What is a weights bench?
Essentially a weights bench is a stable platform from which to perform a variety of exercises, and is mainly used for assistance in training upper body muscles.
Although most people tend to think of the standard Olympic benches that can be found in many commercial gyms, there are actually a number of different types to choose from, including incline, decline, flat, FID, leverage, and even preacher curl.
But with so many different types now available, it can be difficult to know exactly what to look for to ensure you are only paying for the features you actually need.
This buying guide is designed to provide a quick summary of the features and exercise options for each type of bench, together with our top 3 recommended designs.
Key features to look for
Despite their relatively simple design, modern weights benches can actually have a surprising amount of features. As this guide is designed for anyone looking to buy a bench for their own home gym, this includes attachment options, back support settings, and perhaps most importantly, safety features.
Adjustability of the seat and back support
[one_half]Whether you are just starting a new workout program, or have been weight training for years, having a weights bench with a range of settings can be a major benefit for your upper body workouts.
While standard flat weights benches will usually be lower priced than adjustable designs, this does mean you are much more limited with the exercises available.
This is one of the reasons why more FID (flat, incline, decline) benches have become available in recent years, with a high quality range now being produced by well known fitness companies including Bodymax and York Fitness.[/one_half]
As well as being able to adjust the angle of the seat and back support, it’s also worth thinking about how much space you have available, to decide whether or not you need a folding design.
Although folding weights benches are excellent if you are short on space, they usually don’t provide the same level of strength as Olympic style designs.
Measuring the build quality
If you don’t want to be going through the same process of choosing a weights bench in a few months time, it’s important to find one with the highest level of build quality, while still being priced within your budget.
Unless you have the opportunity to test out the bench before you buy, one of the best ways to judge the quality of a bench is based on its customer reviews. In particular, try to find any that mention the strength and stability.
[one_half]When you workout with free weights at home, you will often be without a spotter to assist with the weight if you can’t complete a rep. To avoid being pinned under the bar, there are a couple of options for choosing a weights bench to workout with in safety.
The first is to choose a dumbbell bench. Primarily designed to support dumbbell workouts, these benches can even be designed with a rack under the back support for easy dumbbell storage.
Dumbbell workouts also mean you can drop the weights away from you if required, with no possibility of getting stuck under a heavy barbell.[/one_half]
The second option is to buy an Olympic weights bench. These designs have a barbell rack built-in, and often provide a set of safety catches or support rails to prevent the barbell from moving below a certain point. This allows you to train your muscles to failure, without worrying about completing that last repetition.
Upholstery and padding
Once you have narrowed down your shortlist of weights benches to a few strong, stable, and safe designs, one feature that can really affect the success of your workouts is the quality of the padding.
It’s generally best to find a bench that has padding for the seat and back support that’s at least 2 inches in thickness, to cushion you against the steel frame of the bench when pressing the dumbbells or barbell.
Weights bench attachments
[one_half]If you are looking for a wide range of exercise options, you’ll want to find a bench that can be fitted with some additional attachments.
Whether they are offered as an upgrade that you can buy separately, or provided with the bench itself, many weights benches now support a much wider range of upper and lower body exercises.
The 3 attachments most frequently found on benches are the lat pulldown, preacher curl, and leg developer, but pec fly arms are also available with some designs.[/one_half]
Types of weights benches
With weights benches being such an effective platform from which to perform a wide range of free weight, cable, and even leverage exercises, it can be useful to know the differences between each type.
As well as the benefits of each design, this guide takes a look at the price you can expect to pay, the most trusted companies that make them, and our top 3 recommended benches for each category.
Dumbbell workout bench
[one_half]Expect to pay: Between £40 and £120
If you are starting a new fitness program, dumbbells are often the first choice of weightlifting equipment to go into your home gym.
From bicep curls to lunges, their size, adjustable weight, and ease of storage makes them an ideal starting point. [/one_half]
But without a flat platform or seat, you often end up missing out on the exercises that can create the greatest gains in both strength and muscle size.
This is why dumbbell benches are so popular. Although they often have a lower strength level than commercial style FID and Olympic benches, they are often the ones that are the most economically priced.
With such a wide range of benches at this price point, we’ve listed our top 3 dumbbell benches below to help make the best options stand out. This is based on their strength, customer reviews, and value for money.
Best Weights Bench
Our Top 3 dumbbell bench recommendations
1. York Fitness Bench
Maintaining its position as one of the best selling weights benches in the UK, the York Fitness Bench provides a variety of easily adjustable incline positions.
Often available for under £70, the thick padding and strong frame keeps you comfortable and stable throughout your workouts. Read more…
2. Bodymax CF412 Folding Personal Trainer Bench
Whether you’re a personal trainer looking for a bench to take with you for workouts with clients, or simply limited on space, the folding design of the Bodymax CF412 makes it a useful design for basic workouts.
Although you don’t have the same range of incline and decline settings as some benches, the quality, ease of use, and price are the reasons we chose this as one our top 3. Read more…
3. York 13 in 1 DB Hyper Bench
With 13 positions to choose from including flat, incline, and decline, this is another of the best selling dumbbell benches to come from leading fitness product company, York Fitness.
The tapering design of the back support makes it easier for your shoulders to retract and reach the full range of motion that makes dumbbell workouts so effective, while the wider section maintains the support you need for your lower back. Read more…
Weights Bench Reviews
Preacher curl bench
Expect to pay: Between £70 and £500
Although not the same as a standard weights bench, preacher curl benches are still worth a quick mention.
Without any of the adjustable and extendible features found on traditional weights benches, the price of a preacher curl bench usually varies based on 3 things; height adjustment of the curling pad, thickness of padding, and strength of the frame.[/one_half]
Stand alone preacher curl benches are a popular addition to many commercial gyms, but due to their limited range of exercise options tend to lack popularity within home gyms.
If you are fortunate enough to have the space and budget for a preacher curl bench, there are 3 designs that we recommend.
Best Preacher Curl Bench
1. Bodymax CF625 Preacher Curl Bench
While it’s getting more difficult to find a place where they have these in stock, for their price and quality it’s an obvious choice for our number one preacher curl bench.
With thick padding maintaining a high level of comfort throughout the exercise and the adjustable height of the preacher pad, this has all the basic features you need for less than £140. Read more…
2. Body Solid Preacher Curl Bench
Constructed with a stronger frame and larger preacher pad than the CF625, the Body Solid preacher bench is priced closer to the middle of the range, making it ideal for light commercial use and home gyms.
3. Bodymax Zenith Preacher Curl Bench
As part of their Zenith range, this is a preacher bench primarily designed with high spec home and commercial gyms in mind.
Although the height of the curling pad is fixed, you can easily adjust the height of the seat to place your body at the most effective position for isolating your biceps. Read more…
Best Olympic Weights Bench
Expect to pay: Between £350 and £1600
If you have been to a commercial gym in the past, the chances are that there would have been at least one Olympic bench available.
Often with a more limited range of incline and decline settings compared to free standing benches, the Olympic bench is designed to support much heavier weights in combination with an Olympic sized barbell.[/one_half]
In terms of what sets the different designs apart, they usually vary in the amount of weight they can support, range of safety features, and price.
To make choosing one of these benches a bit easier, we’ve provided a list of our top 3 Olympic weights benches to suit a range of different budgets.
Top 3 Olympic bench recommendations
1. Marcy Bruce Lee Dragon Olympic Weight Bench
Priced towards the middle of the range, this Olympic bench is designed with all the features you could need to support your home workouts.
The reversible bar catchers can set the barbell rack up to be used for squats, while the removable leg developer attachment adds to the lower body exercise options. The cantilever bench with extra thick padding can also be set to flat, incline, upright, and decline. Read more…
2. Marcy Diamond Elite Olympic Bench
Based on its strength and range of exercise options, this is a bench that should really be considered as a draw for first place.
The only point that lets this bench down is the more limited range of back support positions, which it does make up for with the addition of the preacher curl attachment and extra set of barbell supports. Read more…
3. Bodymax CF516
Another excellent Olympic bench by Bodymax, the CF516 has been included in our top 3 due to its free standing design. Rather than the bench being attached to the barbell rack like the top 2 entries, the weights bench can actually be separated from the barbell rack and used for a wider range of dumbbell exercises.
To keep you safe when working out, you still get the set of safety rails that prevents the bar from moving below a certain point, which can also be useful during squats in this case. Read more…
Best Decline Abs Bench
[one_half]Expect to pay: Between £30 and £150
Often a lot thinner and with a different angle to the frame compared to the weights benches we’ve covered already, ab benches are designed specifically for training your abs and obliques.
Without the need to support heavy free weights, the weight limit is often a lot less, with many ab benches featuring a height adjustment for the angle of the decline.[/one_half]
With many foldable designs now available at a much lower price than a free weights bench, an ab bench has quickly become a practical and inexpensive way of toning and strengthening your abs, obliques, and even lower back.
Although having a strong core is important for optimal athletic performance, it can also benefit you in everyday activities from picking up the shopping to walking home from work.
If you’re not sure which one to buy, we’ve put together a list of our top 3 ab benches, together with links to much more detailed information, benefits, and (where possible) customer reviews.
Top 3 ab bench recommendations
1. Confidence AB MASTER Pro Series AB Trainer
Where most ab benches are designed to be stationary, this is a bench that can be adjusted to create a range of motion that best suits your own physical ability.
Providing complete support for your lower back throughout the exercise, the padded back support follows your upper body through the complete 200 degree range of motion as you perform your sit ups and crunches.
The bar that arcs over the bench also performs a similar function to using an ab harness on a multi gym, creating added resistance which can be adjusted to suit your own personal strength level.
2. Ultrasport 3 in 1 Sit Up Bench
Usually available for around the same price as the Confidence Ab Master, this ab bench from Ultrasport provides a few additional features that can be useful for new fitness programs.
With storage for a set of dumbbells under the back support pad and a set of resistance band attachments, this is a bench that can be used for incline and decline chest exercises, as well as decline ab work.
3. Confidence Fitness Sit Up Bench
This simple yet effective design is the lowest priced of the 3, but can still has a number of highly rated reviews on trusted shopping sites such as Amazon.
With two sets of padded foam rollers to prevent you from sliding down the bench during the exercise, this is an ab bench that can also fold almost completely flat for convenient storage when not in use.
Best Leverage Weights Bench
[one_half]Expect to pay: Between £300 and £1700
Similar to the Olympic weights benches, there’s a wide variation in the amount you can expect to pay for a leverage style weights bench.
Although there is this price variation, it’s usually fairly easy to understand why and what you are actually paying for.
While our top 3 leverage benches have been targeted mainly at those with just the bench press / shoulder press station, you can also buy much larger leverage systems that provide leg press, lat pulldown, and even hack squat and calf raise stations.[/one_half]
The leverage systems with 4 or 5 of these workout stations are usually the ones that will be priced closer to the £1700 range, while more simple systems such as the Bodymax CF666 are usually available for closer to the £300 price.
Top 3 leverage bench recommendations
1. Bodymax CF500 Elite Leverage Gym
Although this is a leverage system that is starting to go beyond the standard bench press station, the strength of the frame and versatility of having a free standing weights bench makes this our top choice.
The weight on the pressing arm can be loaded to a level similar to that on most Olympic benches, while the lat pulldown is much stronger than the standard weights bench attachment, allowing you to train your back and triceps effectively. Read more…
2. Marcy Pro PM4400 Leverage Home Gym
Currently one of the most popular leverage weights bench designs, the PM4400 also includes a straight bar to join the two handles of the pressing arm, creating a safe way to perform squats.
Despite the bench being attached to the frame, the pivot point design makes it easy to simply rotate it out of the way when you want more room to squat, shrug, and even row.
The variety of different racking positions also means you can use this system for a much wider range of exercises, from upright rows to bicep curls. Read more…
3. Bodymax CF666 Lever Bench Press
Simple yet effective, the CF666 is a leverage weights bench that supports shoulder presses and bench presses (flat and incline variations).
The bench position can be quickly adjusted using a sliding rail design, with settings from decline all the way through to vertical.
As well as the back support positions, the starting position of the pressing arm can be set at a range of different heights to provide the ideal range of motion for each exercise. Read more…
With each type of weight bench comes a variety of different benefits, and choosing which one is best for your own home gym will depend on the type of training you are likely to be doing in the future.
The following is a quick summary of the situation that each bench is best suited to:
- Dumbbell weights bench – Lighter workouts that don’t take up much space on a smaller budget
- Preacher curl bench – A useful addition for bicep isolation if you have the budget after purchasing a full weights bench
- Olympic style bench – Ideal for anyone that can dedicate more space to weightlifting and is going to be training with heavier weights
- Abs bench – An excellent addition to any home gym due to the low cost and importance of developing a strong core
- Leverage weights bench system – The safest way to perform a wide range of exercises with a heavier weight than multi gyms and many standard benches, without taking up as much space as a smith machine or power rack.
Hopefully this has provided a clearer idea of what to look for when choosing your next home gym weights bench.
£0 – £99
£100 – £199
£200 – £399