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So you know you want to lift weights at home, and you’ve worked out that to do that safely you REALLY need a power rack (or some kind of squat rack or stands, at least). What next? A bench, of course!
With a ton of choices out there – even in the UK these days – it can be pretty confusing when looking for a weight bench suitable for a heavy duty home gym. Let’s take a look at what exactly we should be looking for – and which one is my current ‘best buy’!
At a glance…
- FID is short for fixed / incline / decline and refers to the positions we can move weight benches in to
- Adjustable benches are more versatile than fixed flat benches and are ideally suited to home gyms
- We think Bulldog Gear offer the best benches in the UK with great build materials at fair prices
- Ironmaster’s Super Bench is a good alternative for those wanting a ‘general fitness’ bench
What does “FID bench” mean?
A great place to start – what is the meaning of “FID bench”? It is used as a shorthand way to refer to a weights bench that can be used in Flat / Incline / Decline positions.
OK, so what is an FID bench and why do I need one?
So now we know it stands for “fixed / incline / decline” – what exactly is a bench in this category and how does it differ to, say, a traditional flat bench?
As the name implies you can use the bench in a number of angled positions. This is great for targeting different muscles or performing different movements when training. For example I might be working on competition-style, paused bench pressing with a bench set flat, then in a minute or two I can crank it up to a 45 degree incline and be hitting my pecs completely differently from a nice incline.
This versatility is mega when you are constrained by space, and/or money. Why? Because one bench can do everything. You do not need to debate flat vs incline bench, why not do both?!
Sure, if you are a Pure Gym or a Bannatyne’s you can have a ton of flat benches, various fixed bench press stations, maybe a few incline benches – but for you & I working out of a single garage somewhere in rural UK, being able to buy and store just one bench is a HUGE benefit to us!
Do any benches come with attachments?
They sure do – some of the options such as Ironmaster Super Bench Pro have the ability to add a ton of extra bells and whistles to them. Some of the attachments out there include:
- Preacher curl – my personal favourite of the range of attachments – this adds a raised pad to anchor your elbows when performing bicep curls allowing a better isolation when curling
- Leg attachments to allow leg development with a leg curl or extension type movement. Having used these several times they are always a little disappointing and a bit lightweight.
- Dip attachments – nice to be able to have a dedicated dip station, if you can’t do them in your rack already, that is!
Having ”been there” with attachments I would honestly not let them drive your decision on bench to buy. They are very much a nice to have, and often the quality is a bit ‘light’. I would rather have an excellent bench with no attachments, than an OK bench with a few trinkets I don’t use often.
Your training needs will – of course – be different. But something to bare in mind anyway!
New development: Adjustable benches with NO pad gap!
I love this so much it gets it’s own heading. When comparing a flat bench vs an incline (or FID, or whatever) the main downside to the adjustable one is that there is usually a gap between the pad of the backrest and the seat. This gap exists to allow the bench to move up or down without the seat padding fouling the back padding.
That is until some smart folks came up with a seat pad that can be angled, but also slid backwards and forwards. This means when we stick it in the flat position we can but the seat pad hard up against the backrest, and voila –
An adjustable bench, with NO pad gap!
So now we can buy an adjustable weight bench which is functionally identical to a flat bench, with all the upsides of being able to go incline or decline at the drop of a hat.
What makes the best bench for a power rack, the best?
I’m going to discuss the best FID bench for power rack use. When using one within a power rack there are a number of factors to consider:
- Weight capacity of the bench – this needs to be high enough to take your bodyweight plus any weight you will be lifting.
- Where the feet of the unit sit – I find wide feet at the base interfere with my leg stance. Critically, the feet under the headpiece need to be positioned so as to not interfere with the power rack itself.
- As you are looking for the best solution for use with your squat rack, consider the number of incline/decline positions it can be set to.
- I want a sturdy adjustable solution. Do you? I previously owned a cheap one which I used for heavy benchpress and found it wobbled so much I threw it out. Think about the consequences if not, would you want to fall off with 80kg+ in your hands?!
Is the F320 the best weight bench for home use?
Now I have spoken about this bench a few times, but I bought a Bodycraft F320 previously as I thought it was the best options for home workouts. I researched FID solutions for months and came to this conclusion for a number of reasons:
- Warranted for home and commercial use – nothing says good quality like being approved for commercial use. Enough said!
- Critically, as you incline the F320, the seat slides backwards meaning your head is always in the same place in relation to the rear feet. This means when doing military/incline presses you are positioned under the J hooks without the feet interfering with the rear of the cage. Great feature, which has sadly been copied by competitors!
- It is c.18″ tall which makes it lower in height for those of us who are shorter. I was able to get great foot drive with this bench despite being 5’7″. A big plus over the original Ironmaster Super Bench in my view.
- It’s got of wheels to make moving it around easier. I used to store it on it’s end as well so it takes up a little less room.
While I did put my money where my mouth is with this bench, ultimately I have sold it and moved on, despite the awesome sliding mechanism which made it ideal for using in a squat rack or similar where there was a rear crossbar.
So what were the negatives? Well ultimately the stability when in the flat position was not as reassuring as I would like. I prefer a hard contact to absolutely hold the back rest. I ended up moving on to a Legend 3103 incline bench. This was also even lower than the F320 by around an inch.
So the F320 is likely not for the hardcore bench pressing community as I proved by outgrowing it – but it did stand up to a ton of abuse day in, day out. I would recommend it more as a general fitness FID bench rather than for those leaning towards heavy, powerlifting focused training.
Plus that sliding mechanism is awesome – so we can forgive the bench some of its wobbly woes. Is it the best bench for use in a power rack? I would say NO as I spend 80%+ of my time in the flat position doing heavy work which is ultimately this benches weakest areas combined.
Which bench is best? (And yes – it’s available in the UK!)
So there are a few options here – as I mentioned above I currently have a Legend 3103 which – at the time – cost quite a bit to import from America. I went to all this hassle at the time as I wanted something that was ABSOLUTELY rock solid when benching (the driver for me moving on from my F320 was stability).
I knew from extensive research that the Legend bench was sturdy – there are numerous videos of 405lbs bench presses (and beyond!) on this bench. What a beast!
Ultimately thought it has a couple of downsides – the backrest is the standard 10” which, for some, is a little narrow, and it has a pad gap between the seat and backrest that is a paid when doing flat work.
Now a few years have passed – what would I recommend?
Sadly for me and my wallet, the Legend is great – but there is a cheaper alternative out there that addresses the main weakness in the 3103. Bulldog Gear in the UK have released a bench that is clearly of similar design to the Legend, but with a few tweaks… Including an adjustable seat pad to eliminate pad gap!
The downside of the Bulldog 2.0 bench – as per the Legend 3103 which is of similar design – is that it doesn’t move in to incline positions without an additional leg attachment. That’s a bit rich of me – you asked what the best FID bench was and I’ve given you an FI bench! Let me explain why…
As we talked about the FID bench is a great ‘one stop shop’. Sadly I think this is too much of a compromise for my uses (heavy bench training) and any bench with decline options will naturally be more a general fitness bench or require additional attachments. That was certainly my experience with the BodyCraft F320.
Of course you could spring the extra and buy the decline attachment for the Bulldog, then you have an absolute beast of a bench… You can check out my full review of it right here!
If you can’t quite stretch to the Bulldog 2.0, then I would take a look at the (relatively) new Ironmaster Super Bench Pro which is available in the UK and is usefully shorter (at 17.2” tall) than the old Super Bench.
So when looking for an adjustable weight bench – what do you actually want it for? Is it a general fitness bench? Just how important is decline work to you? These decisions will shape the route you go down.
If you are interested in strength training and intend to do a good chunk of your training on a flat bench – but want the option of incline to get that hypertrophy pop – I would recommend checking out the Bulldog 2.0, or Ironmaster Super Bench Pro If you’re willing to compromise on stability and build materials.