A home gym complete with all the fancy fixings -- weight bench, yoga mat, ballet barre and hot pink boxing bag -- will definitely keep you on track with the toned bod. But just like when you redid your home office, it's important to plan ahead before you dive in. And when it comes to the weight bench, that essential center piece -- think little black dress of the gym -- there are hundreds of types to choose from with many different sizes, styles and features. Fortunately, by planning ahead and focusing in on your fitness goals, you can save yourself a significant amount of time and money.
Planning Your Gym
Map out your fitness goals on a piece of paper. Focus on what you really want to accomplish with your body, whether it's losing weight, increasing your endurance or becoming a professional powerlifter. Once you've narrowed down exactly what you want to accomplish, you can set up an exercise program to achieve those goals. Your specific exercise regimen will determine what sort of weight bench and accessories you need.
Measure out the space you plan on using for your home gym. If you live in a small apartment, you'll want to know exactly how much space you have before purchasing the extra-long bench. Remember to leave plenty of space on each side so your potted ficus or upright bass can't interfere with your workout.
Select a weight bench that fits with your workout plan. Beginners can usually stick with a standard flat bench, but you may want to invest in a bench with an adjustable incline or decline or an upright seat for specific isolation exercises. For example, inclined benches are great for arm and shoulder exercises, while decline benches are where it's at for more intense ab crunches. Size matters too! If you're only planning on doing dumbbell curls, a small flat bench will do the trick. But if you plan on doing plenty of bench presses with a barbell, you should get a bench that can accommodate you as you're lying down.
Testing Your Bench
Lie flat on the bench to test its stability. Forget any benches that feel like they're going to tip over at any second -- they're not safe. Your bench should be structurally stable, with non-slip pads on the base and feet. Additionally, many professional-quality weight benches need to be bolted down to the floor to be stable. If you have beautiful hardwood floors, you may want to rule this out.
You've tested stability, now lie down on the bench to test its comfort level. A comfortable bench will keep you coming back for more and an uncomfortable bench can make it super easy to skip workouts. Mimic the action of a bench press to see how it feels against your back. Also make sure it's not too wide or too narrow.
Check your bench's weight capacity and ease of set up. A thinner bench may not be for you if you plan on bench pressing 400 pounds, Popeye. Benches that require a team of engineers to assemble are not worth the hassle either. A weight bench should be easy to set up and even easier to adjust between exercises.
Purchase the accessories you need to complete your individual exercise program. Optional accessories can include barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, barbell racks, foot stabilizers, padded foam rollers and safety pins. Your specific exercise regimen will determine which accessories you need.
- Always consult with your doctor or physical therapist before putting together the exercise program you intend to use in your home gym. They may be able to advise you on what to look for and what to avoid concerning your specific exercise goals.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.