Top 3 Most Effective Weight Bench Exercises
Whether you have a tricked-out home gym in your garage with a bench press, dumbbell rack, and kettlebell set, or just a corner of your living room dedicated to your fitness goals, getting a good sweat session in when you make time to work out is essential.
That last thing you want is for your motivation to lag, but sometimes, it just does. What happens then? If you’re serious about lifting, chances are you own an adjustable weight bench, or you have your eye on one. This simple yet fundamental tool can be your greatest asset when it comes to meeting your strength training goals and diversifying your weight bench workout routine.
So what exercises exist beyond the obvious? How can you get a full-body workout from that four-foot platform? Whether you have an incline or flat bench, read on to learn some weight bench exercises that keep you on your toes.
#1 Box Jumps
Even if you want to spend most of your time lifting, some light cardio at the beginning of your workout can help you find your flow. After a long day away from the gym, some basic jumps can take the stiffness out of your body, loosening you up before you tackle those weights.
But if you’re doing weight bench workouts at home, you might not have enough room for a treadmill or spin bike. Even if you do, it can be daunting to go from an equipment workout to lifting mode.
Cut down the friction by using your adjustable bench for some simple, no-fuss box jumps.
Anyone who has committed to a few sets of jumps knows they’ll get your heart pumping and your muscles loose in no time. Between working on the accuracy of your landing and maintaining your form, you’ll also have plenty to focus on to get you in the zone.
How to Do a Box Jump
Follow these steps to master the jump:1
- Start with stability – When it comes to a well-balanced jump, the position you begin in is key. Give yourself maximum stability by positioning your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Jump from a squat – You don’t have to start from the bottom of a full squat, but a quarter squat will give you the power to get on top of your flat bench. Coordinate the motion of your arms so that the swing helps propel you as you jump.
- Absorb the force of the landing – Go easy on your knees by keeping them slightly bent when you finish the jump. Landing on straight legs will cause your joints to bear the brunt of the force, resulting in possible wear and tear.
Depending on your style, you can vary the pace and intensity of your jumping to suit your needs. Consider the following ways to personalize the box jump:
- Do a higher number of sets with lower reps, for example, four sets of three reps, to maximize the starting strength and height of your jump.
- Lower the number of sets with higher reps, for example, three sets of fifteen reps, to prioritize endurance.
- Incorporate the box jump into thirty-second rounds of various cardio exercises to create a HIIT workout routine.
Benefits of Starting Your Workout with Cardio
While it can be tempting to turn up the music and just hit the dumbbell rack the moment you set foot in your gym, incorporating some cardio workouts with bench support can help fire you up for maximum performance.
Keeping it light is key since you don’t want to tire yourself out before you get to the lifting. Specifically, a cardio warmup comes with the following perks:
- Gets your blood flowing – When you get moving, you may find yourself breathing harder. This is because all that oxygenated blood is going to your large muscle groups, which provides your body with a warm up that prepares you for the more intense lifting you’ll be doing later.2
- Stretches you out – Starting with cardio can give your muscles a dynamic stretch before you really put them to use, which can help prevent injuries when you’re handling even more heavy weight later.3 To get the benefits of the stretch, go easy on the cardio. You can even start with jogging in place or jumping jacks before moving to a couple of box jumps.
- Maximizes your calorie burn – Not only will cardio make you more tired and force you to work harder at your lifting, but it can also help to increase your post-exercise oxygen consumption.4 This means that even when you’re sitting on the couch with your post-workout protein shake, you’ll still be shedding calories as your body recovers.
#2 Versatile Lifts
When it comes to weight bench workouts, you just can’t skip the bench press. It is the upper body workout, building general muscle mass over the chest and upper arms.
But if you find that over time, you’re not moving up to the next weight level nor increasing the number of reps at the current one either, it’s definitely time for a change.
With the bench press, you can easily throw in some variations to mix it up and make the exercise harder for yourself. The added challenge will help you find that fire you’re missing.
Bench Press 101
But first, let’s get back to the basics. To perform this fundamental exercise, you’ll need a barbell, rack and your trusty fid bench. If you’ve never done a bench press or if you’re looking to attain finer form, try the following tips and tricks:
- Lie flat against the bench – Whether you’re using a flat utility bench, one with an incline, or one with a decline, it’s important to keep your back flat against the platform. This ensures you’re activating the right muscles while lifting. As you raise and lower the bar, make sure to keep your feet firmly planted and your hips touching the bench.5
- Use a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width – For a standard press, stick with keeping your arms slightly beyond shoulder width.6 That being said, changing up your grip helps to target different muscle regions. For example, a closer grip makes the top part of press motion more difficult, works your triceps, and also lessens the tension on your shoulder.7
- Aim for a fluid motion – While using the bench press, control is key! To perform the motion, lift the barbell off the rack with your arms straight, bend at the elbows to bring the weight to your chest, and return to the original position.8 Go slowly to maximize the amount of tension and to protect yourself from injury.
Make It Harder
If you’re up for the challenge, use these techniques to turn up the intensity of your at-home or gym workout:
- Trade in for some dumbbells – Coordinating two dumbbells rather than a single barbell will require greater control and shoulder joint mobility.9 Fluidity is the name of the game. The effort in stabilizing the dumbbells and maintaining your form will help develop greater nuance in your muscles. You can also use dumbbells for small spaces.
- Pause at the bottom – Instead of keeping the same pace throughout the motion, consider holding the bar for a couple of breaths when it’s closest to your chest. This will keep your muscles under tension for longer and make the exercise more strenuous.10
- Opt for the dead press – For those days when you want to leave it all in the gym, look no further than the dead press, the reverse of the traditional bench press. Adjust your rack so that the barbell is above chest level for you. Get underneath and push the bar up vertically. The explosive element of this press will help develop your starting strength and will serve as your baseline as you begin to build muscle from repetition.11
#3 Plank on a Decline
No list of workout bench exercises is complete without some core exercises, and a speciality ab bench offers a unique opportunity to add some variations to the iconic plank workout.
Planks are one of the best all-around abdominal exercises out there. While they focus on the core, planks are a bodyweight exercise that works almost all muscle groups.
But if you’re tired of the same vanilla plank day after day, you may be wondering how to use an ab bench and target different areas of the body by changing the angle. A decline plank raises your legs, placing greater emphasis on your shoulders and the often underworked lower abs.12 To perform the exercise, place your feet on the bench, your arms or hands on the floor, and assume plank position.13
Make It Harder
To make your workout more dynamic and to throw in some upper body with core, opt for decline pushups instead. To find the right form, get into plank position with your feet on the bench and your hands directly in line with your shoulders. The change in the angle means your weight will be tilted more toward your upper body with each pushup.14
Tru Grit: Find That Full Body Burn with the Right Equipment
When it comes to fitness, diversity is key, and Tru Grit provides the equipment to support all types of workouts. That’s why our Flat Utility Weight Bench is made with heavy-duty steel and wide-stance legs for maximum stability. Whether you’re jumping onto the bench or lying flat against it, you’re sure to have a solid foundation.
Looking for other equipment? From bumper plates to bars for men and women, we have everything you need to get that bench press set up. We know you won’t quit, and Tru Grit is right there with you up to the finish line.
Performance Inspired. Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weights? https://pi-nutrition.com/should-you-do-cardio-before-or-after-weights/
Women’s Health. Is It Better To Do Cardio Before Or After Weight Training? Trainers Weigh In. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a28641741/cardio-before-after-weights/
Healthline. How to Do Box Jumps the Right Way — and Why You Should. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/box-jump
Healthline. What Muscles Do Bench Presses Work? https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/bench-press-muscles-worked
Power Lifting Technique. 6 Different Types of Bench Press Grips (Which is Best for You). https://powerliftingtechnique.com/types-of-bench-press-grips/
Power Lifting Technique. Which Type Of Bench Press Is Harder? (9 Examples). https://powerliftingtechnique.com/which-type-of-bench-press-is-harder/
Muscle and Fitness. Breathe Life into Your Pecs with the Dead Bench. https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/chest-exercises/breathe-life-your-pecs-dead-bench/
Prevention. 6 Ways To Make A Plank Work Your Abs Even More. https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20475759/6-ways-to-make-a-plank-work-your-abs-even-more/#
Women’s Health. 8 Ways You Can Tone Your Entire Body With Just Dumbbells And A Bench. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a19943891/workout-bench-moves/
Barbend. 10 Simple Plank Variations For A Stronger Core. https://barbend.com/10-simple-plank-variations-for-a-stronger-core/
HealthCorps. 7 Health Benefits of Plank Exercises (+5 Plank Variations You Should Know). https://www.healthcorps.org/fitness-2017-05-plankexercises/