This year being what it is, there is a lot to be said for garage gyms. They are obviously practical and easy to use, they’re as exclusive as you want them to be, and you can’t get locked out of them for months on end because of global pandemics. All in all, now is a good time to invest some money and space into setting up a gym in the comfort of your own home.
They key to a successful home-gym is simplicity. Leave the big toys and complex gadgets to the leisure centres and gym chains. You really only need a handful of things to get going (show me a bare room with a barbell and a couple of dumbbells and I’ll show you a thousand different workouts in dozens of different styles you can do with them!)
Some things are therefore negotiable. You don’t need a rowing machine, treadmill, elliptical and upright bike… you definitely don’t need a vibraplate or five different kinds of bosu.
A few things aren’t negotiable, however. A good power rack, a decent row of dumbbells, a comfortable area to stretch… and, of course, a good quality weight bench.
These are the only things you truly need to build the body you want.
Today, we’re going to take a look at five of the best weight benches you can buy for your home workouts.
What we’re looking for in a weight bench
As with many other pieces of gym equipment- as with many things in life, come to think of it- there will be a great difference in quality, usability, durability and economy with different weight benches. We will be weighing all of these up to make sure you get five options that deliver fantastic user experience, that are built to last and that balance quality with price so that you don’t get ripped off.
So, we’ve carefully considered the quality of each bench, their versatility and durability, and their value for money. In addition, we’re looking at the style of each bench in question.
This is important.
Broadly speaking, there are three different styles of bench. Each one will fit a particular set of goals, so you will need to work out what you want from a bench before choosing.
The three styles are:
- Flat weight benches
- Incline/decline benches
- Benches with built in racks
Flat benches are OK at a push. They are generally cheaper, which is obviously a point in their favour. However, they lack versatility- they cannot be adjusted at all. If you only ever want to perform flat bench presses, and if you’re lifting to higher rep ranges or with a spot, you needn’t get anything fancier than one a flat bench. However, without incline and decline options to hit various different parts of your chest and shoulders (and different angles on standing exercises like tripod rows), you will be leaving a lot of stimulation and thus gain behind.
This brings us onto the decline and incline bench. They are incredibly versatile and are pretty common in gyms the world over. You can adjust them to create a seat- with different angles to the backrest- for an incline and can use them to create a decline. This will allow for a great variety in muscle fibre recruitment through the bench press. It will also allow you to bring a lot more shoulder pressing motions into your workout, as well as a lot more different angles into supplementary work like the French Press and Preacher Curls.
Realistically, if you can, it’s generally a good idea to go with an incline/decline weight bench.
Finally, we have weight benches with built in racks. Whilst not as versatile as incline/decline weight benches, they are perfect if you train heavily alone and/or have limited space. They will have a set of arms attached that form a rack. A full rack with a bench in it may be better (and more versatile) but built in racks are also a solid option- in fact, they’re a bit of a favourite of mine. Unracking a heavy barbell safely using one is a satisfying and useful experience.
So, if you pick the style of bench that suits you best, then make sure it’s strong in quality, usability, durability and economy, you won’t go far wrong.
With this being said, let’s get to it.
Our Top 5 Weight Benches
This list will take in a range of prices, so that you can spend what’s available to you and still come away satisfied, and broadly fit the above criteria. Each entry is a solid option that won’t disappoint.
Our Top Pick: The JX Fitness Weight Bench
We’ve gone for fantastic price to quality ratio for our top pick. The JX Fitness Weight Bench is one of the more affordable benches that will feature on this list. However, there is nothing lacking in quality to reflect this fact.
It’s a fully adjustable incline/decline bench, solidly built enough to be perfect for everyday use over a fairly long period of time. You get six different positions for the angle of the back of the seat, and three for the seat itself. This means that it can go from a decent decline of -20 degrees to a perfectly upright angle at 90 degrees. You will comfortably be able to perform both decline chest presses and full seated military presses with it.
The steel frame is strong and well put together, especially compared to many comparable products. The seat is PU leather with firm, high density foam padding. It is easy to clean and comfortable to use as a result.
The seat is also built to provide good support to heavier athletes, with a top load bearing capacity of 300kg (a limit of 136kg for the user, plus the weights themselves). The bench is 1.2m and is good for even taller athletes.
You get anti-slip covers on the bench’s feet, giving a stable, supportive surface and make the bench ideal for performing accessory movements like pullovers that require a bit more anchoring.
On sheer value for money alone, it wins hands down. You will struggle to do better for your home gym.
Gorilla Sports Weight Bench with Rack
As the name suggests, the Gorilla Sports Weight Bench with Rack has a built-in rack. Though, as mentioned above, this isn’t for everyone, it’s a style I particularly like and will be perfect for anybody who lifts heavy without a spotter.
It will be a little pricier than a budget standalone bench, but you get more in the form of a very solid, well-built rack, so it’s fair. In fact, given everything it offers, the Gorilla Sports Weight Bench with Rack represents fantastic value for money, especially when comparing it to buying a separate rack and bench.
Uniquely enough, the Gorilla Sports Weight Bench with Rack gives you the ability to create slight inclines and declines. Though nothing like as movable or versatile as a freestanding incline/decline bench, this is impressive for one with a built in rack, giving you much of the best of both.
The bench is also pretty comfortable. At 1.25m long, it can work well for longer athletes, and the dense, 4cm thick padding is firm, giving you a solid base from which to push whilst being pretty nice to lie on. The rack is adjustable in height, which is a massive deal. Many models even in commercial gyms offer one or maybe two settings, meaning that those with longer or shorter than average arms will struggle to maintain correct form and stay braced as they try to unrack the bar.
The maximum load isn’t much at 200kg. This will suffice for a lot of people, but if you weight anything near 100kg and bench more than your bodyweight- common in most serious lifters, including myself- you will be better off looking elsewhere.
The feet are non-slip and hug the floor well, so you can be confident in your grounding as you work out. The Gorilla bench is also foldable, so can be stored away easily enough.
It’s low-price for what you get, sturdy, well-designed and well-built. If you prefer to lift in the lower numbers, or if your bodyweight is in a reasonable place, the Gorilla Sports Weight Bench with Rack will serve you very well.
Athlyt Adjustable Weight Bench
It is an adjustable, incline/decline bench. In fact, it’s one of the best cheap benches you will be able to find- it will be the cheapest on this list, for sure.
The Athlyt Adjustable Weight Bench is incredibly lightweight, without much padding and with pretty thin metal. This is a little bit off-putting but is completely fair enough for the money you spend. If you are looking for casual use either as you get started, as you wait for your commercial gym to reopen, or just for occasional training, it will fit the bill perfectly.
You get five levels of incline/decline with the Athlyt Adjustable Weight Bench’s back pad, with a further five for the seat, making it really quite versatile.
As well as being lightweight, the Athlyt Adjustable Weight Bench is also completely foldable, making it very easy to store and even travel with, if needed. However, it’s not a good idea to load it over around 160-70kg as, being so light, it cannot take a great deal of weight.
It’s not the most amazing piece of kit in the world, but it is incredibly good for the money you will spend.
Yoleo Adjustable Weight Bench
The Yoleo Adjustable Weight Bench is the second of our truly budget options. As with the Athlyt Adjustable Weight Bench, however, it is far better than its price suggests and performs incredibly well.
There is a great deal of versatility available when using the Yoleo Adjustable Weight Bench. It is another incline/decline bench, giving you a full range to choose from. Though you can’t adjust the seat, the back has seven positions to choose from and the bench comes with attachable bands that allow you to work abs and upper body with some accommodating resistance- a big plus for a home gym piece.
It’s also pretty comfortable, with decent padding and a sturdy enough design and build. However, it can only take up to 150kg, meaning you’ll never really be able to lift big on it. There is also a maximum height limit of six feet, so it’s only good for small to average height athletes.
It’s budget, it’s good for casual use and it punches above its weight.
Body Solid Pro Club Line Commercial Bench
This is the best offering on this list from a user point of view. Another incline/decline weight bench, the Body Solid Pro Club Line Commercial Bench is a serious piece of kit. As its name suggests, it wouldn’t be out of place in a commercial gym, let alone your garage gym. You can usually get it with a lifetime warranty, which will probably not be used as the bench is so robustly built.
The steel frame can withstand weights up to 450kg, meaning that serious, heavy lifters will be able to use it to lift serious, heavy weight (it can most likely take even more, it’s just that it’s only been tested up to 1000lbs, which is roughly 453kg).
Everything speaks of quality. You get plenty of options for creating an incline/decline, the padding is high quality, thick and very durable, it’s suitable for pretty much every height and there is even a handle at the front and wheels at the back, as you would get in a commercial gym, for ease of movement. If you get it, it will do you well and last you forever.
It is only just economically viable for most people, however, and there are options on this list that will serve just as well whilst costing a lot less- hence it isn’t in the top spot despite being technically the best.
James is a full time personal trainer and an award winning writer with over 10 years of experience behind him. So far, he has helped hundreds of people with their health and fitness through his career.