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What is a Weight Bench?

By Brad Cole
Updated May 17, 2024
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A weight bench is the central piece of equipment in almost every weightlifting set. A basic weight bench is simple: a board roughly a foot wide and three feet long is suspended above the ground on legs. This board is usually padded for comfort. The weightlifter sits, lays downs on his/her stomach, or puts his/her back against the bench and does various exercises. The exercises done usually involve barbells and dumbbells, and are why the bench is called a "weight" bench. Additional pieces of equipment can be added to or positioned around the bench so that more exercises can be done.

Two primary attributes to consider when assessing a weight bench are its sturdiness and its support. In order to support the weight of the lifter, dumbbells, and barbells while in use, the bench has to be sturdy. The primary pieces of the bench should be made out of metal, and should be thick enough so as to not bend. The bench should also be balanced and supported so that, when in use, it does not tip. Since many exercises take place at one end of the weight bench, the bench should have sufficient support so that it does not fall over and injure the user when weight is not evenly distributed on top of it.

Weight benches are not necessarily parallel to the ground; some have their benches positioned upward at sharp angles, while others have benches that dip downward. These angles are used in different exercises and promote the use of specific muscle groups. When a person is lying on a bench and his head is up, they are doing incline exercises. When a person’s head is down, he is doing decline exercises. Incline and decline exercises tend to be more difficult to do than their traditional counterparts.

Weight benches usually have other pieces of equipment around them or attached to them that allow additional exercises to be done. Large barbells can be positioned over one end of a weight bench to assist with doing a bench press; the equipment that holds the weights above the bench is called a stand, though it may also be referred to as a rack. Leg attachments can be added to one end of a weight bench so that exercises called leg curls and leg extensions can be done. Bench extensions can also be added to hold a person in different positions when doing crunches and sit-ups on the bench, thus working different muscle groups.

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Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Mar 14, 2012

@golf07 - Like you mentioned, the sturdiness and quality of weight bench is important. Years ago when we were younger and didn't have much money, we made our own weight bench.

While it got the job done, it was also kind of scary when you thought about it. If you were doing much heavy lifting at all, you really needed a spotter to be safe.

Sometimes I am surprised nobody got hurt using that homemade weight bench. Now I really like using an adjustable weight bench. There are a lot of features to the newer weight benches that come in handy.

A good weight bench also doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. You can find some good used ones that people no longer use without spending much money.

By golf07 — On Mar 13, 2012

I have a Weider weight bench that I use to work out at home. When I can't make it to the gym, this gives me a good work out.

Some home weight benches are not very well made or designed to hold a lot of weight. This is the most important thing I would take into consideration if you are looking at buying a weight bench.

I like the flexibility a weigh bench gives me. I can adjust the bench to be flat or on an incline or decline. This bench also includes a squat rack and has a removable curl yoke.

With this weight bench, I can get in just a good of a workout as going to the gym. It is just harder for me to get motivated to do it at home.

By David09 — On Mar 13, 2012

@allenJo - I go to the gym several times a week. They have an Olympic weight bench set that enables me to do lifts and leg curls, and it gives me the ability to adjust the headrest from a flat to an incline position very easily. The probably sell something comparable in stores. But this all in one weight bench set has everything I need to do many of my exercises.

By allenJo — On Mar 12, 2012

@NathanG - In my opinion sturdiness is the most important factor when comparing a weight set, not simply how much weight the stand will support.

I’ve found some very short, flimsily constructed weight benches that were not that sturdy at all. I don’t know what the manufacturer had in mind frankly. If the bench is too light then when you hold the barbell above the rack, you can accidentally tip it backward and have an accident.

I can’t imagine any useful application for such a cheap weight bench except perhaps to demonstrate weight lifting to someone in the gym. Look for solid supports in your weight bench. You might also want to consider some added conveniences too, like weight benches that are of the fold up variety, for easy storage.

By NathanG — On Mar 11, 2012

The weight bench sets that you buy come in various sizes depending on the weightlifter’s body build and how heavy the weights are that you’ll be using.

If you are just starting out then I recommend that you start out with a basic 80 pound weight bench set. They even make smaller sizes than that specifically for kids if you want to get them on mild weight training, although I wouldn’t recommend it personally. Your kids should be more focused on aerobic and cardio activities than weight training because their muscles are still growing and developing.

For these starter weight sets the bars are not very long, so there won’t be a lot of space to keep adding more weights. But I think that 80 pounds is more than enough for anyone just getting started, and if you vary that with the amount of repetitions you should get plenty of quality exercise.

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