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The Many Ways to Use a Bench Press

The Many Ways to Use a Bench Press

Let’s paint a picture, you have created a home gym and just got yourself a bench press, what can you do with it now? In this article, we will take a look at the many ways that you can get the most out of your bench press. This could also apply to you if you are in a gym.

Regular Bench Press

Obviously, you should primarily use a bench press for its primary exercise. A barbell bench press will work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It is a classic exercise, and one of the most popular exercises in the gym. 

Close Grip Bench Press

This is another excellent use for the bench press. The close grip variation allows you to focus more on the triceps while still working the shoulders and chest. A common mistake that people make is to bring their hands too close together on the barbell. In reality, you only have to bring them in a little bit. The trick is to tuck your elbows into your sides, this makes the most difference.

Wide Grip Bench Press

This variation is supposed to take the pressure off the triceps and allow you to target the chest more. If you have a bad shoulder, then this is not the exercise for you. But other than that, it’s a good variation and a welcome addition to most training programs.

Nordic Curls

Because the bench in a bench press is low to the ground, it is often possible to hook your feet underneath it and use it to stabilise them while you perform this tricky hamstring exercise. 

As you can see, the only thing that you need is something to hold your feet down. The underside of a bench press often (yet not always) is the right height to get your feet under. 

Step Ups

The bench press bench is great for step ups, though if you try this in a busy gym you are going to get some angry comments hurled your way! Let’s assume you’re at home or in an empty gym. Place one foot on the bench. 

Keeping your hands away from your knees (no cheating) use your raised leg to drive yourself up so that you are standing upright on the bench. Keep your original foot on the bench and climb off it. That’s one rep. Perform nine more and then swap to the other foot.

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

For this exercise you are going to lie on the bench back to front, with your feet where your head would normally be and vice versa. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip and raise them up above your chest. This is your starting position. 

You want your head to be right on the edge of the bench. Slowly bring the dumbbells down so that they are almost touching the sides of your head (hence the name skull crusher). Keep your elbows straight, you are just moving your forearms. Pause, and then straighten your arms back up to the starting position. A superb tricep exercise.

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows

For this exercise you will need one dumbbell. Stand facing the side of the bench with the dumbbell on the floor in front of your feet. Rest a hand on the bench so that you can support your weight while bending over the bench. 

Grab a dumbbell in your other hand. Push your chest out and pull your shoulders back to maintain a flat back. Then pull the dumbbell up until it touches the side of your chest. Pause and then lower it down until your arm is almost fully extended. This is one rep.

Dumbbell Flys

Not as good as a regular exercise bench as you can’t put the bench to incline, and you have to sit on the bench backwards (like you do for skull crushers). But not bad if this is all you have. Lie on the bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip so that both palms are facing each other. Hold the dumbbells over your chest with arms that have a very slight bend in the elbow.

Keep that bend throughout the movement. Slowly pull your arms apart like a bird spreading its wings, pause when the dumbbells are parallel to the floor, then pull your arms together again in a large clapping motion. 

Box Squats

These are great if you don’t have great mobility or if you don’t have confidence in your squats. They are also a good exercise in their own right. You perform a squat normally, but with the bench underneath you so that you can “sit” on it while squatting. 

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, one traditional use and eight alternative uses for the bench press that you can try next time you have the bench press to yourself. As we’ve stated in the article though, try not to use the only bench press in a busy gym for non-bench press exercises as this will annoy your fellow gym members. If you thought that squatting in the gym rack was unacceptable, you should see what step ups on the bench press will do for your popularity.

However, there are many times when using the bench press for the above variations and exercises is totally acceptable. You could be doing supersets for example. A set of bench press followed immediately by a set of skull crushers, or single arm dumbbell rows. 

Or you could have a whole circuit set up when the gym was completely empty (maybe it’s 3pm on a Saturday and nobody else is in the weights area). If you have a bench press at home, then there is no reason why you can’t do almost an entire full-body workout with just that bench and your imagination.