The bench is the temple of free weights, and free weights are the dominant religion of long-term muscle growth. With machines, your joints and stabilizers are neglected. This means you quickly reach a point where growth becomes a function of volume, and there’s just so much volume you can do in a week without going pro, quitting your day job and sleeping at the gym between your chest day and leg day.
Now, if you want to keep your job, the bench, and adjustable dumbbells set-up is the easiest, cheapest and most versatile way to work out by far. Don’t have time to read the whole article? Our research concluded that these are the 5 best adjustable weight benches for your money:
Table of Contents
Why Buy an Adjustable Weight Bench?
More bang for your buck: The big elephant in the room is that gym memberships are monthly or yearly overall net costs, which makes working out a “use it or loses it” sort of deal. A home set-up, however, is a future-proof investment that you will only get more value out of the more you use it.
Save time: A home gym set-up enables you to save time. The time you might have wasted by standing in traffic, now gets freed up. No rush to finish your workout, no waiting for the benches at the gym to get freed up. It’s all work and no wait.
No excuses: This goes hand in hand with the previous point. You have no time-related excuses. If you have time for TV, you have time to do your workout. That 2-hour traffic + workout calculation just got cut in half, what’s you excuse now?
Flexibility: You can be flexible and adapt your workout to suit your schedule and your goals. There will come a time when you will need to add volume, and that’s when the time-saving advantages compound and enable you to continue to pursue your goals without sacrificing your job or your family time.
What to Look for While Shopping
Maximum weight: Here you need to consider how big you will be and how much weight you will lift in five years time. There’s no way around it, cheap is bad. A good bench is made to last a lifetime of wear and tear in a gym under the weight of 300 lbs meatheads. A bad one is made as cheap as possible with cheap materials because the manufacturer doesn’t expect it to be used by anyone over 160 lbs.
Sturdiness: Another major issue that comes with that is that you want the bench to be heavy and stable. When you’re going for a PR, the last thing on your mind should be “will it hold?”. Shaky or creaky benches are out of the question. You shouldn’t doubt for a second that the bench can hold you and the weight. This allows you, not only to stay safe but to concentrate on the lift. You want the weakest element between the weights and the ground to be your muscles because that’s what you’re working on after all.
Ergonomics: Does it fit your anatomy and physiology? Some people have longer arms, wider grips, thick asses or shorter legs. Some push with their hips, others stabilizes with their core. All those specifics need to be taken into account when you’re shopping around. Most important element for me is by far the seat height. I need that leg drive, and I don’t wanna have my heels off the ground during PRs.
Versatility: Does it fit your current routine or your future routines? Are you a barbell guy or you just can’t get as good of a contraction with a barbell as with a pair of dumbells. Will you do speed lifts now or in the future? How about incline or decline movements? Or maybe you want something to help you do some bodyweight training in between the heavy lifting days. Chains? Bands? Trends change, personal goals even more.
Warranty: Now, here is where you see where the manufacturer compromised between sturdiness and versatility. The more complicated, the more foldable, the less sturdy and vice-versa. This gets sorted out when you look at the warranty. Does the manufacturer trust their product or not? Is it designed for gyms or impulse buys after the Thanksgiving feast?
The 5 Best Adjustable Weight Benches for Your Home Gym
We’ve tested more weight benches than we can count and most of them simply don’t make the cut. Below you’ll find our top 5 favorite adjustable along with the pros and cons of each:
The IronMan is worthy of the name, and it’s made to last and does not apologize for it. That combined with its versatility makes is a great beach.
800 lbs Max Carry Weight: It’s a tubular steel frame, so it’s made for Mr. Olympia gods. With a weight of 37 lbs, it’s not a pushover.
Max 80° Backrest Angle: Yes, this is a feature. This bench is not for small guys, it’s built for the 6’4 bodybuilder, and those big muscles take a lot of space. Some big boys actually find the 90° angle very uncomfortable. So I can easily see why when your target customer has a bodybuilder physique you would compensate and make your max angle a couple of degrees less than true vertical.
12 Positions: This is made for people that need specialized gym equipment. I love the -20° decline. The lower you can get the easier, it is to hit that lower pec. That’s true for almost all angles. Theoretically, you can “engineer” your rep to work your pec from multiple angles, by how flared out your arms are, but that comes at a loss of leverage and strength. So more variation on the bench angle enables you to worry less about hitting the right fibers so you can focus on hitting them with greater intensity.
- Made for big guys
- Built like a tank
- Amazing value
- No 90° position for guys with less than 3 inches of muscle on their back
- Only 1-year upholstery warranty, don’t get me wrong, this is the industry standard, and the quality of the seat is great. But this is not made for the standard bodybuilder and those things will fail fast when an Olympian puts this bench trough it paces.
How can any gym still have those wonky benches with shaky seats when this exists. For the casual consumer, however, not really. I mean if you are that big of a guy you already probably have a lifetime pass for most of the gyms in your city. But if you do decide to go for a home gym, this is really in a league of its own.
Nautilus has been a benchmark for fitness equipment for the last 30 years. The Universal 5 is meant to be a basic utility bench, with some trademark Nautilus Ergonomics thrown in the mix.
430lbs Carrying Weight: Despite being a light bench coming in at 21.5 lbs, the Universal 5 is very resilient. And can work for most non-pro athletes.
Contoured Back Brace: It wouldn’t be a Nautilus product without an ergonomic design element. And that ergonomic feature comes in the form of the back brace; it’s contoured not to impede on your scapular movements and retraction. It’s not something you notice immediately or even give it a second though until you actually use the bench. If you fit your scapula in the contour, you get a pleasant surprise. Despite not neglecting back support your scapulae are free to retract and tense up, further stabilizing the mid back.
Comfortable Leg Brace: The leg brace comes with a lot of padding. This combined with the mild decline that comes at -10°, tells me that this was also designed to be a good ab cruncher.
- It’s good enough for 90% of people.
- It’s affordable, and when talking about home gyms for newbies, I am all for lowering the barrier to entry into the fitness world
- It’s comfortable, and the contoured back brace makes proper form easy for newbies.
- It doesn’t fold. Which It can be argued is actually a plus at this budget. The more moving parts you have, the less resistant and the less weight it can carry overall in safety.
- No full, 90° position and the decline is only -10°. This means that unless you have an amazing form you won’t be able to hit the lower pecs and you will have a hard time hitting your mid delt and back delt with a military press.
For anyone under 100 lbs, or someone that is just starting out and is mainly focused on the upper pec, abs, and front delt, this is for you. Don’t lie to yourself I see you in the gym every spring doing a basic pump to the front and neglecting your back; these people are out there.
Bowflex is a Nautilus brand and has a history of even more innovation than it’s parent company. And wow, they do not disappoint with the SelectTech.
30-year Guarantee: Fighting back against the quality problems they had in the past Bowflex has gone insane with its craftsmanship. This is a piece of equipment you will leave to your grandchildren.
300lb Weight Limit: Built for a user weight of 300 lbs, this is made to be stable and provide security for even the jerkiest of lifts. If you want to do speed lifting, heavy equipment is a must-have and usually a neglected feature by most manufacturers because mobility sells better.
True 90° Rotation: This bench has a full spectrum of positions from -17° decline to complete vertical.
- Its low seat makes it great for shorter lifters to bench efficiently
- Removable leg brace
- Great seat design
- There is a sizeable gap between the seat and the back brace at or bellow 0°, might require some positioning
- It’s heavy; a bench should be heavy, but this might be an issue for some people
This is a great bench, especially for short people. The low seat enables you to use your heels for a proper leg drive in benches, and the smart seat design makes it great a comfortable seat for all your accessory work.
Reebok’s deck is an interesting little thing. And I do mean little. I love the design, it’s new, it’s brave, but it’s not as good that the traditional bench.
14-inch Seat Height: This makes it comfortable for smaller lifters to use their legs properly during the bench press.
Compact: At 44 inches long and 8 inches high, this is an amazingly compact little bench, and that opens up the option for an impromptu gym set up for a lot of people that lack the space for a full-size bench.
Stable: At 30lbs, low center of gravity and unibody construction makes it very stable despite its plastic feel.
- Great for bodyweight training, I can definitely see an entrepreneur sneaking this one into his office and improvising a basic office gym
- Very compact and easy to store
- Easy to clean
- Not for anyone over 5’7
- Capped max weight at 252 lbs
It’s a great option for people that have a hard limit on space. I would also recommend it for your kids as a starter bench. It may not be fair to compare this to a bench, because as the name suggests, it’s a “deck.” But, to be honest, that’s just marketing. It can operate as a bench perfectly well for people under 5’7, and it’s great for its specific niche. And to be perfectly honest you can use this “deck” in spaces where you can’t fit a full-size bench.
So surprisingly, despite its shortfalls, this might be the best one on the list because it expands the concept of a “home gym” and makes it possible outside of the actual home, and fundamentally isn’t that the point? To have the ability to work out where and when it’s convenient for you.
Almost Real 90°: This would ordinarily be a con, but the difference between the 85° angle and the true 90° is offset by the thick padding that gives great support for your lower back enables you to plant your back hard into it, forcing a vertical position and rear delt activation.
Great Padding: Speaking of the padding, this is extremely comfortable, and this might be the biggest selling point for this bench. If you have a history of back problems or like the extra support of thick padding, this one is for you.
- 60 lbs
- -17° to 85°
- Lifetime manufacturer guarantee for all components.(the only one in the business)
- Uncomfortable leg brace
- High center of gravity
Just for the lifetime guarantee, this is a buy. This is a gym owner’s go-to product. It has some design flaws, but when it comes to equipment, you can’t really beat a lifetime warranty. The not real 90° angle is surprisingly not a deal breaker, and the cushioning makes it a must-buy for people that want or need the extra padding for heavy lifting.
Benefits of Having a Bench-centered Workout
Hyperextension of the chest: It enables chest hyperextension. This enables you to have a complete contraction and work the muscle fibers all trough-out their length.
You make each rep count: It’s just you and the weight. You learn to become laser-focused and give 110%. Not kidding. Google it. By being in the moment and visualizing each and every contraction, it’s scientifically proven that you engage more muscle fibers making each and every rep, much more effective.
Stops you from cheating: It stabilizes the torso, allowing you to work out the arm stabilizers with heavy weights without worrying about unintentionally cheating and moving around your body to counterbalance the weight. If you use enough weight, any movement becomes a core movement if you don’t have support. Save the core for squat and deadlift day and focus on the press.
Helps with technique: The stabilization also makes it great for newbies to get a proper technique going. One of the biggest mistakes new guys make is to use their whole body to move the weights. This at best makes you look like your dancing the lambada at worst it can lead to some nasty injuries because your spine isn’t trained yet to help out with bigger lifts.
It enables you to have a complete workout: It gives you options to work the muscle from different angles with different exercises. The pectoral muscle is wide, versatile and has multiple heads. One-dimensional movements won’t be enough to work it. The deltoid has 3 heads, and that’s not even counting the smaller accessory muscles and joints surrounding the shoulder. You need a versatile bench to train the variety of movements our arms can perform.
It’s compact: You get all that utility in something you can store in the corner of your garage. It’s a whole gym worth of function in the space of a futon. And a futon is not as mobile and easy to store away as a well-designed bench.
Last Minute Tips Before You Buy
- Check out the weight and the warranty. Quality steel is heavy.
- Make sure it offers 90° setting for a proper military press. Anything less and you won’t fully use the lateral delt and the back delts doesn’t get activated at all at anything less than near-vertical
- Make sure it offers a satisfactory decline angle. This is a subjective thing; it depends on your form and what you are comfortable with but make sure you feel the contraction in your lower pec. Anything under -8° degrees works for me, but it’s definitely not a universal rule.
- Size unfolded and storage size. That’s all on you specific circumstances.