Sunday, January 27, 2013

A New Safe Bench Press Machine

Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press
 Okay, so I've had this Marcy weight bench with a lat machine and preacher curl attachment for about 15 years, except that the lat machine post broke off from where it was welded into the bench about 8 years ago. Lately, with middle age and living alone, I've been feeling unsafe doing the bench press without a spotter. I couldn't maximize the repetitions anymore and besides, sometimes my palms hurt from the weights even when I'm wearing lifting gloves. In the middle of last year, I started looking for a safer way to do the bench press. One of the first things I did was switch from the suicide grip to the thumb around the bar grip. I also considered buying either a multi station machine or just a simple bench press machine to replace the free weights (barbell) I was using. A basic multistation machine would have been slightly cheaper but I wasn't confident I could assemble it. I would have had to hire someone to do it at much additional cost. So I surfed around the internet and found this Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press machine at, which appeared to fit my needs. However due to financial concerns which I already addressed in another blog, I couldn't buy it at the time, so I just bookmarked it and hoped that somewhere down the line when I've caught up with my bills, I would revisit the website and the machine would still be available. That time came a couple of weeks ago after I finally paid off last year's expenses and luckily the machine was still available but there were only three left. I ordered it right away and waited the few days until it was delivered.
          In the meantime, what to do with the old weight bench which was still in prime condition other than missing a lat machine? I asked my co-worker whom I know lifted weights if he already had a bench press bench (sorry, I couldn't find a better way to describe it). He said he did but it was already very rusty. I offered to give him mine after my new machine arrived.
          On the day that UPS was supposed to deliver the product, I disassembled the old bench, put the parts aside and sent a text message to my co-worker saying that the bench was available for pick up at his convenience. Then I waited for UPS and kept checking online to make sure they didn't bypass me. Well I'll be darned! When I checked at about 2 p.m. last Thursday, the UPS website said the package could not be delivered because there was nobody home. Heck, I even left a message at the gate for the UPS delivery guy so he can dial my security gate number. 15 minutes had passed since the exception was logged in the UPS system. I went downstairs to pick up the slip they usually leave and whadya know but I see the UPS truck driving down the next street. I walked toward the street hoping the truck had not driven too far away, and lo and behold, it was just at the corner! I waited for the driver to emerge from the apartment building then asked him if he was the one who left the notice slip. He looked at it and said it was him and that when he called, there was no answer. I asked, nay, implored if he could come back and deliver my package so that he or another driver would not have to come back the next day. I offered to help him carry the load since he mentioned it was 90 pounds. It was then that I suspected that he didn't really want to deliver it because it was too heavy. Of course, I didn't mention that to him lest he change his mind about going back. Luckily, he took me up on my offer of help. So he drove around, unloaded the cargo, mounted it on his dolly and rolled it up to the staircase where I helped him lift from the top while he pushed from the bottom. I thanked him again for coming back and dragged the heavy package into my living room.
          I proceeded to unpack the parts and laid them on the floor. After making sure that everything was there, I started assembling the bench. Wait a second! There wasn't much in the form of instructions, just a picture of where one part connected to another with what bolt, screw, and washer. No text instructions whatsoever. Oh my, it was going to take a while to figure out a two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional real product. In fact it took me about three hours to assemble that darn thing. The machine looked so simple in pictures and looked like the assembly was going to be simple. Well, no use dwelling on that now. At least I managed to do it by myself with only a wrench and a pair of pliers. I didn't try to use the machine that day because I had already done my weight training earlier, but boy, were my muscles sore the next day due to the disassembling of the old bench and assembling the new one.

          Two days later, I was ready to try the Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press machine. Why is is it called independent? Because the left and right sides are isolated from each other. With a regular bench press with a barbell, both arms lift the total weight, but with this machine, each arm lifts independent of the other. Oh, one other advantage of the bench compared to a multistation machine is that I can still use the weight plates I already have. I normally lift 110 pounds on the barbell for 6 to 8 repetitions when I do the bench press. I know, I know, I'm a weakling! I mounted 50 pounds on each side of the new machine first to see how it felt. I positioned myself on the bench and pushed. All that came out was a grunt from me. Hmmm, this is going to be harder than I thought. I may even have to lessen the weights. I tried again and this time I managed a semblance of a full lift before lowering the weight for another repetition. I was able to complete all of four reps! How is it possible that I'm lifting lesser poundage and repetitions?! First of all, the arms of the machine where the weight plates are mounted on also weigh something. Second, it's harder to start a bench press from the chest area because the muscles are not pre-contracted (in my opinion). With a barbell bench press, you start from a straight arm position, lowering the weight to the chest, then lifting the weight upwards. The straight arm position is what I consider pre-contraction of the muscle. Not only that, sometime you can cheat by bouncing the weight off your chest. No such cheating can be done with the Valor Fitness machine. With that in mind, I started over and was able to do 6 reps on the first set and 4 reps each on the next three sets, with each one of those sets maximized without the benefit of a spotter. My first impression is that the machine worked as it was designed to do. It was success and liftoff on first lift! Boy, am I gonna be sore tomorrow.


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M. Pluto said...

Hey. I've been looking for a bench like this. If you ever want to get rid of it, let me know.

Anonymous said...

It's been a couple years. Was this machine a good purchase in hindsight? Do you recommend others buy it?

I can't find any other spotter-less home bench press, but I'm not sure whether this machine is worth the money.