The workout bench is one of the most unassuming pieces of home gym equipment. In fact, it’s so unassuming that many beginners don’t even know if it’s worth buying or not! But you should make a careful decision if you’re a beginner who doesn’t want to miss out on muscle and strength gains. This article will explain whether or not you need a bench for your home gym.
Home gyms need a bench for bench pressing. This is a great exercise for building muscle and strength in the chest and arm muscles. A weight bench is not essential for people who do not plan to bench press at home.
For as long as I could, I put off purchasing a bench.
I had a gym membership at the time and I simply wanted to spend my money on other equipment instead (the bench seemed like such a boring purchase!).
But Boy, how wrong I was!
It turned out to be one of my favorite purchases.
That said, a bench isn’t required by everyone, and there are pros and cons to getting one for your own home gym.
Let’s explore these now.
A Bench CAN Be Well Worth It For A Home Gym.
If you’re at all serious about training at home, you will have at some point considered buying a weight bench.
But then doubt comes often rears its ugly head:
Is it worth getting a bench?
In general, a workout bench is worth it for home gyms. A bench can be purchased for a very reasonable price and will allow more exercises to be performed, compared to not having a bench. This makes a workout bench essential for those looking to build muscle and strength.
I stress the words “essential to build muscle and strength”
That’s because not everyone wants to build a sh*t load of muscle.
Here are the main types of weight lifters and why they should/shouldn’t get a workout bench:
|Home Gym Goal
|Increase strength and power
|Provides a stable platform to lift heavy free weights.
|Build muscle mass
|Maximizes angles, range of motion, and weight load.
|HIIT and cardiovascular improvement
|Floor and standing exercises are adequate.
|Lifting heavy weights is not essential.
You can see that your choice to buy a bench should be influenced by your training goals.
Generally speaking, beginners, casual lifters, and those looking to do HIIT will not find a bench to be worth it.
However, if you’re goal is to build maximum upper-body mass, strength, and power, a bench is essential for your home gym.
1) A bench is a stable platform to lift heavy and build strength.
Lifting progressively heavier weights is fundamental to building strength.
And barbells are often the best way to achieve this.
In order to safely use barbells, you also need a stable platform to lay on.
The bench press is a classic example of an upper-body strength exercise that requires a bench.
So if your goal is to increase upper-body strength, then a bench should be at the top of your home gym wishlist.
2) A bench gives the angles & ROM required to build muscle.
Building maximum muscle mass and definition requires you to perform a variety of exercises.
Ideally, these exercises should target the same muscle group at different angles.
For example- the flat dumbbell press is great for a bigger chest, but adding an incline dumbbell press will be even better.
Additionally, building maximum mass and definition also requires you to lift with a full range of motion (ROM).
ROM describes the ability for a joint to go through its full spectrum of movement.
It’s why people love to use dumbbells over barbells because the dumbbells allow maximum ROM.
But to really gain the full ROM benefits, you’ll need a bench.
For example- the dumbbell bench press gives you a full ROM, compared to a dumbbell floor press which only gives you a partial ROM because the floor prevents your elbows from dropping below the torso.
Therefore a bench is well worth it for your home gym if you’re using dumbbells, and a good physique is at the top of your agenda!
Go to my other article if you need help deciding whether you should buy home dumbbells or gym membership.
3) Casual lifters don’t need a workout bench.
If you’re lifting weights for general fitness, HIIT, or fat loss, then you don’t need a bench.
That’s because there are many standing/floor exercises you can do instead, to reach these goals.
There are also other alternatives you could buy instead of a bench.
Resistance bands, all-in-one pull-up/dip stations, and suspension trainers can all be purchased instead of a bench.
And these are great additions to the general fitness-oriented home gym.
Or just perform dumbbell exercises without a bench!
The Weight Bench Is Not Essential For A Home Gym, BUT…
If your goal is to build strength and mass, then a weight bench is highly recommended.
But is it ESSENTIAL for a home gym?
Do you NEED a weight bench to get stronger and bigger?
The short answer is no.
As a beginner, you’ll be able to get bigger and stronger without a bench (as long as your nutrition and training are on point).
That being said, a weight bench is highly recommended to maximize size and strength gains.
And this is especially true for intermediate to advanced lifters.
Only 18% of Redditors think a weight bench is necessary
But don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s what I found:
Only 18% of people thought that you need a weight bench.
The remaining 82% thought a bench is either a luxury or only suitable for those with certain goals (i.e. building upper-body strength and mass).
Put it this way:
Getting a bench is like getting a significant other. It’s not really essential to everyone, but it’s highly recommended if you have a specific goal in mind (i.e. get big/strong or start a family).
Benefits & Drawbacks Of Getting Be Bench For A Home Gym.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of getting a workout bench for your home gym.
Benefits of getting a weight bench:
- Greater ROM is achieved with a bench. This is beneficial for muscle growth and definition.
- More angles can be achieved with a bench. It’s hard to do incline and decline exercises without a bench.
- Using a bench is the safest way to push heavy weights. This is the essential if you want to get as strong as possible.
- Can help you build a bigger chest. A full ROM performed at different angles with heavy weights is the perfect recipe for chest growth.
- Provides a comfortable lifting platform. Sure you can use your own makeshift bench, but it wont be anywhere near as comfortable or safe as a proper workout bench.
- Benches have a versatile function. They are mainly used for chest exercises. But they can also be used for exercises like rows, sit-ups, and shoulder presses. Not to mention, they provide a nice seat during your inter-set rest periods.
- They are a good long-term investment. Even the cheapest of weight benches will last you a good 5-10 years (if not a lifetime).
- Cost-effective home gym equipment. A weight bench has one of the highest cost:function ratios of any home gym equipment (besides weights themselves). This means they give you a lot, for not a lot of money!
Drawbacks of a weight bench:
- Benches can be expensive. The upfront cost can range from anywhere between $50 to $500+. Not everyone has the funds required to buy a bench.
- Requires usage and storage space. A bench has a usage and storage footprint. This is usually around 24sqf to use and 4sqf to store. You’ll need to consider the size of your home gym.
- Research is required to choose a suitable bench. You don’t want to waste your cash on choosing an unsuitable bench, only to have to replace it a few months down the line (more on this below).
- Can be a waste of money for casual lifters. A weight bench can serve as nothing more than a fancy chair if you’re a casual lifter who doesn’t bench press or do chest flyes.
Check out my other article to find out if you need a bench for your dumbbells!
How Much A Bench Should Cost For A Home Gym.
So you’ve decided that you need a bench for your home gym.
Now the next question you may be wondering is how much should a workout bench cost?
The price will depend on the type of bench and also the brand.
But a good price to pay would be around $150-$250.
That said, budget benches can be as cheap as $50, whilst premium benches can be as expensive as $600+.
|Weight Bench Type
|Typical Price Range
|Brand New Cost
|Budget flat bench
|Weider Traditional Flat Bench
|Mid-range flat bench
|Rep Fitness FB3000
|Premium flat bench
|Rogue Fitness Flat Utility Bench
|Budget adjustable bench
|Linodi adjustable weight bench
|Mid-range adjustable bench
|Flybird adjustable bench
|Premium adjustable bench
|Rogue Fitness adjustable bench 2.0
As you can see, a weight bench doesn’t have to break the bank.
If you have the money, and you intend to get bigger and stronger at home, then you should get a bench.
It will be one of the best investments you make for your home gym.
Even the budget ones are surprisingly well-built.
I personally use the Flybird FB149 (see the full review here).
You can also check out my other article to find out the average cost of a weight bench here.
Don’t buy the wrong bench for your home gym!
There are lots of benches on the market.
But they can all be roughly categorized into two buckets- flat and adjustable.
One may be more suitable for you than the other, so choose carefully!
Here are the differences:
- Flat benches are great for heavy bench pressing. This is simply a flat padded bench on four legs. A flat bench is mostly used to bench press at heavy loads. But they can also be used for exercises like the dumbbell chest fly, pull-over, single-arm rows, box squats, seated shoulder press, and more. Get a flat bench for your home gym if powerlifting-style bench pressing is the focus of your training.
- Adjustable benches are great all rounders. They have a pin adjustment mechanism that allows you to set flat, incline, and decline angles. The more expensive ones also allow different degrees of incline/decline. They can be used for all bench exercises including the flat/incline/decline bench press, chest flyes, deficit sit-ups, and more.
- Foldable benches are extremely convenient. Both flat and adjustable benches can also be foldable. This type of bench is great if your home gym lacks space. But cheaper models can be fragile.
What’s the best type of bench for a home gym?
I would always advise getting an adjustable bench.
They offer the best balance in affordability, functionality, and space savings (if you choose a foldable bench).
A mid-range adjustable bench can be found for under $150, and this will allow you to perform all the bench exercises you would ever need.
Flat benches are stable and sturdy, but they are too specialized for my liking.
DIY Bench Alternatives For A Home Gym.
Previously, I explained that a bench is not essential, because beginners can do other exercises that don’t require a bench.
But the other reason why buying a weight bench can be unnecessary is because you can make your own!
Here are items you can use as a gym bench at home:
1) Plank of wood and chair.
A chair can be used as a bench replacement by simply laying on a flat surface.
However, this will be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
A better idea is to get 2 chairs, have them face each other, and bridge the gap with a plank of wood (bed slats work great!).
This is one of the easiest ways to create your own makeshift workout bench.
But it becomes risky when you load it with too heavy a weight.
If you intend to do this, for example, bench pressing more than 80lbs, I would strongly advise getting a proper bench for your gym instead.
2) Piano bench.
A piano bench is a great alternative for a flat bench.
They often have a padded (but firm) seat and are also usually very stable.
This makes them an awesome flat bench alternative for your home gym.
But you won’t be able to adjust it’s angle to do exercises like the incline/decline bench press.
Again, if you intend to do exercises like this, you are better off buying an adjustable bench.
Whatever you wanna call it- Bosu ball, yoga ball, exercise ball.
These can be a cheap adjustable bench alternative for beginners.
Simply lay your upper back on the ball, and form a glute bridge by planting both feet on the ground.
You can also lower your buttocks to enter an incline position.
The only issue with using a stability ball is exactly that- the stability (or should I say lack of!).
Since you’ll be balancing your body weight on the ball, you won’t be able to lift too heavy.
In fact, a lot of energy is wasted simply stabilizing yourself on the ball.
Again, if you wanna bench heavy, the best thing to do is to get a proper bench!
Got a bench and dumbbells but not sure what to do? Check out my other article for a dumbbell workout plan to get ripped!
Recommendation For An Affordable Home Gym Setup
Here’s an equipment list for a basic, yet effective and affordable), home gym to build muscle. I used this setup to gain 20lbs of muscle at home:
- Flybird FB149: this fully adjustable bench can be inclined and declined, allowing you to hit all the chest regions. It’s 700lb weight capacity is also enough for any dumbbell and can even be used for moderately heavy barbells (should you require this function in the future). It’s stable, comfortable, and can even be folded and stored in a closet after your workout). Having researched over a dozen benches prior to purchasing this one, I can say that the Flybird is one of the best-value for money benches at it’s pricepoint. The only issue about this bench is the tall seat height can prevent people with shorter legs from getting a firm foot plant when bench pressing. But that’s not an issue as you can just place your feet on the footrest instead.
- Powerblock Elites: the Elites are the cheapest of all the premium heavy dumbbells. And man, if you can afford them, they pack a lot of features for the price. The basic model comes weighs 50lbs per dumbbell, and this can be upgraded to 70lbs and 90lbs when you’re ready. This means you don’t have to splash out 500+ bucks from the get-go, but you also have the option to upgrade as you become stronger. You get up to 28 different weight settings, and the adjustment mechanism is slick to use. It also comes with a 5 year warranty (pretty rare for adjustable dumbbells), and the customer support is well known to be outstanding. One thing to mention though- it takes some time to get accustomed to the unconventional square-shape.
What to use if you don’t have a bench at home?
The floor can be used instead of a bench. The floor press is a safe alternative to the bench press for people who do not have a weight bench at home. However, the elbows cannot drop below the torso line and this can reduce muscle activation.
You can also check out my other post for DIY home weight bench alternatives!
Do I need a bench for bench press?
A weight bench is essential to bench press. A stable bench allows a heavier weight to be lifted and a greater range of movement to be achieved. Therefore chest press without a bench is not strictly a bench press.
Do you need a bench to lift weights?
A bench is not essential to lift weights. There are plenty of exercises that can work the entire body, including the chest, without a weight bench. However, a weight bench is essential for people who intend to bench press.
You can also check out my other post for chest exercises without a bench!
What do I need for a basic home gym?
Weights are required for a basic home gym. Dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands are the most cost-effective option. Other types of equipment such as a bench, mats, and racks are recommended but not essential.
You can check out my other post to find out how to build a dumbbell only home gym.
I’ve explained whether or not you need a bench for your home gym.
If you intend to maximize upper body strength and muscle by lifting as heavy as possible, you’ll need a bench.
You’ll also need a bench if you intend to bench press significant poundages (i.e. anything over 80lbs).
If, however, you’re a casual lifter or beginner who doesn’t need to do the above, you can get away without a bench.
You could even make your own bench or use an alternative!
Did this article help you make a more informed decision?
Let me know in the comments!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It gives the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy).