This is a review of the Powertec WorkBench Levergym System; a multi-use, plate-loaded gym station designed to give a home gym owner with limited floor space and limited funds access to a large variety of machine-based resistance exercises. It features both a low and high pulley system, adjustable pressing arms, and an adjustable, detachable bench. Other accessories that allow you to expand the unit even further are also available.
At $1250 on Amazon, the Workbench is a pretty good value. The leverage pulley system is ingenious, the frame is strong and beefy, and it truly does offer a lot of exercise variety. For novice or recreational lifters with no interest in the more complicated barbell movements, it can be a great choice for a home gym. But what about for more discriminating, experienced lifters who see a machine like this more as an accessory station than a substitute for a bar?
I truly believe that the WB-LS’s overall value changes based on who is using it; with novices getting the most from the system, and veterans getting the very least. Since my readers are generally the more experienced athletes, I will be looking at the WorkBench from that more experienced perspective. I find that among experienced lifters that there is more interest in this machine for accessory work than primary lifts, and I think these folks want to know that the machine can not only do these secondary movements, but do them well (offer full ROM, adjust for various heights and builds, offer a high enough weight capacity, and so forth.)
To put all that another way, if you’re a total newbie who just wants a machine that can mimic a row of commercial gym machines in your home for not a lot of money, then you’ll probably be very happy with the WorkBench. It’s easy to use, versatile, and fairly inexpensive.
If you’re a powerlifter, strongman, or any other experienced lifter who basically just needs a decent cable station and a decent device for blasting out your chest after an hour under the barbell, but you still care about function, form and positioning, and you intend to load this up with some real weight, well then this review is for you.
Two things before I begin…
First, as one focused on the bench press, deadlift, press, and squats above all else, I never felt that this machine was worth buying new for $1250+. I only purchased it when I was able to find a good deal used. If you too are interested in the WorkBench purely as an accessory machine, I recommend that you scour the used marketplace for one as well before you dish out $1250+ for a new one.
Second, if you do buy one of these used, be aware that there are a few generations of this product. My LeverGym is the version that came prior to the current model. It lacks a couple minor changes, as does the model prior to that, but by-and-large these changes don’t have much impact the overall function of the unit. If you can buy one for half the cost of new, well who cares which version it is (do pay attention to bench portion of this review though).
Powertec WorkBench WB-LS Specifications
- Full dimensions with bench attached: 81½” tall x 57½” wide x 81½” deep
- Primary frame construction: 11-gauge, 3″x3″ steel tubing
- Max pulley capacity: 300-lbs
- Max pressing arms capacity: 500-lbs
- On-board plate storage: one pair of horns
- Adjustable vinyl knee roller pad for lat pulldowns
- Iso-lateral pressing function on late models only (fixed on the others)
- Squat bar attachment for the pressing handles allow for makeshift leg workouts
- Available in multiple black and yellow color combinations
- Retail price of $1250 and up depending on merchant ($915 for only the tower)
Different generations have different bases, and older models have an available safety mod that you can request for free from Powertec; even if you buy used. I was offered this retrofit kit, but I never received it (I’ll address that in the customer service section of this review.)
Powertec WorkBench Review
I’m going to split this review into two different reviews – one for the tower component of the WorkBench (WB-LST) and one for the adjustable bench. I believe it needs to be done this way because one half of the full package WorkBench is versatile, useful, and well-built, and the other is total garbage (and irrelevant for new purchases). I do want to give credit where credit is due though, and this feels like the best way to do that.
- Section 1: The Tower Review
- Section 2: The Bench Review
- Section 3: Customer Service Review
- Section 4: Summary
Section 1: The Powertec LeverGym Tower (WB-LST)
The tower portion of the WB-LS is a pretty solid piece of equipment. It comprises about 2/3 of the total WB-LS price, offers a ton of variety in terms of exercises that can be performed, takes up very little square footage in your gym, and it has a longer list of pros than cons.
The WB-LS is a leverage system. It features a single-cable that runs from the lower portion of the tower through a series of pulleys up to the top portion of the tower. Pulling from either end of this cable results in the weights being lifted. This system is very smooth, offers very consistent tension throughout the full range, and can handle an adequate 300-pounds. The cable portion of the tower alone makes it worthy of consideration.
There is also a pair of plate-loaded pressing arms on the front of the tower. These arms are adjustable to allow for shoulder presses, incline bench press, flat bench press, or a very low setting just for getting the arms out of the way when using the machine for cable work.
Pros of the WorkBench Tower (WB-LST)
- The pulley system is surprisingly smooth regardless of whether you pull from the high pulley or the low pulley. The cable never sticks or feels like it’s dragging at any point.
- The tower is very stable when using the high cable, and so long as weights are loaded on the storage pins the unit is equally stable when using the low cable.
- With both a high and low pulley, the variety of exercises possible is limited only by your attachment collection. You can do lat pulldowns, tricep pressdowns, bicep curls, upright rows, lateral and front raises, low rows, kickbacks, and pretty much any cable exercise that doesn’t require a cable crossover.
- The pulley system can handle up to 300-pounds total. It’s not jaw-dropping high, but it should be adequate for the vast majority of lifters.
- Creative owners have managed to expand upon the WorkBench; some even making a belt squat platform with the lower pulley.
- The unit does come with adjustment chains and multiple attachments. They are pretty basic, but they work.
- The front of the tower features an adjustable roller pad for the knees for performing lat pulldowns. It can be set to be completely out of the way when using the pressing arms with a bench as well.
- The pressing arms are smooth, can handle up to 500-pounds total, and offer a number of starting point positions. I consider the pressing arms to be like a budget version of a Hammer Strength machine. It’s not perfect, but it’s nice to go blow out the chest at the end of a workout with the WorkBench.
- The pressing arms are multi-grip, allowing for variability in hand positioning. This also allows them to be used for shrugs and awkward bent-over rows. You should probably stick with the barbell for this stuff, but it’s there if you need it.
- The Workbench comes with a removable, padded bar for turning the pressing arms into a makeshift hack squat machine. I personally think this is ridiculous but I know for a fact some people use their Powertec for squats.
Cons of the WorkBench Tower (WB-LST)
- This leverage system does not allow for a very large range of motion. You can only pull the cable so far before you’ve moved the plates thru their full range. Chains are used to change the starting position of your cable attachment, but maximum range of motion is always limited. Tall people will probably have issues with a number of movements. I did.
- In order for the tower to be stable, you’ll really want there to always be plates loaded on the storage pins, and this means that you won’t be loading up the cable or the pressing arms with weights from the storage pins, but rather from somewhere else in the gym. Additionally, the storage pins are in a very frustrating location on the frame – it’s hard to load and especially unload plates from the pulley’s pins while plates are on the storage pins. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
- This machine is not very accommodating to tall athletes. In addition to anyone over say 6’1″ or so bumping their head on the top of the pulley, things just stop lining up well the taller you get. You can’t squat or calf raise, you can’t do full ROM pulldowns (you either won’t get the stretch or you won’t come down all the way), and it gets harder to line up under the pressing arms the taller you get. 6’2″ or taller? Skip the Powertec – or at least try one somewhere (thoroughly) before you buy.
The tower is a solid piece of equipment. It will allow you to do any movement that you could do with a lat tower/low row combo; it will definitely allow you to do any movements that you could do with the Spud Inc. Pulley System; and it will even give you access to the Hammer Strength-style, iso-lateral pressing movements. Lots of variety indeed!
The Powertec tower takes up very little floor space (when the bench is not attached), it will accept any cable attachment you can imagine, and it just does an all-around decent job of rounding out a garage gym that would normally consist of just a power rack, barbell, plates, and maybe a GHD or something.
Having said that, the cable portion of this tower is really the only thing that offers exercises that you couldn’t already tackle with a barbell. If you own the Spud Inc. system already then about all it’s really adding to your arsenal is the low pulley (Spud’s low pulley is wonky). The question you have to ask is whether this is worth $900+. I think it can be, but I also feel this should be picked up used whenever possible.
Section 2: The Powertec Adjustable Bench
Sadly, this bench is by far the worst thing about the whole Powertec WorkBench system. I have literally nothing positive to say about it that I couldn’t just as easily say about any $100 bench from Academy or Sears. It’s very disappointing; especially for what it costs.
Fortunately the bench I own is not the same bench you’d get if you purchased a brand new model. Still, since many will attempt to buy a WorkBench used, I am going to explain why I do not like this particular bench so that you can decide whether or not you are willing to buy a WorkBench that includes this same adjustable bench.
Cons of the 2014 Powertec Adjustable Bench
- The pins used for making adjustments are garbage. They take a lot of effort to use, and they are prone to jamming and just outright breaking. Why Powertec just didn’t use the same spring-loaded pull pin that you’d find on any other equipment is beyond me.
- The seat adjusts to three different positions, but each adjustment only moves it a couple degrees. Using the highest setting still feels like a flat bench; doing nothing to help keep you in the bench when incline pressing.
- There is an excessive amount of hinges and joints on this bench, and it is quite wobbly because of this. The combined weight of the user and the weights is basically resting all on these joints rather than on the frame. I would be very reluctant to load up this bench with real weight.
- The pad is pretty basic; certainly not supportive like many of today’s newer benches.
- The handles that are mounted on the bench for doing leg extensions feel like they are about to be ripped clear of the frame during each rep. I’ve tightened these bolts down twice in the three months I’ve owned it and it still comes loose with (very moderate) use.
- The bench is only remotely stable when attached to the WorkBench frame, but leaving it attached makes lining the bench under the pressing handles impossible. You’ll either line up properly under the handles for pressing, or you won’t. I do not. The bench is not stable enough when unattached from the unit for heavy pressing so I just don’t use it at all.
- The fact that the bench makes up $340 of the total price of the WB-LS is just ridiculous. This is an Academy bench worth no more than $150. I stopped using it for anything but leg curls / extensions within a week of ownership; replacing it with my Rep FB-5000 for flat presses and lat pulldowns, and my Legend 3-way bench for incline presses.
Having said all that…
The new 2016 bench does look much improved over the previous bench. It features a wider footprint which should help with stability, an actual support frame rather than all the floating components, and the swivel feature looks to be completely removed.
The new bench does appear to use the same silly adjustment pins though, and the pad and handles look identical as well. Also, the downside of that extra stability is that the front feet of the bench are going to be precisely where your feet are going to be when pressing.
Finally, the same issue with positioning under the bench handles will exist since this model also needs to be attached to the frame of the WorkBench. However, it is quite possible that because of the increased stability of this newer bench that it can be used (with confidence) when detached from the frame, eliminating that issue altogether. Feel free to comment with some feedback if you own the 2016 Powertec bench.
So yes, the new 2016 is a better bench. I still don’t think that it’s a $340+ bench though.
Powertec Customer Service / Customer Relations
Customer service issues with equipment vendors are rare. In my reviews, I generally don’t mention customer service unless it’s especially good, questionable, or just outright awful. I kind of just leave ‘normal’ alone. Now I don’t think Powertec has horrible “run away as fast as you can” customer service or anything, but my experiences with them have left much to be desired.
I found Powertec’s ordering process to be cumbersome and extremely slow. Orders have to be placed on the phone, they don’t get processed until the following week, and since orders aren’t placed online you don’t get shipping or tracking information unless your salesperson deliberately follows up with you. I ordered two replacement parts; a yellow pin for the bench and a replacement cable; and I didn’t receive a tracking number until the very day it arrived at my doorstep – about 10 days after calling in the order.
Forgiving Powertec for their antiquated ordering process, I still had two other issues. First, the replacement pin that I purchased broke immediately. I followed up with my salesperson only to be told that this is normal, and that I should simply purchase adhesive and glue the pin back together. I’m not kidding. I was not offered a replacement on this brand new part, I was not offered the adhesive, and he didn’t seem very bothered or apologetic about selling me something that went right into the trash.
Finally, when I placed this order for parts, I was told there was a known safety issue with my tower unit and that I was entitled to a free retrofit kit that would correct this safety hazard. I accepted this safety kit but it was not included in my package. I inquired about it, of course, and I was told it was on its way and that it would arrive soon, but soon never came. I still do not have this retrofit kit to this day.
All-in-all, I think Powertec is just unorganized and behind the times. I recommend that you buy new Powertec equipment from a third-party vendor and only deal with Powertec directly when you need a specific part. By doing so you’ll not only avoid potential customer service issues, but you’ll also save as much as 15% on the cost of the equipment.
Powertec WB-LS Levergym System Review Summary
I do enjoy the tower portion of the WorkBench. I can see this being used on a regular basis even if just used for secondary/accessory lifts. Exercise variety is virtually unlimited and the cable moves through the pulley system very smoothly delivering consistent tension with no catching or dragging. I think the height of the pulley could stand to be a little higher so that tall people can stand under it, but unless you’re trying to squat in this thing it doesn’t come up much.
The pressing arms can also be fairly useful if you’re fortunate enough to have a bench that allows you to line up properly under the handles. I’ve had major issue with this myself, and I own no less than five benches at the moment. The 2016 version of the WorkBench has iso-lateral pressing arm function, which is a very nice touch, but you still need to be able to line up properly to use those arms safely (with good form.) If you’re of average height you likely won’t have too many issues (see a theme? This thing hates tall people).
I don’t care for the older bench model that I have one bit, and I strongly recommend against buying a unit that includes this particular bench. I also don’t even think the newer bench is a very good value at it’s over $300 price tag. I think you can do way better for the money.
The bottom line is this. Unless you’re a casual lifter or total novice, don’t buy the full system new. If you’re looking to use this to supplement workouts rather than lead them, pick up the system used if possible. If you absolutely must buy new, buy only the tower, and buy it from somewhere other than Powertec direct (Amazon Prime members can have the tower to the door for about $915 versus $999 + shipping from Powertec. If you need the entire WB-LS system it’s over $200 less on Amazon than from Powertec.)
In summary the WorkBench Tower offers good value; especially second-hand; and I don’t mind recommending it. The bench is a waste of money; especially the previous generation model, and I do not recommend it.