Aside from my power rack, the single most important piece of equipment I own is my adjustable utility bench. While I was in the beginning phase of planning out my DIY gym I spent a lot of time trying to decide on a utility bench. I didn’t want multiple benches because my workspace was limited. So, the utility bench needed to be adjustable and the adjustments needed to range from decline all the way through 90° (should press).
This task proved harder than I thought. Most of the adjustable benches I found lacked the decline option. Although decline isn’t a major component of my workouts (aside from sit-ups), I do like to cycle through it to help prevent plateaus. Having eliminated all utility benches that didn’t support decline (and the ones outside my price range), I was left with three major choices.
- The Fitness Gear Pro Utility Bench ($179.99)
- Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 Series Bench ($229.99)
- Valor Fitness DD-4 Flat Incline Decline (FID) Bench ($269.99)
*You can find better prices than I listed here, but this was the suggested retail price at the time I wrote this article*
I eliminated the Fitness Gear Pro Utility Bench because of two reasons. One, it didn’t provide an option to lock-in your legs if you were using the decline setting on the bench. Although, I am not a lock-in leg guy (aside from decline) it seemed unreasonable for me to be upside down while doing decline dumbbell bench, or trying to do sit-ups. Two, the main mechanism for adjustments was a retractable pin and a thin piece of mental that the bench is supported by. This may be more of a mental thing for me because the manufacturer claims that this bench can support up to 600 lbs.
I eliminated the Valor Fitness DD-4 Flat Incline Decline (FID) Bench because of its leg lock-in option. Although you can remove a portion of the leg lock-in, another portion is permanently fastened to the frame. If this doesn’t bother you than this was the cheapest of the options that meet my criteria.
I decided to go with the Bowflex SelectTech 5.1 Series Bench. It provides the leg lock-in option, which is also quickly removable. Also, it uses a stout pole as its means to make incline/decline adjustments. This bench adjusts to six different positions: 17° decline, flat, 30° incline, 45° incline, 60° incline and 90° for shoulder press. This bench had all the features I wanted, and with the discount (for bundling items with a drop-shipper) I was able to get it for just under $200 (shipping included).
This overall bench is 26” wide on the foot-end support, and 15.5” wide on the head end support. It has an over all length of 56”, and the bench (pad) sits 18” off of the ground. Those are the numbers you will need to determine if the footprint of this bench will work for you. The bench pad is comprised of two parts; upper (where your lower back to head rest), and lower (where your butt is). The upper is 12” wide, and 33” long. The lower is 15.5” wide, and 16” long. This gives you an overall pad area of 12-15.5” wide, and 53” long.
The Bowflex SelectTech bench comes in one medium box. It took me all of 10 mins to complete the installation. The main frame is already constructed and ready to go. All you need to do is install the base supports (one upper, one lower), and the padded area (which comes in three sections). Everything can be installed with the allen key provided, and a small wrench/socket (not provided). Once installed you can lift one end, which will put the whole bench on a set of built-in wheels making it very easy to maneuver around.
When looking for a bench it is important that you address your needs, and that the bench makes sense for the area where it will be used. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t make sense. Another great option is to refurbish a used bench. If you remove the padded area from the frame you can sand and paint the frame any color you like. See what kind of board they used in the padded area (typically 1/2-3/4” plywood) and replace it will new padding. If you need to save some cash this is the cheapest option.