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Weight Bench Buying Guide

Weight benches are a staple feature for any gym whether it’s at home or in a commercial club, they lay down the foundations for your weight training allowing you to train every angle of almost any muscle you want. Before weight benches came onto the scene most lifts like the chest press were performed on the floor which was highly impractical and dangerous as well, the modern designs of today allow you to lift weights in a safer manner increasing the longevity of your muscles and reducing any risk of injury.

Different Styles

You can sub-categorise weight benches into utility and benches with racks, the utility version is just a stand-alone design without a rack, most models are adjustable but you can find flat fixed styles too. They are perfect for combining with a pair of dumbbells and are generally less expensive than those with racks because they are more basic, with this set up you still have a great range of exercise options at your disposal. The only downside is they aren’t designed for as heavy lifting, it isn’t as safe because you have nowhere to return the weights too (except the floor) when you’re finished.

A weight bench with a rack does give you better scope for heavier lifts as they enable you to combine them with a barbell. Barbells give you more stability through compound movements like chest press and the easy weight return back onto the rack is much safer. Some designs come with the rack fixed to the bench to provide better stability and others come with them separated, this way you can choose to train with the bench alone using dumbbells and use the frame as a squat rack or combine them both together. Choosing between these two designs depends on your personal preferences and requirements; the separated option does guarantee more versatile training but the fixed rack versions are better if you intend to train heavy.

Key Features

Adjustability

To get the most out of your workouts it’s highly recommend going for a weight bench that has a range of back pad angle adjustments, ideally it should have the option to adjust to decline, flat, several inclines and also a full 90 degree military press. It’s quite important to have these adjustments because they give you such a wide choice of exercises, you can work the different angles of your chest, do ab crunches in a decline position and shoulder press with the military angle. These are just few ways in which back pad adjustments can benefit and improve your weight training.

Workout Stations

Weight benches already provide a natural plethora of exercises but some do come with useful additions to enhance them a bit further. A lot of machines now come with a leg developer attachment at the front, you can use this for leg curls and leg extensions to train your hamstrings and quadriceps, these are great movements for really isolating your legs muscles so it’s worth looking out for.

The preacher pad is another useful component, you can normally find them towards the front and are ideal for focusing your biceps and forearms, you can use either free weights or straight bars for preacher curls but either will give you that satisfying deep burn.

Lat towers or high pulley stations have started to feature more frequently in recent years; they also fit at the front and can be used not just for lat pulldowns but also for tricep pushdowns, high ab crunches, single arm cable crossovers, woodchoppers and a ton of other movements. They let you use your imagination; you can also use different universal gym attachments to further expand your workout diversity.

Build Quality

You can pick a weight bench up nowadays for less than you would spend on a dry shaver, the only problem is that when you build it up and start throwing around some weights you could find that it gives you less stability than an exercise ball because it wobbles around so much. To prevent this it’s worth investing in one with some real durability, for safe training that allows you to lift heavy the frame needs to be constructed with steel and using heavy gauge tubing, also always check the user weights and weight load capacities to ensure that the bench doesn’t limit how much weight you can lift.

Upholstery

Probably not the first thing that springs to mind but you don’t want to feel like you’re resting on plywood when you have a bar loaded with weights above your head, it’s not pleasant. The easiest way to avoid this just means taking a quick look at the back pad and seat pad to make sure the upholstery isn’t thin, it should be at least an inch thick and also box stitched to stop it falling apart when it’s gets a bit of wear and tear.

Safety

Safety is paramount with weight training so it’s key to ensure that you’re equipment provides this, if you’re looking for a bench with a rack then it should be using safety catchers (spotter catchers). These work by positioning the catches lower down than your normal weight rests, they only come into use if you can’t return the weight to the normal rests, you just let the bar down onto the safety catchers instead so that you’re not in a position where you have no means of getting the bar up or away from you.

Weights

No matter what weight bench you’re looking at you’re going to need some weights to go with it, if you’re after a utility bench then a simple pair of adjustable dumbbells is going to be your cheapest and best bet, you can just take weight plates on and off the dumbbell bars to customise the amount of weight you want. A bench with a rack is going to need a little more, you’ll need a weight set with a barbell, an important point to note is to make sure that the length of the barbell is wide enough to fit the width of the rack otherwise it’s not going to be compatible. We have pre-constructed some weight bench packages to do the job for you that you can find on our website if you’re concerned about getting the right combination; we’ve also throw in a bit of discount there as well.

Benefits

  • Unlike a multi gym that forces a fixed path of motion weight benches let your body follow a more natural path using free weights for better focus on the correct muscles for quicker development and to reduce the risk of injury
  • They are more versatile than a gym as you can choose to use dumbbells with them or a barbell for an almost limitless range of exercise options
  • You can soon pay the cost of a weight bench back from expensive gym fees and have the convenience and privacy of training at home without having to wait for machines to come available
  • Regular exercise 2-3 times a week has been tested and proven to reduce depression and help alleviate stress levels, this is because during exercise your body releases endorphins which provides an almost euphoric sensation acting as a positive stimulant on the brain
  • They give excellent core and lumbar support through exercises so you can maintain the focus on the working muscle, this makes them ideal for starters because it regulates their posture to reduce the risk of injury until the exercises become familiar
  • Regular weight training can help to increase your bone density, increase your lung capacity and reduce the risk of heart disease as well as toning and enhancing your muscles

Key Exercises

To give you a nudge in the right direction we have listed some important exercises to integrate into your regime that should get you started on the right path.

Chest Press

What you need: Barbell or dumbbells

How to do it: Laying in either a flat, incline or decline position lift the weight vertically to align with your chest, bring the weight down to your chest keeping your elbows in tight and stop an inch above touching your chest. Hold the weight for a second then push quickly upwards.

Seated Incline Dumbbell Row

What you need: Dumbells

How to do it: Lay with your chest on the bench set at a 45 degree incline angle, start with the dumbbells in a palm facing in a neutral grip position hanging below you, slowly bring the weight upwards to your core keeping your elbows in tight. Hold for a second at the top and then return to the starting position.

Seated Shoulder Press

What you need: Barbell or dumbells

How to do it: Set the bench to a full 90 degree angle then lift the weight directly over your head, slowly bring the weight down to your elbows form a right angle and then push the weight upwards.

Tricep Press

What you need: Barbell

How to do it: Lie on the bench in a flat position and align the barbell above your chest with a shoulder width grip, then bring the bar down slowly to just above your chest ensuring your elbows don’t flare out then push back up quickly.

Seated Bicep Curl

What you need: Dumbells

How to do it: Position the back pad to a 90 degree angle and let the dumbells hang down by your side, then with your palms facing out curl upwards without moving your elbow and hold the contraction at the top for a second, slowly bring the weight back down until your arm is straight before repeating.

Leg Extension

What you need: Leg Developer

How to do it: Hook your legs underneath the foam rollers on the leg developer and ensure a suitable amount of weight has been placed on the weight post. Simply curl upwards with your legs until they are almost straight then hold at the top for a second before slowly bringing them back down.

Ab Crunch

What you need: Bench with foot secure at the front

How to do it: Hook your feet underneath the rollers at the front with the angle set to decline, then keep your core tight and without arching your back slowly recline your upper body backwards to approximately 45 degrees then hold for a second before coming back up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: We’re a bit tight on space; do you sell any weight benches that are foldable?

Answer: We do have a small selection of fold up design options, we only recommend them if it’s an absolute necessity as the folding mechanism can comprise the overall stability of the bench making them generally less solid than the non-folding equivalents though.

Question: My teenage son is just looking to start weight training, what do you think would be suitable for him?

Answer: A lot of parents generally just go for a cheap and cheerful little starter bench however we think it’s worth spending a little bit more for safety and prolonged continued use, we’re not suggesting you have to spend a great deal more but ideally somewhere between the £100 - £150 price bracket would be the best amount to spend for some decent quality.

Question: Do they take long to assemble and are they difficult to build up?

Answer: The assembly duration can vary depending on the type of the model that you’ve bought, the utility style should only take around 1 – 1 ½ hours maximum but if it comes with a rack it could take a little over 2 hours. They’re generally quite straight forward to assemble as its simple pieces of framework bolted together in reality, multi gyms are tougher because they feature pulley systems but these should be a walk in the park in comparison.

Question: How do they come delivered?

Answer: We deliver all of our weight benches flat packed and because the vast majority of them are very manageable (unlike heavier machines like treadmills and cross trainers) we generally use a free 1-man express courier service to expedite the delivery of your order, we may be able to offer a 2-man room of choice and certain larger models though, if you would like this service please email sales@purefitnessandsports.co.uk.

We hope that you've found this article useful and informative, please feel free to view our range of weight benches.