You don’t need a lot of equipment in your home gym to have a great workout. One adjustable weight bench and a pair of adjustable dumbbells are all that are required to build a healthier, fantastic-looking body. What follows are the best weight bench exercises to give you sculpted muscles and a defined core.
I encourage you to watch the full-body workout video located lower within this article to see how each movement appears when performed optimally.
Setting Up for Your Weight Bench Workout
If you happen to be over the age of 50, using dumbbells for your weight bench workout has a distinct advantage. Dumbells are better because, unlike barbells, you can make micro-adjustments during your range of motion to accommodate the unique sticking points of your joints and muscles.
A small space is all that’s needed for your home gym area. I’m not affiliated with these companies, but in case it’s helpful to you:
- The weight bench and dumbbells I use in the video are made by Bowflex.
- The functional-fitness resistance band I use near the end of the workout is made by Rubberbanditz.
- The non-slip yoga towel I use over the weight bench is made by Manduka.
Weight Bench Exercises Modified for Fitness Level
Each of the exercises in this weight bench workout can be modified to match your unique circumstances, including age, gender, and fitness level:
- Beginners can do 1 set per exercise, 8 reps each.
- Intermediates can do 2 sets per exercise, 10 reps each.
- Advanced-level athletes can do 3 sets per exercise, 12 reps each.
Tips for a Highly Effective Weight Bench Workout
Isolation is a key component of a workout that successfully brings results. These tips will help:
- Exhale at the point of maximum exertion.
- Pause-and-squeeze for a peak contraction at the “top” of a rep.
- Avoid using momentum; instead, return to the start of your rep slowly – creating negative resistance.
- Visualize the primary muscle group you’re trying to target; feel it from the inside out.
- Your final rep in a set should be the most mindful of all; focus on what you’re doing in the moment.
Weight Bench Exercise List
Remember, no matter what your fitness level, you want to feel challenged – “approaching failure,” as we say in strength training – by your final repetition within a set.
Chest, Back, and Shoulder Section:
- Flat dumbbell bench press (add a slight rotation to your arm movement if it feels better on your shoulders)
- Fisherman’s row (both knees on the bench to stabilize your pelvis)
- Decline dumbbell weight bench press.
- “Meadow’s Row” dumbbell variation (elbow pulls out to the side; opposite arm uses bench for support)
- Incline dumbbell weight bench press (set bench at a 45-degree incline)
- Chest-supported bench dumbbell row (“mate” pelvis forward into the bench to protect your lower back)
- Incline dumbbell fly
- Chest-supported rear delt fly, palms facing back
- Chest-supported prone front arm raise
- Standard rear delt fly
- Seated shoulder shrug (for traps).
- Bench-supported, single-arm “skull crushers” on a decline bench (for triceps)
- Incline weight bench dumbbell biceps curl
- Bench tricep dip
- Concentration curl
- Bench-supported tricep kickback
- Incline weight bench dumbbell hammer curl.
How to Target the Intended Muscle Group (and Feel It Deeply)
For skull crushers, a flat bench is fine, but you might find that you feel better isolation when you set the bench to a decline.
Setting the bench to a 45-degree incline will help you get great isolation during your bicep curls. I feel it most deeply when I rotate my arms outward at the bottom of each rep.
The trick to tricep dips is to get keep your hips very close to the bench so that your lower back almost scrapes the bench as you lower down. If you can find something short to set your feet upon, you’ll feel it even more.
For concentration curls, you don’t just lean forward. You also pull your navel in and rotate your spine to create a twist in your torso. This exercise is called “concentration” for a reason – with your knees pressing into your elbow and your elbow pressing back into your knee. It creates a fully braced stability that allows you to focus on creating the deepest possible contraction in your bicep muscle at the top of each rep.
For tricep kickback, you set the bench at an approximately 70-degree incline, then rest the front of your shoulder cap on the top edge of the bench. This way, you don’t have to use the shoulder muscle to hold your arm up behind you – and that allows you to focus on the tricep only.
For the hammer curl, you can set the bench at whatever incline feels best. Often, I set my bench at an upright, 90-degree angle – simply because I get the best isolation in my lower bicep that way.
Lower Body Section:
- Dumbbell front box squat (I recommend doing an extra set of this exercise; it’s an important one)
- Calf heel raise
- Dumbbell leg extension for quads
- Dumbbell hamstring curl
- Bulgarian dumbbell split squat
- Prone banded hamstring curl
- Banded seated side lat pull
- Banded donkey kick (glute press)
- Banded hamstring curl
- Traditional sit-up on decline weight bench
- Lower ab leg raises
- Oblique knee-ins on the weight bench.
For the traditional decline sit-up, you’ll probably be tempted to use the strength of your arms to pull on your neck. But your hands should just form a gentle cradle. The point is to initiate the movement from your abdominal wall.
For the lower ab leg raises, you might feel tempted to start swinging your body weight around. But, really, the point of this exercise is to move gradually. Be aware that at the lower part of the rep – when your legs approach the ground – you want to keep your lower back bolted to that bench!
For the oblique knee-ins, do your reps leaning to one side, targeting the oblique muscle – then switch sides. I find it helpful also to get my lower abdominal plate involved, which means pulling that area down flat and hard (it’s located right below your navel but above your pubic bone).
At the end of your workout, I recommend a foam-roller cool down.
Combine Strength Training with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Exponential Results
Within my course Silver and Strong, I explain exactly how to craft a Fitness Comeback Plan that specifically meets the needs of your unique body and lifestyle, including how to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet – which is one of the most impactful ways for you to dramatically and quickly improve your health and appearance.
Getting Your Own Weight Bench
If you decide to get a weight bench for your home gym area, I encourage you to get one that has both incline and decline settings and also wheels on one end. The wheels allow you to lift one end of the bench and easily roll it to a new location.
On days with pleasant weather, I like to wheel my bench out to the backyard patio to exercise in the fresh air.