Paramount to any strength or conditioning program, with the ability to be easily incorporated into a range of functional and cardio-based routines, a weight bench is an absolute necessity in any fitness space.
This weight bench buyer's guide will help you determine the perfect bench for your goals and needs, helping to create a seamless customer journey.
TYPES OF WEIGHT BENCHES
Here at World Fitness Australia we stock 5 main types of benches - flat, adjustable (or FID), Olympic, preacher, and abdominal. Each of these benches offer a different purpose, best suited to a diverse range of athletes and activities.
Flat benches are compact, tough and extremely versatile. Their simple yet sturdy design makes them excellent for performing a broad range of compound and isolation exercises, including bench press, single arm bent over rows, and Bulgarian split squats.
They can also be used for various body weight exercises, such as bench hops, elevated push ups, and triceps dips, making them an extremely effective tool for developing strength, adding muscle mass, and toning your physique.
Whilst they can be used for seated exercises, flat benches offer no back support during these movements. This can negatively impact your form, which may lead to an increased risk of injury when shifting challenging weights.
A flat bench's fixed position adds to its durability. This is because there are no movable parts that can break down or require maintenance, enhancing their longevity. This also means that they are better suited for heavy lifters, as they have a stronger construction.
• Strong & durable
• No back support when seated
• Doesn't offer various angles
Adjustable benches certainly offer the most variety. Also known as FID benches (or flat, incline, decline benches), these awesome pieces of strength equipment allow you to adjust your bench into the optimal position for your height, limb length and the exercise you are performing.
By altering your angle, FID benches not only help to keep your body in the safest, most secure position, but they also drastically increase the amount of exercises you can do. For instance, you can mix-up your traditional bench press by doing some incline or decline presses, or you could try some chest-supported reverse flyes.
The major benefit of utilising different angles and adjusting your movement pattern, is that you allow yourself to more accurately target certain muscle groups. Take a decline position for example. This angle is often overlooked by a lot of athletes, despite being one of the best ways to hit your lower pecs, triceps, and abs.
Another significant benefit of adjustable benches is their back support. Unlike a flat bench, these benches help alleviate the pressure placed on your lower back during various seated exercises such as shoulder presses and bicep curls. This added support can lower your risk of injury, whilst also giving you that extra bit of encouragement to lift heavier weights.
There are however some downfalls to adjustable benches, particularly with regard to their weight capacity. Due to their adjustable mechanisms, these benches are not designed to take on super heavy loads. If you are an advanced lifter who requires an FID bench then you should always opt for something higher end, otherwise you risk quicker breakdown and more maintenance.
• Offers various angles
• Provides optimal positioning
• Safe & secure
• Offers the most exercise variety
• Allows you to target muscles more accurately
• Lower weight capacities
• May require maintenance
• Usually a bit more expensive
OLYMPIC BENCHES / FIXED BENCH PRESS
Olympic benches, often referred to as a fixed bench press, are best suited to heavy barbell movements and for perfecting your bench press variations.
These weight benches come with a built-in racking system, which typically involves adjustable J-hooks or secured, multi-tiered barbell holders. By offering multiple barbell starting positions, Olympic benches ensure that all users can un-rack and re-rack their bar at a position that is right for them. This is imperative for promoting the correct technique and minimising your risk of injury.
Another benefit to a fixed racking system is that you don't have to waste time and energy moving your bench in and out of your rack or cage with every use. Although, the downfall to this is that they do take up much more space compared to a flat or FID bench.
Some Olympic benches, like the Body Iron Performance Pro Olympic bench, feature reservable J-hooks that can be secured to the back of the uprights, transforming it into a fully-functioning squat rack. A lot of the top-tier benches will also come with adjustable spotter arms, which offer an additional safety mechanism in case you fail a rep.
Similar to a flat bench, Olympic benches are extremely strong, reliable, and are capable of handling some serious weight. This is because they have fewer adjustable parts, making them sturdier and less likely to break down.
Whilst a fixed bench press system may seem like an absolute godsend, they do come with a few disadvantages.
For starters, unless you're purchasing a top-of-the-line Olympic bench, a fixed racking system usually means a fixed angle, limiting the number of exercises you can do. Also, if you tend to store your barbell on your Olympic bench then it's going to get in the way if you try to do dumbbell exercises.
Another important thing to consider with Olympic benches is that they will only be compatible with Olympic-sized equipment, i.e. a 7ft Olympic barbell and Olympic weight plates. This means if you already have standard barbells and weight plates, then it's highly unlikely these benches will be compatible with your equipment.
• Suitable for heavy weight training
• Promotes the correct bench press technique
• Save time & energy between exercises
• Less likely to require maintenance
• Strong & durable
• Takes up a large amount of space
• Difficult to move
• Less exercise variety
• Only compatible with other Olympic-sized equipment
• Less suitable for dumbbell exercises
Speciality benches are a lot more niche, and they tend to look a little obscure compared to your regular exercise bench. Rather than offering a broad range of exercises, these weight benches are designed to help you perfect one or two isolated exercises.
Because speciality benches are made for specific movements they ensure you're training in the most comfortable and safe conditions. But, like Olympic benches, they tend to take up a fair amount of space without offering much exercise flexibility.
The two main types of speciality benches we stock are preacher benches and abdominal benches.
Preacher benches are made for arm curl movements. They are designed so you sit with your triceps resting on a tilted, padded surface that is angled away from your body. In doing so, preacher benches remove the ability for you to lift your hips, back or shoulders during bicep curls, which is a common mistake most lifters make.
These benches are designed to be used with either a free weight system or they are made as a plate or pin loaded machine, like the Body Iron Bicep Curl & Tricep Extension.
Preacher benches make for the ultimate arm day routine as they eliminate the use of assistant muscles, allowing you to isolate just the biceps and triceps for the entire range of motion.
You can probably guess what muscle group these benches target... that's right, your abs!
Abdominal benches will generally offer multiple adjustment levels, allowing you to move into an incline or decline position. They also feature padded foot rests so you can securely hold yourself in the right position whilst you train.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?
When shopping for any piece of fitness equipment your goals should ALWAYS be top of mind. Are you wanting to build muscle? Lose weight? Improve your cardiovascular health? Whatever it is, different weight benches will help you serve a different purpose.
If you're a seasoned lifter who works with some big weights, then you probably want a tough flat bench or commercial-grade FID bench.
If your main focus is to build some rock hard abs or biceps bigger than a watermelon, then a speciality bench may be for you.
No matter what your desired end goal is, it should always be the driving force in your purchase decision.
WHAT OTHER EQUIPMENT DO YOU PLAN TO USE?
If you've already started stocking up on a few pieces of gym equipment then you want to make sure it can be used with your new bench.
Unlike Olympic benches, flat and adjustable benches are perfect for dumbbell exercises. They are all extremely versatile pieces of equipment, and when paired together you have everything you need to complete entire workouts.
Another benefit of using dumbbells with a flat or adjustable bench is that you're able to execute a greater range of motion, which is an extremely important factor when focused on building strength and muscle size.
As we've mentioned, Olympic benches are great for heavy barbell movements. They are an easy choice if your primary focus is to develop your chest, shoulders and arms, or if you're wanting to work on your bench press technique.
WHAT YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO
MAXIMUM WEIGHT CAPACITY
It's extremely important to always purchase a weight bench that not only supports your current capabilities, but also your expected future strength.
This is especially true for adjustable benches, which can breakdown quite easily if you don't comply with the weight capacities.
If you're in the market for an Olympic or speciality bench, then you also need to be checking the weight capacities of features like the barbell holders, J-hooks, and safety arms.
Like most fitness equipment, product weight generally correlates to its strength. Essentially what this means is the heavier the bench, the stronger it is.
Again, if you're moving heavy weights then you probably need a heavier bench.
If you do choose a bench that's on the larger side then you should also check if it has transport wheels, as these will make it much, much easier to move around.
Different benches vary greatly in size, so it's important you whip out the tape measure and make sure your new equipment is going to fit into your gym space.
Hot tip: make sure you have enough space to use your bench with other equipment. This is especially important for Olympic and preacher benches, which you will most likely use with a barbell.
To ensure you're in the most safe, stable and secure position when doing bench exercises your feet should always be planted firmly on the floor or on the bench itself.
If you're struggling to reach the ground, or you're stretching your body to reach a suitable position, then you're probably not executing the correct technique. This not only increases your risk of injury, but it also minimises the effectiveness of the exercise you are performing.
If you're looking for a bench with a little more pizzazz, then an adjustable bench that can take on additional attachments may be for you!
Benches like the Bodycraft F320 FID Utility Flat Incline Decline Bench and Bodycraft Light Commercial FID Flat Incline Decline Bench CF602G are compatible with optional attachments such as preacher pads and leg curls that offer even greater exercise variety.
Or, if you're someone who is short on space, then a flat bench with dumbbell storage underneath could be a good option.
We hope you've found this weight bench buyer's guide helpful. If you require any further assistance we welcome you to contact our expert team!