When purchasing equipment to fill a / home gym, you must think carefully about every piece. After all, most of us have limited space and a budget to stick to, so it is important to maximise efficiency and usefulness. A good starting point is to buy a cardio machine and some free weights, then think about expanding to have another cardio machine, an all-in-one weights machine and a weight bench.
Which of these three additional pieces of equipment you go for first, however, is down to your own workout preferences. In this post, we are going to focus on weight benches and consider their place in a home gym.
What can I do with a weight bench?
Weight benches can be a simple flat bench that you sit or lie down on while lifting weights, or they can be designed to have adjustable back and seat positions, foot and knee hold, and weight bar holders that facilitate exercise. We prefer the more sophisticated benches as they work with your body to enable better workout performance and they allow you to train at different angles, thus targeting muscles that might otherwise be missed.
Some exercises that require a weight bench include:
- Bench press with dumbbells or a barbell (dumbbells are safer because there is no risk of a bar getting stuck on your windpipe)
- Shoulder press
- Incline bicep curl (use the incline setting to position yourself at an oblique angle while performing these)
- Reverse flyes
- Incline front raises
- Lying tricep extensions
- Sit-ups and incline sit-ups (adjust the weight bench so that the back is declined, this intensifies the effects on your core)
If you have any queries about how to perform these moves, we recommend searching on YouTube for short video tutorials.
Weight bench vs chair or bench
As you can see from the example exercises, the incline setting on a weight bench can be used to add variety to moves and challenge your body in a new way. A chair or a standard bench, however, will only allow you to sit or lie at a 90- or 180-degree angle. A weight bench, therefore, expands your positioning options, and this enables enhances the quality of your workout.
A weight bench can also be used to perform exercises such as reverse crunches, decline push-ups, leg lowers, dumbbell rows, and other moves. For these, because you do not need to use an incline setting, you could substitute a weight bench for a chair or a standard bench. If you are just starting out, then this can be a good option while you save up for an adjustable weight bench.
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Weight benches are commonly associated with upper body and core exercises, but they can be used to train the lower body too. One of the most popular ways of using a weight bench is to perform a Bulgarian split squat. This move targets the quads, hamstrings and glutes. It is a difficult move to master, so we recommend approaches this as a bodyweight exercise while you perfect your form, before loading up with free weights.
Another excellent move for training the lower body is the pistol squat to a bench. Again, you can search YouTube for a video demonstration of this move. It usually takes people a while to build up the strength to rise to stand without having their raised foot touch the ground and can be a challenging exercise to master. It can be made even more difficult by the addition of free weight, held in a goblet position.
Verdict on weight benches
Weight benches provide the setting for a full-body workout and allow you to train at angles that you would otherwise miss. This adds variety to your workout, which is not only important for your physical progress but also for your enjoyment of exercise. We particularly like a weight bench for a home gym because it complements other pieces of equipment – namely, free weights – and gives you growing room. Namely, the option to purchase a barbell and expand your gym in that direction. There are not many other pieces of kit that can offer the same!
For these reasons, a weight bench is suitable for people who want to up their strength training game and those who are seriously committed to pumping iron. If there are two people using a home gym it means that you both can get some use out of it, even if your goals are different. Finally, we might briefly mention that weight benches are suitable for all types of homes and rooms, including those above ground level. The weight required to fall through a floor is much more than you are likely to be lifting!