10 Best Workout Benches | January 2017
- doesn't shift as you work out
- upper back support is narrow
- no decline settings
|Rating||3.7 / 5.0|
- high-density foam padding
- 600lbs total weight capacity
- no angle adjustment
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- good for kids as young as three
- comes with dense foam weights
- certified lead-free paints
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
- compact and good for smaller homes
- foam-covered hand grips
- integrated dumbbell racks
|Rating||3.5 / 5.0|
- vinyl covering is easy to clean
- total of seven ladder positions
- front transport handle
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- durable tubular steel frame
- wide leg stance
- rack and bench are separate units
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- arrives fully assembled
- integrated transport wheels
- has a good amount of padding
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- up to 17-degree decline
- rounded seat front
- removable leg brace
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
- foam covered leg brace
- adjustable floor stabilizers
- provides even weight distribution
|Brand||Universal by Nautilus|
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
- includes a tapered seat pad
- feels stable in all positions
- clicks securely into place
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
How Does a Workout Bench Work?
Most workout benches serve three functions. The first is to provide a cushioned, off-the-ground support for the majority of barbell exercises. You can do an arm curl, a bench press, or a leg lift with differing degrees of precision based on how comprehensively a workout bench is set up.
The second function is an ability to adjust your position, thereby placing increased emphasis on different muscle groups. It's easier to achieve a six-pack, for example, if you're adjusting the incline to stimulate your lower abs, in addition to your upper ones. The same can be said for dumbbell presses and targeting different muscle groups with a similar exercise. The only variation between a chest press and a shoulder press is the angle at which you place your back.
The third function is versatility. The more complete a workout bench is, the more accessories it can accommodate. Certain benches come equipped with metal hooks for facilitating resistance equipment, while others come with built-in squat racks, and extensions for developing the legs. Technically speaking, a complete bench will allow you to either build muscle by way of contraction, or sculpt muscle, by way of anaerobic endurance.
What Do I Need to Know About a Workout Bench Before I Buy?
The two most important things to know are how much weight the bench can hold, and what type of exercises you plan on doing. In terms of exercises, you need to have some idea of whether you'll be working out with free weights, resistance bands, or some combination of both.
If you're using free weights, be sure to confirm the bench has some or all of the following: an overhead bar, a squat rack, a leg lift bar, and open space on either side for doing curls or arm lifts. If you plan on resistance training, check to make sure the bench is compatible with elastic bands. In addition, check to see if there's a chest pad and arm grips for doing manual ab exercises. Also look to see whether the back cushion or seat adjust so you can focus on different areas.
The more strength training you do, the more important it becomes to know a bench's weight capacity. Certain benches are designed for ham-and-eggers, and they'll start to wobble the second you redistribute any major weight. If you're working out with barbells, you'll want a bench that has a minimum 300-lb. capacity (this figure generally does not include a person's individual weight).
You'd be surprised how many online customer reviews include horror stories about having a bench collapse with a barbell full of weight in the air. Every product description should include a maximum weight capacity along with a list of any safety features. Certain workout benches are designed wide and bottom-heavy, so they can handle any sudden redistribution of weight. Other benches are built with narrow legs that are prone to teeter.
No matter which type of strength training your choose, the important thing is to do it regularly. Studies have proven that both forms are equally effective if practiced in a consistent regimen.
A Brief History of the Workout Bench in America
The first workout bench was more than likely made of iron or stone. The concept arose as a way of reversing what had become the go-to means of strength training. That is, pushing one's self up against a flat surface (AKA doing a "push-up"). There were problems with this approach, chief among them the fact that most floors had zero give, and the only real way to continue building muscle was to start hanging static weights around one's neck. Lying on one's back made it possible to increase the weight without putting stress on other parts of the body. Scientifically speaking, the use of weighted bars could oppose the force generated by muscles through what is known as contraction. This way, specific muscle groups got bigger without the body breaking down (or following suit).
Free weights have been a part of strength training since Ancient Greece. Over the centuries athletes have experimented with increasingly precise ways to achieve a chiseled physique. A major shift occurred during the 1960s, as exercise machines began to compliment the free weight. These machines were especially popular because they could manipulate the way that certain muscles would contract.
In the 1970s a major fitness craze took hold, ushered in by the movie Pumping Iron, along with the popularity of Muscle Beach and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the eighties and nineties people got hooked on television fitness programs and aerobics. There was an emphasis on isometric resistance training. Neighborhood gyms began to pop up on every corner. Soon after, the U.S. saw the rise of in-house fitness rooms, revolutionizing the workout bench as an economic way to keep an all-purpose piece of equipment in the home.