Weight benches should be a staple part of any fitness center set up. Whether in a commercial gym, at home, or in a hotel, a weight bench allows for versatility in training. Weight benches can be used for stretching, abs, dumbbells, barbells, legs, and plyometrics.
In this article, we will review more non-traditional exercises that can be done with a weight bench.
Step Ups: Place your right foot on the bench. Maintain a tight core as you drive into your right heel while raising your body up. Be careful to not allow your knee to track too far over your toes as this can induce pain in the patella tendon region. Modifications: Alternate legs vs keeping same foot on bench. Add hand weights or a weight vest for increased resistance. Slowly lower yourself down, taking 3-5 seconds for this phase of the exercise.
Jump Overs, Hand on Bench: Place your hands on the bench, feet together and on the right side of the bench. Slightly shift your weight forward onto your hands and using an explosive motion, jump over the bench. Land softly with both feet on the left side of the bench and quickly return to the other side. Be sure to keep both hands on the bench and the core engaged during the entire exercise. Care should be taken to avoid hitting your feet or twisting your ankle on the base of the bench.
Bench Jumps: Face the bench, go into a mini squat and jump onto the bench. Your landing should be soft and controlled on the bench. Since the bench is padded, be careful to avoid twisting your ankle. You can step or jump down and then repeat.
Turn so your back is facing the bench. Go into a mini squat, jump and turn your body and end by landing on the bench. Since the bench is padded, be careful to avoid twisting your ankle. Repeat by jumping again but turning to the other side. Jump or step down.
Face the bench and attempt to jump over it. Be sure to land soft and be aware of any obstacles you could hit if you fall. You can modify this exercise by getting a running start and then jumping the bench as if it were a hurdle.
Face Down, Hip Extension: Lay face down with the edge of the bench at about your belly button. Your legs might be off the bench completely. Grasp the side or bottom of the bench as you extend your legs and hips up towards the ceiling. Maintain your glutes squeezed and attempt to raise your legs by using your low back muscles. Modifications: Add ankle weights for resistance. Squeeze a ball between your ankles or thighs as you lift.
Seated V ups: Sit at the edge of the bench. Lean back and the grasp the edges of the bench with your hands. Maintain your body in a V position. Raise your legs and pump them in and out using your abdominal muscles for control. Modifications: Release the bench and balance your body on the bench while pumping your legs.
Prone rows: Lay face down on the bench allowing your forehead to rest on the bench. Grasp dumbbells, and row your elbows back while keeping them close to the bench. You can prop the bench up on weight plates in order to allow for greater range of motion. Modifications: Assume the same position but perform a rear fly instead of a row. In this move, the elbows will be straight as you raise your arms, palms down, towards the ceiling.
External Rotation: Lay on your right side with your left hand bent at the elbow and draped across your abdomen. Keeping the elbow bent and close to the body, rotate at the shoulder moving your fist towards the ceiling. Modifications: Place a rolled up towel under the elbow for different alignment and muscle activation. Use a light dumbbell for additional resistance but note that this exercise places heavy emphasis on the shoulder rotators. Care must be taken when using weight to avoid injury.
Prone Row-External Rotation-Overhead Press: Lay face down on the bench and grasp dumbbells. Keep elbows wide as you raise them up towards the ceiling. Externally rotate the shoulder to bring the forearms level to bench height and parallel to the bench and the floor. Carefully press the dumbbells up towards your head until your biceps are next to your ears. Once fully extended, bring the dumbbells straight towards the ground or reverse the process to bring them to the ground.
Stretching: A weight bench can used to help stretch various muscle groups.
Hamstrings: Face the bench, with the heel of your right foot on the bench. Gently push your hips back and lean forward reaching towards your shin.
Pecs: Lay face up on the bench. Extend your arms and shoulders out. Keep the arms at shoulder level, but allow gravity to bring your arms towards the floor. You should feel a slight stretch on the chest muscles.
Quads/Hip Flexors: Face away from the bench. Place your foot on the bench so that the top of the foot is in contact with the bench. Keep your body tall. To increase the stretch you can either step farther away from the bench or lean back/slightly bend back/tuck your pelvis as if you were a scared dog hiding its tail.
Progression/Regression: Use bench to modify exercises to make them harder, easier or to target different muscle fibers.
Perform push-ups with your hands on the bench instead of the floor.
Perform decline push ups by elevating your feet on the bench and then do a push up by bringing your chest towards the ground.
Use the bench for seated dips vs traditional dips.
Activate your core and glutes by doing a bridge but placing your feet on the bench instead of the floor.
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