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What makes a good adjustable bench?[edit]

  • Solid. No wobble in pads/hinges/ladder/pop pins.
  • Not too heavy to move around (11 gauge steel, < 100lbs, wheels)
  • No wobble on uneven floors. Tripod frame. (see Cybex 16001 example below)
  • Easy, fast, accessible and durable adjustment mechanism (bad: broken pop pins on cheaper benches)
    • Pop-Pins: easy to grasp? (sweaty hands? see "grip handle" picture below)
    • Pop-Pins: are they all the way in? Some pop-pin arcs wobble or the pop-pins don't line up with the holes (see below)
    • Ladder/Pop-Pin Arc: Will paint scrape off over time? Stainless?
  • No (or very small) pad gap! - Gaps can be uncomfortable and shouldn't be necessary (shouldn't need a separate flat bench)
  • Height should be ~17" (or less) to the top of the pad when flat so your feet can be easily planted on the ground
    • Competition bench height is 16.5”-17.5” (42-45cm)
  • Covered feet (rubber/uhmw) to prevent movement while in use & scratching/damaging home gym flooring
    • The height of the bench should be low (~17" or less) WITH the rubber feet attached
    • If a taller bench is desired, thicker feet could be an option
  • Durable and firm but comfortable pad (not slippery), ~11.5" wide
    • Competition pad width is 29-32cm
  • Easy to read adjustment angles (label the angles of incline)
  • Narrow/tapered seat so legs aren't forced to splay (uncomfortable during some dumbbell exercises)
  • No obstructions around your feet (leg holders, frame tubing, handles)
  • Back pad should overhang wheels so it fits in racks with a crossbeam (see frame overhang below)
  • Frame should fully support the back pad plywood to the edges so it doesn't crack (see frame support below)
  • Back pad screws should be anchored in the pad's plywood so they don't spin freely or pull out (like on some cheaper benches)
  • Upright storage option (rear support foot) so it doesn't take up much floor space in a home gym
  • Prefer the handle to be accessible
    • Comfortably reachable and centered under the seat (see:Rogue AB-2 but not free swinging causing paint to chip)
    • Not on the ground where you must bend way over to grab it (see:Elite bench)
    • Not off center where your legs can rub/hit it (see:RC bench)
  • Removable wheels? (& wheel attachments) - see bench being impeded by rack crossbeam below, or example2 (foot reversed so wheels don't hinder bench positioning)
    • Some benches are reported to have hard plastic squeaky wheels (Rogue AB 2.0), while others have soft yet sturdy quiet wheels (Rogue AB-3)

Cybex 5435[edit]

The popular Cybex 5435 has many of these features but unfortunately is not manufactured anymore

Frame design[edit]

  • Compact design, minimal pad gap, easy to maneuver, and sexy
  • Sturdy frame transfers load directly down to the ground under the high stress areas
  • Bench shouldn't tip when performing exercises that put weight on one side of the bench, ex: barbell hip thrusts
  • Bench legs shouldn't impede dumbbell exercises, ex: chest incline dumbbell rows
  • 3 points of contact so the bench doesn't rock on slightly uneven floors
    • Noteworthy example: The Cybex 16001 corrected the flat floor level tube of the 16000: "Contact with the floor is by a footpad and all floor level tubes are well above the floor to insure that a high point in an uneven floor cannot cause the bench to rock." and "All of the benches have been redesigned so that there are no end caps. "
    • Also see the back of the frame of: Nautilus style benches, Powerlift dumbbell bench, EliteFTS 0-90/WS Signature bench
  • Flat steel plate feet & no wide fat back beam to trip over! (many benches have an unnecessarily wide protruding flat back beam/foot)

Frame overhang[edit]

  • Unlike many benches the Cybex 5435's back pad extends past the rear frame so it is still usable if the wheels hit a rack's crossbeam

Frame back pad support[edit]

  • Frame should fully support the back pad or the unsupported plywood could split requiring ugly repairs
    • Especially important when leaning on one side of the bench (one arm rows) or when performing step-ups

Adjustments & Decline option[edit]

  • Life Fitness used to make a bench with a frame similar to the 5435, but with an arc adjustment mechanism and pop-pins. It had a large pad gap and did not have a true tripod frame but the front foot was small and didn't get in the way. It was originally made by HighTech before Life Fitness bought them in 1995
  • Hoist used to make a bench with a similar frame but it also had a large pad gap and did not have a true tripod frame, while the Quantum QWT-130 did have the tripod frame
  • The Yukon 0-90 bench also has a similar frame but is otherwise a very poor imitation of the original ($420)
  • The Nebula/Rae Crowther Awesome bench has a smart detachable leg holder (the seat remains narrow and the bench offers decline! unfortunately it has large pad gap)
  • The Rogue AB-2 is a re-brand of the Awesome bench but doesn't offer the decline attachment while the Rogue AB-3 offers rollers for leg support
  • The Cybex tripod frame still seems to be the superior design: stability without an obtrusive frame, and minimal pad gap!
    • If looking for a pop-pin style bench see the Life Fitness arc design below -- the pop-pin barrel looks to be well supported by both sides of a support tube, the arc is centered and can't be mistakenly welded in the incorrect location nor can the pop-pin be unaligned, and the frame is protected from being scraped by the chromed arc.
  • Notice the thickness of the Awesome bench's adjustment arc compared to the thin steel of cheaper benches
    • (see video of the RC bench: youtube) Hear the confidence instilling sound when the pop-pin locks into place, and notice the complete lack of wobble or slack when the bench is lifted
    • Should the pin go all the way through the arc/spine? Rogue response: " ... there is some minor fluctuation between parts ... as long as there is >50% of the spine hitting the pin it isn't an issue"
  • Prefer the adjustment mechanism (arc or ladder) not to be painted to prevent future chipping, see Legend arc above (but not covered in cheap flaky chrome!)
  • Solid frame integration of the pop-pin since all weight is on that one pin! (not like the cheap & dangerous ones that easily break off!)
  • The Life Fitness bench also appears to have plastic frame protection to prevent the arc from rubbing against the metal frame

Compare other bench styles[edit]

Ladder benches[edit]

Ladder benches with decline[edit]

  • Benches with decline have a wider seat and add obstructions for your legs
  • Some have bare metal on the ladder to prevent chipping of paint

Nautilus style ladder benches[edit]

  • Adjustment ladder paint may eventually scrape/wear away

Hammer Strength style benches[edit]

Telescoping/Other benches[edit]

Pop-pin benches[edit]

  • Some have chrome on the adjustment arc or replaceable metal protection strips to prevent scraping of paint

Pop-pin benches with decline[edit]

  • Wide seat forces leg to splay on some exercises
  • Have leg support that can get in the way of your feet (some are easily detachable)