weight bench, it is important to do the following basic calculation
Target Bodyweight + Maximum Bench Press = Minimum Required Bench Rating
If you are an avid lifter and are aiming for higher numbers and heavier bodyweights, it’s important to factor this into your buying decision
What Type Of Gym Are You Using The Bench In?
As you are probably aware not every gym is created equal and there are different requirements for your bench depending on your individual set of circumstances. There are eight types of gym which will affect your decision on which bench to purchase.
Private home gym facilities often have smaller spaces meaning the use of wheels isn’t required and you may even want to opt for a folding weight bench. Infrequent usage means they can opt for a cheaper bench and as such a high specification bench isn’t always necessary.
A Corporate gym is set up for staff. Usually in medium to large companies whereby management focus on keeping staff mentally and physically fit, which in turn results in greater productivity. As Corporate gyms are only used in business hours most can use a category of equipment known as ‘light commercial’. This offers similar features found on commercial gym benches, but these are designed for under 8 hours of daily use.
Personal Training Studio
A personal trainer, as the name implies, is someone who provides a personal service to clients in order to coach them on weight loss, improving health or increasing muscle size and therefore can be training people of all ages, sizes and abilities. Because of this a full commercial bench would be advisable, if funds are tight at least opt for a light commercial bench.
These facilities usually house the strongest of gym users. From powerlifters and strongmen, through to football and rugby players, these gyms are pushing the boundaries on physical performance. With the worlds heaviest bench press weighing in at over 400kg it’s easy to see why a heavy-duty weight bench is critical.
A commercial gym is designed for large amounts of members are usually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They focus on having a wide range of equipment and catering to a large audience at an affordable price. Because of the importance of safety and longevity it is critical that a high-quality commercial bench is chosen.
A collegiate gym is a facility located in a college or campus. With athletic and sporting foundations based around these gyms it is important for them to cater from students just wanting a workout up to those training in sports such as rugby and football where heavy weights are fundamental to training. This facility requires a heavy-duty commercial bench.
A boutique gym is generally smaller in size and focuses on niche areas of exercise offering a luxurious environment coupled with a highly personal experience. Boutique gyms should opt for a high specification bench which will provide them with high build quality tying in with a boutique gym experience.
A crossfit box is an affiliate network of gyms which focus mainly on high frequency bodyweight movements and large compound lifts such as the Deadlift or Clean and Jerk. Although session intensity is high, usage of a weight bench is relatively low in comparison to strength gyms or commercial facilities. For this reason, a light commercial bench will suffice for most boxes.
What is Your Budget?
Gym benches can be categorised into three different groups. Home Use, Light Commercial and Full Commercial. Price can play a huge part in your decision so this is what you should expect at each price point
Home Gym Benches
At this level we would be expecting a minimum of 1.5mm box section with sheet metal components at 3mm (11 Gauge) or 4mm (8 Gauge)
Components will be light duty and not designed for rigorous daily use.
Upholstery is likely to be softer at 6lb and vinyl rating will likely be around 20,000 rubs on the Martindale rub test.
Most benches at this price point will usually come in boxes with some form of manual assembly required by the user to keep costs low.
Expect to pay between £80-£200/$110-$270
Top Tip No. 2 – Stay away from benches with a single column foot at the front of the bench. These can wobble and feel unstable during heavy lifts
Light Commercial Benches
A minimum steel box section of 2.5mm with sheet metal components at 4mm (8 Gauge) or 5mm (6 Gauge) . These benches will feature lighter duty components.
At this level we would expect a minimum of 6 or 8lb Upholstery foam covered in vinyl which confirms to at least 100,000 on the Martindale rub test.
These benches should usually have welded end caps, but the overall quality and level of features is not as high as full commercial. Most will come fully assembled and ready for use
Expect to pay between £200-£350/$270-$470
- – A minimum steel box section of 3mm (11 Gauge) with sheet metal work between 6mm (4 Gauge) and 10mm thick.
Benches at this level should use high quality components and feature welded steel end caps and incorporate, or have the option of, rubber feet to protect flooring
Upholstery should use a minimum of 10lb chip foam and be covered with a high-quality commercial grade vinyl measuring rated to 200,000+ rubs on the Martindale rub test.
Unlike lower cost models these benches should be fully assembled, tested and ready for use
Expect to pay between £350-£700/$470-$950
The next question to ask yourself is what exercises you are likely to perform on your bench?
Whilst we don’t need to dig into the specifics of the adjustable bench vs flat bench debate, it’s important to understand the benefits of one type of bench over another.
The two main benches found in a gym are the adjustable weight bench, also known as a FID Bench, which stands for Flat, Incline or Decline. The other main type of bench is the flat weights bench.
To be clear, the main difference between a flat weight bench and an adjustable bench is the ability to change the angle of the workout pad.
Using an adjustable bench allows you to perform exercises ranging from the shoulders down to the lower chest and therefore gives you a greater variation of exercises over the flat bench. However, it is not always needed and is dependent on what exercises you want to perform in your workouts.
Examples of exercises performed on an Adjustable bench are:
- Shoulder Press
- Incline Front Dumbbell Raise
- Incline Chest Press
- Decline Fly
- Side Lateral Raise
- Arnold Press
- Y Raise
- Rear Delt Raise
The Flat weight bench is, as the name implies, flat and fixed in position.
Because of its fixed pad position, which lies parallel to the floor, you are limited to exercises performed at the same angle and would struggle to target the shoulders or isolate different parts of the chest during gym sessions.
Exercises that can be performed on a flat bench include:
- Bench Dips
- Dumbbell Pullovers
- Bench Press
- Dumbbell Fly’s
- Skull Crushers
- Tricep Kickback
- One Arm Bench Dip
Trust in the Brand
An important and often overlooked question to ask yourself is ‘Do I trust the company I’m buying from’?
- Do they have an in depth knowledge of their products?
- How long have they been established?
- How well known is the brand?
- Do they have a reputation in the industry?
- Can you check legitimate reviews?
- Have you ever seen the product in the flesh?
There are numerous retailers who simply import weight benches without carrying out any safety testing or due diligence then sell them on auction sites such as Ebay or Amazon.
It’s important to have an understanding of what goes into manufacturing a high-quality weight bench especially when the ramifications of weld failure under heavy loads of weight are so serious for the lifter!
Do your research and choose wisely.
The warranty period is important but comes second only to trusting the brand. After all a promise to replace or repair goods over a ten-year period means nothing if the company don’t honour it
Check to see what companies cover in their warranty?
While it’s unrealistic to expect a long guarantee when looking at the upholstery, the frame and welds should be covered for a minimum of 6 months and on the more expensive models should be a lifetime warranty against weld breakage.
Gym Bench Dimensions
Choosing the right gym bench measurements is an important factor and should be based on your individual body size and the space where your bench will be located.
The two crucial measurements are the height of the bench and the length of the pad.
To make sure the height of your bench is correct:
- Take a tape measure and sit on a chair.
- With your foot flat on the floor measure from the floor to the back of your knee.
- This will give you the minimum height of your bench with an acceptable range 30-50mm higher or lower than this.
To make sure the length of your bench is correct:
- Take a tap measure and stand with your back flat against a wall.
- Hang your hand down beside you (most peoples hands should hang at the bottom of their glutes).
- Measure from your fingertips to the top of the head.
- This will give you the minimum length of bench pad required.
Top tip No. 3 – Bench pads under 300mm/11.8″ wide can often cause issues with lifters being able to squeeze and hold their scapula together during pressing movements. Always opt for a pad at least 300mm wide where you would position your chest.
We determined the best sizes to be
- Length of Bench – 1100mm/43.3″
- Length of Pad – 1350mm/53.1″
- Width of Bench -550mm/21.6″
- Width of Pad – 300mm/11.8″
- Height from Floor – 450mm/17.7″
Top tip No. 4 – Pay attention to the gap between the seat pad and back pad when looking at your new Adjustable Bench. Large gaps can cause discomfort during flat pressing movements such as the bench press or chest fly.
The majority of weight benches are likely to be made from metal, but it’s important to look closely at the material selection.
The thicknesses, and therefore the weight, are a large factor in its durability and strength. Some benches have steel box section which can start a wafer thin 1.5mm and others go up to 4mm or even 5mm thick!
Moving parts on any gym bench should ideally be coated in an electroplating such as zinc or nickel although the higher model benches will use stainless steel to guarantee a bench with a long life.
Push fit plastic end caps are often found on the lower cost weight benches. Their function is to cover the open ends of square and circular steel box section. Unfortunately, in a tough gym environment they do not stand up to the abuse and will be damaged or lost resulting in sharp exposed steel which can be dangerous. Try and opt for benches with welded steel end caps
Choosing a new piece of gym equipment should be an enjoyable time for anyone but get it wrong and it could cost you.
Make sure you choose the correct bench to not only fit your budget, but also your training goals and your body type.