For us home gymers, having a quality weight bench is a must. Well, it’s a must if you like lifting weights (and don’t have an all-in-one home gym system). Anyway, having a weight bench definitely adds a lot of variety to your workout, but the problem is they take up floor space. And if your workout area is limited to begin with, you have to take advantage of every inch.
The Bowflex 5.1S Stowable Bench is pretty unique because it’s designed to be stored upright. The idea seems intriguing enough and could work in theory, but does this alone make this the best weight bench for small spaces? If you ask me, no.
Storability is only one feature to consider. We also have to make sure our weight bench is durable enough to hold up to any workout we can throw at it and comfortable to use.
My goal for this review is to take a close look at the Bowflex 5.1S and see if it really is the best option for small workout spaces.
The Bowflex 5.1S Stowable Bench
The first thing this weight bench has going for it is it’s name. Bowflex is easily one of the most recognizable fitness brands on the planet. They produce everything from treadmills to dumbbells and are generally known for having a good reputation in terms of product quality and customer service.
The 5.1S is the latest addition to their weight bench lineup, which also includes the 3.1 and 5.1. Check out the table below for a quick comparison of the three:
|Bowflex 3.1 Adjustable Bench||Bowflex 5.1 Adjustable Bench||Bowflex 5.1S Stowable Bench|
|Number of positions||4||6||6|
|Weight Capacity||480 lb||480 lb||600 lb|
I wanted to start with this table because it not only illustrates the differences between these 3 popular benches, but it also gives us a nice outline of some of the things we should consider when looking for a bench. Things like bench positions and weight capacity must be considered and compared to find the best weight bench.
But when looking for a bench that will work for small workout spaces, we also have to take into account the portability and storability factors. Not to mention the actual dimensions of the bench.
I want to make sure we are all on the same page here and we all know what Bowflex means by “stowable”. The 5.1S is designed to be stored upright. By doing this, Bowflex has essentially cut this bench’s footprint in half when not in use.
During use, this bench takes up this much floor space: 61.3″(L) x 28.1″(W) x 49.5″(H)
When stowed away upright, this bench takes up this much floor space: 23.9″(L) x 28.1″(W) x 52.3″(H)
So as you can see, Bowflex’s space saving idea does work. When stored upright, the 5.1S takes less than half the floor space it does when being used. It also has built in transport wheels which is nice if you do have to move your bench from storage to use it.
FYI, if you have small children like I do, you might want to be careful with where you store this bench (if you decide to purchase it). If small kids are playing around it or climbing on it, it could fall down and cause injury. Storing in a corner or somewhere less accessible to children would probably do the trick.
Possibly the most critical feature to consider when comparing benches is how many positions it can offer. More positions is always better in my book because it means more exercise possibilities. Whether you plan on using them all or not, it’s better to have them and not need them than the other way around.
The 5.1S offers 6 different bench positions. These include:
- 30 deg incline
- 45 deg incline
- 60 deg incline
- 90 deg incline
- 20 deg decline
This bench offers a pretty generous selection of positions. The 30-60 deg incline settings come in handy for performing incline bench and incline pec flys (one of my favorite chest exercises, by the way). The 90 deg incline setting is great for performing shoulder press exercises or seated bicep curls- really anything you want to do with your back supported.
The decline setting is a nice touch because it allows you to do decline dumbbell or bench press, an exercise often omitted when working out at home because a lot of home benches don’t have decline settings. It also gives you the ability to do decline sit ups, a killer core move.
In terms of bench positions, the 5.1S definitely has a lot to offer. The 20 deg decline setting sets it apart from a lot of the competition.
When talking about a weight bench, weight capacity refers to the total load a bench can hold, counting the user’s weight. This bench has a weight capacity of 600 lb. This means that theoretically, since I weigh roughly 200 lb, I could safely sit on it and shoulder press 150 lb in each arm and still be well under the max limit.
I obviously can’t come anywhere close to doing that, but I hope that example makes sense.
A 600 lb weight limit is impressive for any home weight bench. It should also be strong enough to hold up to pretty much any workout you can throw at it. In order to hold such high weights, Bowflex constructed this bench out of commercial grade steel.
The 5.1S has very respectable stats in the function departments, but what about comfort? After all, a bench can hold all the weight in the world, but if it isn’t comfortable to use regularly, odds are you aren’t going to use it.
Users overwhelmingly agree that the 5.1S is comfortable to use. The foam padding is thick enough to cushion you sufficiently during use. The bench is also large and heavy, so it doesn’t wobble while you are lifting either- which is very annoying if you’ve ever used a sub-standard weight bench before.
The only issue some users have is with the rather large gap between the two pads when the bench is in the flat or decline position. Some have complained that it makes sit ups uncomfortable. Others complain that it gets in the way during bench press.
This gap is there in order to give the bench the ability to incline up to 90 degrees. Without it, Bowflex probably would’ve had to come up with some more advanced (and expensive) set up to offer the same wide range of positions.
Overall though, most users enjoy the feel of the 5.1S. The gap issue might depend on your height too.
The warranty on the 5.1S, like most Nautilus products (did you know Nautilus owns Bowflex?), is pretty good. The 5.1S comes with a 15 year frame warranty and a 1 year parts and upholstery warranty. I think this warranty is a good indicator that this bench is designed to last.
When it comes to warranties, longer is always better. When products don’t come with warranties, or they are less than a year, it’s probably a sign you should keep looking.
Putting this bench together is pretty straightforward. Most users report they were able to complete assembly within 30 minutes or so. The instructions are easy to follow and the pictures are large enough that you can actually see which washers pair up with which bolts.
And that’s really all you have to do to assemble the 5.1S- attach the various components with the provided bolts and washers- nothing too fancy here. The Allen wrench necessary to do the job is provided.
If you are even remotely handy you won’t have any problem putting this bench together. If you know what an “Allen wrench” is, you’re good to go.
5.1 vs 5.1S
We’ve taken a pretty thorough look at what the 5.1S has to offer and everything looks good. It’s well-built and offers a wide range of positions for you to use during your workouts. But does it make more sense to save a little money and go with the 5.1?After all, according to the table it seems very comparable to the 5.1S.
There are a few key differences between the 2 benches:
- First, the 5.1 IS NOT DESIGNED TO STORE UPRIGHT- that is, it isn’t stowable. For some reason Amazon advertises that it is. According to the user manual, the 5.1 does not stowe upright.
- The 5.1S has a significantly higher weight capacity, 120 lb to be exact. This is because it’s heavier-duty. Comparing the images of the two online, you can tell the 5.1S is “thicker”. It’s also a lot sleeker looking.
- Surprisingly, the 5.1 has a 30 year warranty on the frame, where the 5.1S only has a 15 year warranty. I’m guessing this is because the 5.1S is newer and Nautilus decided to change the time frame up. That said, I don’t think Bowflex is still producing the 5.1 bench. You can still purchase them online with Amazon and other retailers, but when they are all gone, I think that’s it for the 5.1.
Oh yeah, there’s also the price difference. I know my little “$” symbols are a little ambiguous and it’s hard to tell how much difference there is between the different benches. Maybe I just like to be a little mysterious?
In reality though, there’s only a $50 difference between the 5.1 and 5.1S.
When looking for a bench for small workout spaces, the 5.1S definitely has the 5.1 beat. The ability to be stored upright is hands down the winning factor. The extra weight capacity is a good thing too- the heavier duty bench is going to move less during use and feel more comfortable.
Overall, I like the Bowflex 5.1S. It’s a good looking weight bench that can reach 6 different positions and is backed by a solid warranty. It’s also easy to assemble and can withstand a 600 lb load. The ability to be stored upright is an awesome feature. If your workout space is limited to begin with, the ability to instantly decrease the footprint by half and store upright might make all the difference in the world.
It could actually make the difference between being able to have a weight bench and not.
For the price, I think it’s pretty safe to say the 5.1S is the best weight bench for small spaces. The only downside is the fairly large gap between the 2 pads when in the flat and decline positions- some folks find it a little uncomfortable and distracting. Of course without that gap, it wouldn’t be possible to reach a 90 deg incline position (which a lot of weight benches can’t do).
If you’re looking for a great weight bench for your home, the Bowflex 5.1S is a pretty safe bet. Especially if you are looking for a bench that doesn’t take up much space when not being used.