The 10 Best Workout Benches
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Whatever your preferred fitness routine, a good exercise bench can add to it by providing a safe and stable platform to work out on with weights. Our top selections include static models perfect for casual users, as wells as some that incline and decline and are sturdy enough for competitive lifters. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 31, 2019:
Whether you're a hardcore bodybuilder and avid athlete or simply someone looking to get a few mild workouts in during the week to keep fit, there is a workout bench for you. They're designed to be utilitarian and facilitate a plethora of exercises, from hyperextension and core targeting to addressing chest, arms, and legs. How you choose the right machine for you will depend on your fitness goals. Some come with many bells and whistles, like the Body Champ Combo, which is great for experienced users, while others are extremely straightforward, yet still versatile, like the Marcy Utility. All are designed to offer stability, resist staining and breaking down from sweat, and be easy to clean by wiping down.
Joining the ranks today is the Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max, which we feel is more reliable than our previous Nautilus Universal, with the added benefit that it can bear 800 pounds rather than the 250 the Nautilus can. Its solid construction and thoughtful design, not to mention its budget-friendly price, make it an ideal choice for home users who want something to grow with them over time.
We also added the Reebok Professional Aerobic Deck at the expense of the Cap Barbell Strength. While the Cap model is a solid starter option that is economically priced, we feel that its lower-quality construction makes it hard to justify keeping it when there are so many other great options available. The Reebok Deck is perfect for those who are short on space, as it features internal storage and is easy to move or cover up when not in use. It's super easy and fast to adjust, and it can facilitate an impressive amount of exercises. It also has clips for resistance bands, adding to its versatility.
One of the biggest issues people have with workout benches is improper assembly, which can lead to instability and potentially cause injury, or at the very least provide a subpar workout. We know instructions for these things can be confusing, but if you're patient and take the time to do it right, you'll be thankful down the line.
Rogue AB-3 The Rogue AB-3 is a commercial-grade bench crafted to extremely high standards in the United States from 11-gauge steel. It's ideally suited for dynamic training and offers a combination of sturdiness and maneuverability with an abundance of customization options. Standard features include load-bearing rubber feet for stability, Cordura edges for enhanced durability, and a handle and wheels for mobility. It's compact, weighs just 117 pounds, and boasts six seat settings and nine back settings. roguefitness.com
Legend Fitness Pro Series Self-Adjusting The Pro Series Self-Adjusting boasts a simple pop pin to adjust both the seat elevation and backrest to one of eight adjustment angles. It comes standard with an attached diamond plate spotter’s platform, wheels, and a foam rubber-coated handle for easy transport. Its pads are 10 inches wide to provide the right amount of support without interfering with the shoulder blades during presses and fly exercises. All pads are made with dense rebound foam, are double-stitched, and use heavy-duty 32-ounce vinyl that is stain-resistant. legendfitness.com
Tag Multi-Angle Ideal for commercial use, the Tag Fitness Multi-Angle can handle multiple athletes with rigorous training regimens. It uses a single-piece mainframe for added durability and is constructed entirely from 11-gauge steel tubing. The EZ-handle design and rear transport wheels make it easy to move, and it's adjustable from 0 to 85 degrees, with a locking seat for worry-free incline work. The welds are backed by a lifetime guarantee. tagfitness.com
How Does a Workout Bench Work?
The second function is an ability to adjust your position, thereby placing increased emphasis on different muscle groups.
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.
Certain benches are designed for ham-and-eggers, and they'll start to wobble the second you redistribute any major weight.
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).
The concept arose as a way of reversing what had become the go-to means of strength training.
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 complement 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.