Customer Reviews: Bowflex 3.1 Adjustable Bench
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on July 28, 2008
Assembly time took just over 45 minutes and illustrations were clear. Assembly was easy and straight-forward. Only issue with assembly was that one of the leg cushions were a little too snug and I had to keep on twisting and turning it to get it to slide into the pole, but eventually I got it to go in with a lot of twisting. Bolt holes all lined up nicely and inserted quickly. Assembly tip: when assembling the frame to the board it is easiest if you turn the boards upside down and then place the frame on top of it instead of placing the board on top of the frame, just easier to align holes that way.

Supporting staples on the underside of the boards seemed to be clustered closer in some regions while other regions a bit farther apart than what I would have preferred. I would have like to see more staples used to support the vinyl to the board. Not really a big deal though as it probably looks good enough for now, maybe I'll dig out my staple gun and add a few more for extra measure.

While other reviewers noted tears in the vinyl or other folds in the corner, my boards and vinyl were in pristine condition, no rips, tears or folds.

The vinyl is nice material because it wipes clean easy but again I worry about long term durability. My previous bench was by Weider and it had some type of really durable molded firm rubber/foam material for the boards so never had to worry about vinyl coming loose or ripping, wish Bowflex made this bench with that same material (maybe version 2.0 :)).

The ease of changing from incline/decline/flat positions is very quick and smooth, a real pleasure to use. The engineering quality there is top notch, bravo. My old bench had a metal rod I had to pull out and insert into the frame and ohhh what a pain because it would never line up right and I would have to pull the bench board on a slight angle to get it to line up and then the rod would make a metal-to-metal screach sound (think of running finger nails across chalk-board) when I pulled the tightly position support rod out to change to incline... none of that with the Bowflex design, there is no pins or rods to pull out, simply lift board and swing support arm. Very very nice and quick.

The four positions (90 degree, 45 degree, 0 degree, and -10 degree) are plenty enough for my workouts and probably for the majority of other lifters. I wouldn't spend the extra money for the 5.1 bench, just no need for the extra positions as the 3.1 model is more than sufficient.

This bench has a 90 degree position and that is extremely helpful in doing seated overhead presses because it provides strong and high support for the back, something my older bench didn't have. I like this feature alot.

The decline angle seems sufficient but I would have preferred a bit more of a steeper decline for doing my sit-ups. That brings me to the next feature the leg holder/support.

The leg holder/support comes with this bench and can be easily detached by removing the support pin. I am disappointed with the engineering / positioning of the leg support. It seems to have been an after-thought feature that was thrown together at the last minute by Bowflex. It is just not comfortable as other reviewers on here have already mentioned. This is really unfortunate because it would have been a really nice feature if it was executed better (maybe improved in version 2.0?). The problem is that the leg support makes it really uncomfortable on your legs when you perform sit-ups on this model. I have tried various positioning of the leg support (tried putting pad closer to ankles, closer to calfs) and all of them have been uncomfortable. Even though it is uncomfortable to use I think it is still bearable to use the leg support for sit-ups (it also becomes annoying/irritating after using it for a while). Now I am an ectomorph and real skinny at the moment so I can imagine that a heavier individual would probably be even more uncomfortable in using the leg support for sit-ups.

The wheels is an okay feature I guess but really how often do you need to roll around your bench. Even if you do have to move it, you can just as well lift it up (it is about 55-65 pounds). One nice feature to have for those living in very limited space would have been a fold-up version where the frame and legs fold for real compact storage and sliding under the bed or tossing in the closet (maybe version 2.0).

The overall aesthetics of the bench is nice, sexy. I like the touch of red near the top of the board.

This is a very nice bench but with a few of the above suggestions this could turn from very nice to perfect. This is a good value for the money, get this bench you won't be disappointed. And last but not least don't waste your money on the 5.1 model.
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on August 29, 2008
My biggest question when buying a bench or any piece of exercise equipment is, "Will it be big enough for me?" At 6-3 255, this can be a problem. Seems exercise companies these days think only small people work out!

I bought this along with the 552 dumbbells and stand. I found that this bench, just like the stand was much easier to assemble than some reviews say. The only part I had trouble with was putting the seat on, which can be explained by my body size. I'm sure there is a better way to do it, but I just picked it up and sat it on a table and put the seat on that way, instead of laying in the floor, cursing the little guy that decided to make this seat require me being under it to install the seat.

Trust me, that is part of the fun!

All of the instructions were clear, and it really wasn't that much that needed to be assembled. The parts as packaged, the seat, the back rest pad, the front stabilizer, the rear stabilizer and the rest was assembled. Well except the leg hold downs, which only requires sliding a pin and bar through a hole and putting the pads on each side.

You bolt the main part to the rear stabilizer, then the front stabilizer, bolt the back pad and seat on and that is it.

For a few measurements, and why I am more than impressed with this bench.

The seat at its widest point is 15 inches wide, at the front (under your thighs in incline) and 12 inches wide at its most narrow point. The back rest is also 12 inches wide. The back rest is nearly 3 inches thick and the seat is a little over 3 inches thick.

The material used in the frame is very sturdy. It says 300 pound user with 300 pounds of weights, can be supported and I believe it. The construction and design itself is excellent.

What I did was pull the stand in front of the leg end of the bench. It is narrow enough to fit that way, with the stand and dumbbells right in front of you when you sit down.

The incline is also very easy to use. You just slide the bar (that you can see in the picture) it has wheels on the bar and each setting has a gate/wall that the wheels stop at. That is it. No more pulling pins out, turning hex wrenches, or anything like that.

Mainly what I am saying is that I am an old school lifter that is used to narrow benches that require work to adjust during the workouts, this bench takes all of that extra work out of it and it looks nice as well.

Looks aren't a big deal, but trying to convince my wife that I really need this bench in the garage, near her artwork, made the looks matter!

I also have reviews of the stand and dumbbells up, so check those out too. I'm very pleased with all 3 and recommend each of them as highly as possible.
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on October 23, 2015
It's almost perfect except the seat is not adjustable. When I used it today for the first time for incline bench, I butt slipped as the seat can't tilt up. So I did some modification to allow the seat to tilt up by removing one of the existing bolts under the seat and insert a piece of wood I found at home and now I the seat is adjustable.
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on September 10, 2007
This is a very nice bench by any standards and as other reviews mention, it was very easy to put together. The instructions are well-written, the diagrams clear and the whole thing is well-engineered and heavy duty construction. The manual says it can hold a 300lb. person plus 300lbs. or weight and I don't doubt that at all. It is also very easy to adjust and doesn't have a lot of little parts. It took me about 50 minutes to assemble it and I went very slowly.

It is true that there are only four positions you can use on this bench, but for most people that is plenty. Also, it is a perfect product to use with a dumbbell workout. If you go this route, I recommend either Pair of Personal PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbells - 5-45 Pounds in 5 Pound Increments or PowerBlock SportBlock Dumbbell Set. These adjustable dumbbells are rugged, less expensive than other brands and the safest that I know of.

Some other details about the bench... the material is a medium thick vinyl and mine came with a 1 inch tear. I did not consult customer support yet, but I will update this review to reflect my experience of them when I do. I think a better material and padding would improve the product overall, but at this price point I think it's plenty rugged.

If you get this bench, you can eventually get a power rack that can be used with your bench and as a squat/deadlift rack. One that I like is Phys-x Half Rack 10418, but you there are others depending upon your needs.

If you are new (or old) to this type of training, I recommend Build Muscle Lose Fat Look Great: Everything You Need to Know to Transform Your Body and Starting Strength. These are probably the ONLY two books most people will ever need on strength training, building mass, etc. They are BOTH dense with great information systematically laid out. I have other suggestions on my listmania lists, check my profile if you are interested. I also reviewed most of the adjustable dumbells on available on here.
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on March 29, 2012
Concerning the dumbbell weight limit for this bench, I had the following email exchange with Bowflex customer support:

Hello, I recently bought your 3.1 SelectTech weight bench from and I get contradictory info on what the dumbbell lift weight limit is. The manual says in two places that the limit is 300 lbs. but the warning label on the bench itself says the lift weight limit is 125 lbs. Which is correct? Thanks.

Thank you for choosing Nautilus! I understand you have some questions regarding the Bowflex SelectTech 3.1 Bench. I can assist you with this.
The maximum user weight for this bench is 300 lbs. The maximum lifting weight is 180 lbs. The total weight is on the bench not to exceed 480 lbs.
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on August 31, 2009
I purchased 3 benches over the course of a few months, returned 2 of them and am very happy with my final purchase. I'm reviewing all 3 of the benches because it was an educational experience and I hope other people don't have to make the same mistakes I did.

As background, I have a small apartment in NYC and wanted a bench to use with dumbbells because I was quitting my gym membership. I wasn't trying to get a full workout machine because while that might be optimal, I don't have enough space for something like that. So the goal was a sturdy, as-small-as-possible bench that would lie flat, but also do incline, decline, and 90 degrees.

I initially went with the Cory Everson FID Weight Bench. I purchased this bench because it can fold up, lean against a wall and save space. Its main selling point to me was that it seemed similar to the Danskin Space Saver Bench that I had purchased a few years ago (and later sold on Craigslist when I joined a gym). I loved the Danskin bench because even though it's seemingly made for women, it was sturdy enough for my 170 pounds and 5'9" frame but folded up neatly. It was also just $119. I would have gladly purchased another one except it was no longer available. I'm not sure why Danskin no longer makes this great bench, but oh well. Anyway, the problem with the Cory Everson is that it is NOT sturdy. It was wobbly and felt like it might break at any moment. Therefore, I returned it to Amazon. I wouldn't recommend this bench to anyone, any gender, no matter how much you weigh.

Next, I went with the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Bench Series 3.1. While it seems like this bench would be able to fold up and lean against a wall, I was surprised that it was so BIG. It was very sturdy, but it just wasn't small enough to lean up against a wall and keep a low profile. The seat is also too wide and it makes doing a simple bench press awkward. I should have known that it was going to be big because the dimensions are clearly specified, but I didn't "internalize" the dimensions until I saw the bench fully assembled. Anyway, I also returned this bench. I wouldn't recommend unless you don't care about the wide seat and you have sufficient space.

The last bench that I bought was the Ironmaster Super Bench Adjustable weight-lifting Bench. It still doesn't beat the Danskin in terms of space-saving abilities, but it's solidly built (extremely so), smaller than the Bowflex (smaller footprint), and comes with a number of attachments to do dips, pull/chin-ups, sit-ups, etc. It's relatively expensive with the attachments that I added, but I couldn't ask for much more. My only complaint is that the height of the bench is higher than benches I've used at various gyms and so my feet don't reach the floor when doing bench press. Also, the seat is awkward when doing incline because it's square, it doesn't remain parallel to the floor (it's always at a 90 degree angle to the bench) and you can't straddle it as easily as other bench seats. But that being said, if you're looking for a dumbbell bench that's relatively small but sturdy, this is the bench for you. I'm very happy with this purchase.

Incidentally, I also purchased the Ironmaster 75 lb Quick Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System and it's the best dumbbell system out there. It's way better than the Bowflex and PowerBlock dumbbell systems. Without going to a store and putting all 3 dumbbells in your hand, you might not be convinced, but I called up Ironmaster and found a local store in my area and took a look in person. The main thing is that the Ironmaster do NOT rattle around at all (like the Bowflex) and the Ironmaster do not constrain the movement of your hand (like the PowerBlock) because they're essentially a "regular" dumbbell except that you can change the weight plates.

If you have further questions, leave me a comment and I'll get back to you.
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on January 9, 2013
I got this bench to replace an older Weider that was starting to fall apart. This bench takes up a bit more floor space, but it is more solidly built, and according to the user manual, is rated for a 300lb user weight and a 300lb lifting weight, which is more than I will need. The pads on this bench are wider and more supportive than those on my previous bench.

I got this bench along with Valor Athletics Inc. Power Squats Stand Plus for bench pressing, squatting, etc, and they work well together.

The adjustment mechanism on the bench works very easily, though I was a little skeptical at first of its sturdiness; I would think that they would need more metal behind the arm holder, but it has proved itself sturdy during the week or so I've had it.

It might be the floor in my basement, but I did notice that the bench seemed a little bit uneven when bench pressing. I had corrected this by getting a sturdy shim and placing it under one of the front feet (I mean the same end as users feet) and that helped level it. I will eventually try moving it around to various places and orientations to figure out whether it is the floor or the bench.

Overall, a very good weight bench.
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on March 19, 2011
I own a health club and a physical therapy company. I had purchased this bench about a year ago understanding that it might fit my needs in physical therapy. I own of course several benches and this is my least favorite.

The positives of this bench begin with the price. For a small price you get a 600 pound weight limit bench. Not bad. This is not the cheapest bench but it falls far below the $300 mark that many of the good benches have. Still for less than $50 more you may be able to get the hoist adjustable bench that has an 800 pound weight limit and more adjustability.

Most of the pieces in my health club are Nautilus who is the maker of Bowflex. Certainly the commercial line of Nautilus has now been sold but the company has a long history of making some of the very best equipment and for revolutionizing the fitness industry with circuit pieces using cams. A 15 year warranty on the frame and 1 year on the upholstery is very reasonable.

This bench is very sturdy when lifting on it. If you tip over or feel anything squeak you are doing something wrong!

The other positives include the general features like the height of the bench, the leg brace, the fact that it does have wheels (see below), the size of the seat (which could be positive or negative) and the welded main frame are all reasonable for the price.

The negatives begin with the quality of the pad and upholstery. The pad is extremely soft and the naugahyde is very flimsy over the pad and there is a concern with wearing out. If you want a firm no give pad this is possibly not for you. This makes the bench look like a home unit or a thoroughly worn out gym piece.

I had specifically purchased it because of the wheels but they are very difficult to use because of the way the back feet are positioned. Expect the wheels to be of little use.

The positioning is gravity dependent instead of locked. I prefer the benches that lock into positions because of the feel when I move around on them or move them. Again if the wheels were reasonably placed this could be overlooked but trying to move this bench by lifting it is very awkward.

You cannot adjust the seat on this bench.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a reasonably well made bench with some adjustment and a 600# weight limit for under $150 this may be for you. I would recommend looking at the hoist bench before you buy as it is only $20 more and has more features and a much more commercial gym feel and look.
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Five stars. Very comfortable, sturdy, easy to assemble, and a small footprint for my very small home gym (see pic).
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on November 28, 2014
Solid bench. Good quality. Actually bigger than it appears in the stock photos, so check the dimensions.
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