MuscleSquad

How to Use a Weight Bench

How to Use a Weight Bench

A weight bench is probably one of the most important additions to any home gym, playing a central role in most workouts. The majority of weight benches have some level of adjustability. Whether it’s only the back rest that moves, or the seat too, we recommend getting yourself a fully adjustable bench for an effective home workout. Take a look at our best selling Adjustable Dumbbell Bench here.

Not only are these benches versatile, they’re also affordable, compact, and portable. Everything you could possibly want for your home gym.

All you need for a killer workout with your weight bench is a pair of dumbbells, and some resistance bands. We stock a range of fixed and adjustable dumbbells, and we also sell a set of 3 resistance bands. Ideally, you would have two pairs of dumbbells, (one heavier set and one lighter set), but this is not essential, especially if you have resistance bands.

The main thing to focus on when working out with limited equipment is intensity. If you only have a light pair of dumbbells that mean you have to do 20 reps before you can’t do anymore, you need to aim to get as near to 20 reps as possible on most sets. Doing 8 reps of a weight that you can do 20 reps with is completely pointless and unproductive.

Adjustable Bench Chest Exercises

Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell bench press is absolutely the best chest building exercise you can do with dumbbells. With an adjustable bench, you can set the back rest to different angles. An incline angle will place more emphasis your upper chest, whereas decline will work your lower chest. Press the dumbbells up and together, and then bring them down slowly until the dumbbells are in line with or slightly above your chest. You can also do these with a pause at the bottom to make it harder if you want to push yourself!

Chest Flys

You can also do chest flies on a bench by using a pair of dumbbells or a resistance band. If you’re using a band, place it underneath the bench. Leading with your elbows and keeping your arms from bending, bring the dumbbells/band together above your chest. Squeeze at the top of the movement, and then bring your arms back until your elbows are in line with your body/parallel to the floor.

  

Close Grip Press

Another excellent chest builder is the close grip dumbbell/band press. Once again, if you’re using a band, place it underneath the bench. This exercise works by keeping your elbows tucked by your sides and keeping your wrists perpendicular to your body (instead of at right angles like regular dumbbell press). Press the dumbbells together, push up and squeeze your chest at the top. Keep your elbows tucked by your sides for maximum burn. The close grip press places an added emphasis on your triceps as well as working your chest.

Adjustable Bench Shoulder Exercises

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Unsurprisingly, the dumbbell shoulder press is the number one shoulder exercise to do with a weight bench. Set your bench at a 90-degree to 60-degree angle. The lower the angle, the easier it will be. If your dumbbells are too heavy to use at 90-degrees, set the bench to a smaller angle, and vice versa. Press the dumbbells up and together over your head, and then bring them back down until your elbows are slightly past parallel to the ground.

  

Lateral Raises

The dumbbell/band lateral raise is a staple for building your side delts. If you’re using a band, place it under your feet to keep it still. Sit on the end of your bench and lean slightly forwards. Leading with your elbows, bring the dumbbells/band upwards and outwards to your sides, until your arms are parallel with the ground.

Arnold Press

Dumbbell Arnold presses are favoured among bodybuilders for their effectiveness at hitting all parts of the shoulder. With your bench at a 60 to 90-degree angle, grip the dumbbells with your palms facing inwards towards your body and the dumbbells close together. As you press upwards, bring your elbows out whilst simultaneously twisting your wrists so your palms face outwards at the top of the movement. On the way down, simply do the inverse of this.


Adjustable Bench Back Exercises

Single Arm Rows

Single arm rows can be done with either bands or dumbbells and are great for building a thicker back. With one knee at the back of your bench, and one hand at the front, keep your back straight and pull the dumbbell/band upwards whilst keeping your elbow tucked by your side. You can also do a variation of this with two dumbbells and your bench at a 45-degree angle. Lay on your front and pull both dumbbells up and back with your elbows tucked.

Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is a great exercise to do from home that will target your lats and help to build a wider back. Lie flat on your bench and press one dumbbell upwards so it’s over your face. This is your starting position for the set. Flare your elbows slightly outwards and keep your arms neutral. Leading with the elbows (not the palms), bring the dumbbell back behind your head until you feel tension in your back, then bring it back over your head and repeat.

Adjustable Bench Leg Exercises

Bulgarian Split Squats

Not having a barbell doesn’t mean you’ve got an excuse to not train legs. The Bulgarian split squat can be used as your primary leg pressing/squatting movement. Holding one or two dumbbells (depending on how heavy they are), place your back foot top-down on your bench. Your front foot should be in front of you. Lunge/squat forward until the top of your thigh is parallel to the ground. Once you’re finished, swap legs and repeat.

Leg Curls and Leg Extensions

No leg curl/extension machine? No problem. To do leg curls at home, set your bench to flat and place it in the corner of a room. Place two dumbbells securely on the bench to weigh it down. Then, grab a resistance band and stretch one end round the back of the bench, using it as a support. Put the other end round your ankles and lie on the floor, stretching the band more if you need by moving further away from the bench. Then simply bring your heels upwards until you feel tension in your hamstrings. 

To do leg extensions with your bench, set it to flat, and place one end of the band round the back of the bench. Lie flat and place the other end of the band round your ankle. Keeping your thigh still, extend your leg to create a 90-degree angle. This exercise needs to be done one leg at a time.

Weighted Calf Raises

To train your calves, grab two dumbbells and stand up to do weighted calf raises. Keep your legs straight and force yourself onto your toes. Keep this slow and controlled for maximum benefits.

Adjustable Bench Arm Exercises

Sometimes the traditional dumbbell bicep curl can get boring, here are some more interesting alternatives.

Incline Dumbbell Curls

Set your bench at a 45-degree angle for incline dumbbell curls. Keep your elbows tucked and curl the dumbbells upwards, control them on the way down and repeat.

Dumbbell Preacher Curls

Set your bench to an angle slightly less than upright/90-degrees and stand behind it. With the back of your upper arm resting against the bench, curl the dumbbell upwards. This variation ensures for maximum bicep isolation, as it limits any swinging that could help your momentum.

Overhead Tricep Extension

For the triceps, the overhead tricep extension can be performed easily. Set your bench to flat and sit on the end. With both hands, grip the flat end of a dumbbell, and press it above your head. Keeping your elbows high, bend your arms and bring the dumbbell down behind your head, then extend your elbows until your arms are straight.

Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

If you have a lighter pair of dumbbells, the tricep kickback is also a great way to feel a burn in your arms. Keep your elbow tucked and grip the front of the dumbbell handle. Without moving your upper arm, lean forward onto your bench and extend your arm backwards until it’s straight. You should feel a pinching sensation in your tricep.

Bench Tricep Dips

You can also do isolated tricep dips with your bench. With your hands close together, place them behind you on the edge of your bench. Straighten your legs and keep them out in front of you, then lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Then extend and squeeze.

Key Points to Remember when Using your Weight Bench

  • All you need to build muscle effectively at home is a pair of dumbbells, a set of resistance bands, and your bodyweight.
  • Make sure your bench is adjustable so you can do a range of exercises.
  • For an effective home workout, make sure you are keeping the intensity high enough. Push yourself so you could physically do no more than 3 more reps after finishing every set. If you want, take a few sets to failure, until you can’t even do one more rep.
  • Check out our MuscleSquad workout plans here.

If you want to make the most of your weight bench, take a look at this piece on power racks.

Jamie Grover, Fitness Journalist from Bristol.

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