Gear Benches: The Fitness Secret No One Ever Told You

Key Points

  • The gear bench makes an excellent addition to any home or garage gym.

  • Several exercises can be performed with a bench to improve health and fitness.

  • The gear bench can be used in combination with other fitness equipment for the best results.

Long-time fitness freaks and New Year's resolution-makers, get ready to learn a secret to weight-training success that could take your established routine to a new level or allow you to keep that resolution longer than Valentine's Day. It's simple, it's basic, it's versatile, and best of all it's effective. It is the gear bench, and if it isn't there already it probably needs to be in your home gym.

Whether you're looking to tighten and tone your genetic inheritance or yield some serious strength gains for a fraction of what a gym membership might cost, the gear bench is one of the best pieces of equipment you can use for a full-body workout

What Is a Gear Bench?

A gear bench is a weight bench that adjusts to accommodate a variety of exercises. The adjustable bench action of a gear bench can take your workout to the next level of efficiency and effort. Chest presses, shoulder flys, squats, and rows are just a few of the many exercises made more impactful with the use of a weigh bench.

With the fitness world continually changing to meet individual needs and demands, the evolution of the weight bench is an excellent representation of equipment evolution that can optimize your workout.

Gear bench with water, dumbbell, towel

History of the Weight Bench

The first pioneers of weight-bearing exercises may have used a crude version of the weight bench in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the earliest recorded uses of the bench was in the 1930s when athletes added wooden benches and boxes to their workouts to improve form and efficiency.

New versions of the press allowed them to keep their legs lower and feet on the floor. Changes in form isolated chest and deltoid muscles, making both movement and effort more efficient. Workout gains were so impressive that athletes and amateurs alike wondered if this crude piece of equipment could be improved to be even more efficient.

Bench press stanchions, uprights that hold a barbell over a bench, were introduced in 1950. This allows lifters to perform bench presses without the assistance of a spotter.

Early fitness entrepreneur Bob Hoffman began marketing the first 5-in-1 bench with flat, incline, and decline degrees in the 1950s. He shows his simple passion and purpose for fitness in this iconic phrase: "I am a weight lifter. I like weight lifting and weight lifters."

His contribution to the fitness world allows you to leverage your results and significantly improve your physique, one workout at a time.

Modern weight bench options are varied and fiercely competitive as several companies attempt to capitalize on the craze for the perfect form and muscular function.

Whether as an addition to your home gym or for some muscular manipulation at your fitness center, consider the various types of weight benches available for your workout.

Flat Weight Bench

Flat weight benches are aptly named, providing you with the least complex strength workout option. Flat bench design involves a simple platform that rests on sturdy legs. The platform or pad provides the user with a softer surface while they work out with free weights. 

A flat bench design also keeps the back pad in one place. The horizontal design of the support pad makes it ideal for many exercises, but other benches may fit the bill better if you seek a more comprehensive workout.

This no-frills accessory will efficiently work out major muscle groups and yield consistent strength gains with every session.

Adjustable Bench

The gear bench, or adjustable bench, allows the user to raise and lower the support pad to a variety of incline and decline positions. Several basic exercises can also be performed in the flat bench position.

As you look for full range of motion in your workouts, you'll undoubtedly gravitate toward the gear bench for its versatility and options for use. 

The adjustable bench is excellent for working smaller muscle groups that a flat bench position may not target. Decline positions target abdominal muscles, giving you that extra dose of pain when finishing a weight training session. This popular bench's adjustability provides the user with options for exercise efficiency and a plethora of exercises to choose from when crafting a workout.

Man doing chest press

Foldable Benches

Foldable benches provide versatility for workouts and are just as sturdy as other weight benches.

Its strength depends on your ability to correctly position and prepare it for your workout. Follow the manufacturer's setup instructions to ensure strength and safety during your workouts with this type of bench.

Utility Stools

The utility stool, or multi-purpose workout bench, is slightly different from other weight benches. These resemble chairs and come with an upright back pad. Some versions have foot holds at the bottom of the bench to provide extra strength and stability to the unit.

Suitable for almost any move that you would typically perform in a seated position, the added support of a back pad can help reduce muscle strain, add strength to lower back muscles, and help ensure proper spinal alignment for all types of exercises.

Parts of the Gear Bench

As with any piece of equipment, you need to know how it works before you can use it safely and effectively. Here are some of the essential elements of a fitness bench and their specific functions.


The frame of a weight bench is the core of the unit and supports you during the workout. Frame strength should not be compromised when you shop for a weight bench, as it could affect your safety and ability to perform exercises effectively. 

The ideal bench has a frame constructed from 3" x 2" tubular or square steel framing. The lower the gauge measurement on steel, the stronger your steel is. A gauge of 14 or lower provides the strength and stability you need in a bench. 

Back Base

The bench's back base is what you lie on or against. A back base must be long enough to support your midsection without your head flopping off the end — narrow enough so that it doesn't impede the natural movement of your shoulder blades and lats.

Bench bases should be made of thick, solid material such as composite or wood with a thick cushion cover to provide additional support and comfort to enhance your workout efficiency.


Some weight bench models' seat is separate and joined to the back base. Good benches provide an easily adjustable seat that allows for proper body alignment when performing a series of incline and decline exercises.

The ideal bench should provide at least three options for proper positioning.

Woman doing workout with dumbbell


Padding on a weight bench sits between the back base and seat, underneath the covering. Padding is a sturdy yet responsive foam that provides structure to the unit and supports you as you perform weight-training exercises. 

Thick, firm padding on your bench makes your workouts more efficient. Softer padding does little to amp up your fitness game because you sink into the bench and lose some of your power potential. The soft padding also makes it difficult to transition between exercises due to time spent extricating yourself from the pad.

Doing a press test before buying the bench tells you if it is right for you. Simply press your finger into the pad on the seat or back pad. If your finger depresses the padding farther than halfway through, it is too soft for working out.  


Vinyl that covers a workout bench should look great, be functional, and be durable. The right vinyl covering provides you with a sturdy surface on which to work. It should also be resistant to odor and sweat.

Adjustment Mechanisms

Adjustment mechanisms allow you to set the angle of your gear bench. These mechanisms should be easy to operate, variable, and reliable. The last thing you want to worry about when using a utility bench is it collapsing during an incline bench session. Locking pins should be solid and sturdy to ensure you are protected during each set.

Adjustment mechanisms should also be easy and quick to adjust between sets. A good bench has many options for adjusting its angles. Premium gear bench designs offer seven angles — five inclines and two declines. All benches should also provide a 90-degree angle in a seated position and a flat bench position.


A good pair of wheels on the front of your adjustable bench makes it easier to move and position for your workout. This positioning is desired for those combining a weight bench with a power rack or half rack.

Home gym positioning is generally easier than commercial positioning, where weight benches may be bolted down to the floor for additional safety.

Leg Supports

Padded leg supports allow the user to lock the lower body into the proper position when performing exercises such as a decline triceps extension, decline ab crunch, or decline dumbbell press.

This added support keeps you safe from muscle injury while providing extra stability that adds to the effectiveness of other muscle moves.

Girl doing back row with dumbbell

How To Use a Weight Bench To Improve Your Workouts

At first glance, this simple piece of equipment is unassuming and downright uninteresting to the novice weight trainer. Those using the adjustable weight bench for strength training sing its praises. Its benefits for strength, flexibility, and even weight loss are evident with every subsequent workout.

Using a weight bench is a fairly simple process of adjusting it to the appropriate angle or height, grasping your desired weights, and choosing an exercise to sculpt and train muscles.

Here are just a few of the many exercises you can do by adding a weight bench to your gym equipment.

Bench Press

Bench presses, when done with a barbell or a set of dumbbells, are one of the most powerful and effective exercises for building beautiful, strong chest muscles. Avoid overwhelming yourself with more weight than you can handle when first starting your weight training program.

Proper form and execution are the keys to ensuring this power-packed move yields significant results.

Dumbbell Hammer Press

The dumbbell hammer press is a unique variation of the standard bench press. Using dumbbells rather than a stationary barbell allows you to twist your wrists into a hammer position with palms facing each other. This small movement increases the engagement of your forearms and triceps through the exercises.

The hammer press amps up your chest power, increases grip strength, and thickens the arms.

Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is a staple "back-day" exercise due to its effectiveness in targeting several different muscle groups. This multi-faceted movement works traps, lats, rhomboids, shoulders, and biceps in one controlled motion. 

Proper positioning as you lean on the bench helps support the lower back muscles, reducing your risk of injury compared to exercises like deadlifts and bent-over rows.

Triceps Dip

Few exercises are as effective at blasting away that jiggly arm fat as the tricep dip. Your triceps are beautifully isolated as you do the heavy lifting of lowering and raising your body on the exercise bench, maxing out muscle fatigue and sculpting beautiful arms. 

Few people know that focusing on the triceps first, rather than the biceps, does more for sculpting the upper arms than paying attention to the biceps alone. The tricep muscle is almost twice the size of the bicep muscle, so it can grow faster when working to fatigue.

Tricep dips on workout bench

Hip Thrusters

Who said the weight bench only accommodates the upper arms, chest, and back? The hip thruster is a great glute-building exercise for shaping the posterior and improving lower back strength and stability.

Hip thrusters also promote a full range of motion through the hips and strengthen the hamstrings and core muscles that support the pelvis. 


Step-ups are very effective at building strength in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They also do an excellent job of improving core stability and balance as you shift your weight from one foot to the other.

Add a barbell or dumbbells to your step-up, and you've significantly improved the power and potential of this exercise to sculpt and tone legs, hips, thighs, and buttocks.

Lateral Bench Hops

With all this talk of weightlifting and strength training, you may wonder how to balance your fitness portfolio with some cardio. Weight benches aren't just for weightlifting! You can also use them for some effective and downright difficult cardio moves.

The lateral bench hop increases stamina, improves strength, and pushes your heart and lungs to full capacity. When starting this exercise, do not attempt to jump completely over the bench. Work up to that with short, lateral hops at the end of the bench that work toward a greater range of motion.

Once you build up your strength and stamina you can easily clear the exercise bench.

Benefits of Adding a Weight Bench to Your Home Gym

There are several benefits of adding a weight bench to your home gym. You not only have added versatility and variety to your workout, but you can perform these exercises in the comfort and convenience of your own home.

Adds a Proper Foundation to Any Strength Training Workout

Weight benches dot the commercial gym landscape for a reason — they turn a good strength training workout into a great one. Extra stability, comfort, and range of motion improve the motion of each exercise and yield significant results that can be both felt and seen.

Improves Strength While Burning Fat

One delicious secret about weight training is that it almost effortlessly allows you to burn fat and sculpt a leaner, meaner physique. Studies also show a significant improvement in cardiovascular health through proper form and efficient transition between weight-bearing exercises.

The multi-faceted nature of strength training makes it an ideal type of exercise for young and old alike.

Increases Exercise Effectiveness

Proper positioning of your weight bench and weights promotes a more effective range of motion, taking the results of your training to the next level of growth and proficiency.

Smaller muscle groups thrive under the added weight of a full range of motion, and your body finds both strength and balance from using these smaller muscle groups.

Allows You To Leverage Your Weight for Better Results

Powerlifters no longer have to struggle and strain to show their gains. Amateurs need not feel sheepish about the amount of weight they can't yet carry when doing squats and other leg exercises.

The isolating action of a weight bench allows you to leverage your results in less time and with less weight overall.

The real kicker is that you yield the same results as some of those meatheads sweating and struggling in the gym day after day.

Hip thrusts with bench

Add the Weight Bench to Your Workout Regime

Improve your fitness equipment arsenal by picking up a gear bench that can quickly enhance even the most intense workout.

Whether you're working out on the ab benches at Planet Fitness, or repping it out in your local Crossfit gym, the great news is that once you've used one bench, you've just about used them all. Once you gain a basic understanding of the bench, it opens up a whole new world of exercise opportunities.

Fancy yourself as your own personal trainer as you challenge each muscle group, seek out new exercises to try, and set the fitness bar as high as your aspirations go.

Go get 'em!

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