Weight bench exercises for beginners: tips and guides for upper, lower and full body workouts
If you’ve just stepped foot in your first gym or want to start benching at home, then you're in the right place. Here's our guide to weight bench exercises for beginners.
Weight bench exercises are an important part of training for all levels of athletes. They can help with strength, endurance, fat loss, and flexibility, but if you’re a beginner, starting to use a weight bench can be intimidating.
Whether it’s your first time in the gym or you’re considering buying a weight bench to start working out at home, knowing how to exercise with them can help maximise your training results and lower your risk of injury.
Here at The Recommended, we’ve put together a handy guide to weight bench exercises for novices. We’ll give you all the tools you need so you no longer have to wonder how to use weight benches, why to use them, and what benefit they’ll bring you.
What are weight bench exercises?
Weight bench exercises are performed using a piece of equipment, you guessed it, called a weight bench. A weight bench can be adjusted from a seat-like position and then flattened to look like a bench. Exercises that you can do on a weight bench are effective in building strength, muscle mass, and overall fitness.
They are an excellent way to begin strength training and are easier to use than they might first appear. There are plenty of exercises that you can complete with weight benches that work out your whole body.
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To get started with weight bench exercises, you will need a weight bench and a set of weights. If you aren’t part of a gym and prefer to work out at home, then you can see our guide to the best of dumbbells and benches under our fitness section.
Once you have your weights and bench or are in the gym, there are a variety of exercises that you can perform. Each exercise targets specific muscle groups, so it's important to choose exercises that align with your fitness goals.
Some common exercises that you can do on a weight bench include bench presses, dumbbell flys, leg curls, and bicep curls. It’s important that when you start training, you stick to light weights and focus on form and technique to avoid injury. This focus will also help you build a foundation for advanced exercises in the future.
How to start using a weight bench
If you’re a beginner, then starting out on the weight bench can feel a bit frightening. Knowing how to use a weight bench before starting can give you the confidence to know what you’re doing and that you're being safe. To help you, we’ve put together a simple step-by-step on how to get started using a weight bench for exercise.
- Warm-up: The NHS advises warming up before all exercise to help your performance and get your body in the mood for training. You should choose a warm-up for the part of the body you plan to exercise. For example, if it were a chest exercise you wanted to do, you could do some press-ups or chest stretches.
- Adjust the bench: Before starting, you should adjust the bench to suit the exercise that you want to perform. The majority of weight benches can be adjusted to suit an incline, decline, or flat positioning. The gradient of the bench is usually controlled through a lever on the bottom or side of the bench.
- Choose the right weights: Fitness enthusiast and personal trainer Heather Marr advises that beginners start with lower weights. She told CNET that an appropriate weight choice allows you to maintain good form and technique. Beginners should start with a low weight to perfect the motions before increasing the heaviness of weights in further training sessions.
- Perform the exercise correctly: Experts from the Mayo Clinic explained that the main focus for your first few bench sessions should be to correctly perform the exercise. It means you can target the correct muscles and minimise the risk of injury. They said that the better the form, the better the results.
Five benefits of weight bench training
Using a weight bench helps to improve strength and overall fitness. Being aware of the benefits of using a weight bench for exercise can help keep your training motivated, and knowing how a weight bench can help you reach your fitness goals is important for maintaining enthusiasm.
- Builds strength: Joel Freeman, the creator of the LIIFT4 program and Beachbody Super Trainer, told Shape that weight training is key for building strength and a strong muscular foundation. Weight training builds strength in several muscle groups, and by performing weight bench exercises, you can improve performance in other sporting activities.
- Burns fat: According to experts at York Fitness, strength training burns fat and can help to improve metabolism. Maintaining strength training with a good diet can help you lose weight and gain a more toned physique as you build your muscle mass. You have to keep an eye on diet and do this alongside strength training if you want to lose weight.
- Improves bone density: Experts at the Mayo Clinic explained that weight training has been proven to increase bone density. A regular pattern of weight training can help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. For older people, this is more important as bone density reduces over time.
- Improved cardiovascular health: Weight bench training increases the heart rate, which can boost circulation and improve cardiovascular health. Through increasing the heart rate, heart health is improved, and the heart becomes strong. A strong heart lowers the risk of heart disease.
- Increased flexibility: A study from the University of North Dakota found that weight bench training can stretch muscles which leads to improved flexibility over time. The range of motion is also improved, so with time, the risk of injury is lowered.
Weight bench exercises guide: upper, lower, and full body workouts
From wanting to build muscle mass, strength, and overall fitness, weight bench exercises are a great choice. In this exercise guide, we’ll cover upper, lower, and full-body exercises that you can complete on a bench. This beginner's guide will also help assist you with your technique and form.
Upper body weight bench exercises
These exercises help you build strength in the chest, shoulder, and arms. Beginners' exercises should be safe, easy to understand, and focused on technique. We’ve provided three exercises to help you get started.
According to The American College of Sports Medicine, you should try to perform each exercise for around 6-10 reps (amount of times you do the exercise), if you are struggling to do this, lower the weight.
- Bench press: One of the most traditional exercises to perform on a weight bench is the bench press. The classic exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. You should lie the bench down flat and lie your back on it with your feet flat on the ground. You should hold both dumbbells to the side or a bar above your chest and slowly lower it, just before it touches your chest, lift it back to the starting position.
- Incline bench press: Very similar to a typical bench press, the incline version targets the upper chest muscles. You should change the bench you are using so that you are at a slight incline when you lie down. Then slowly lower the bar to your chest and lift it back to the starting position.
- Dumbbell flys: Another exercise for beginners to try is dumbbell flys. It is important to start flys with a lower weight than bench press and incline press. To perform, lie on the bench with arms extended above your chest. Slowly lower your arms, so they are by your side, in line with your chest, now bring them back up to starting position. If you only have kettlebells on hand you can also use these. Check out our guide to the best kettlebells to see more exercises with these weights.
Lower body weight bench exercises
Lower body weight bench exercises target the legs and glutes and are helpful in building muscle mass here. To target them properly you should focus on technique as well as low weights to start with. Here are three exercises perfect for beginners:
- Bulgarian split squats: A great exercise for targeting the quads and glutes. Despite its long name, the exercise is a basic one for beginners to get the hang of. Stand in front of the bench and put one foot on top of it, the other resting on the floor behind. Lower your body back into a lunge position with your knee close to the floor without it touching, then return to starting position and repeat.
- Step-ups: Another simple beginner workout is step-ups. You simply step onto the bench with one foot and then step back down, changing your foot each time. These steps target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
- Leg curls: Leg curls target the hamstrings and involve lying on the bench front down with your legs off the end. You should use the side of the bench for support and then slowly bend your knees, bringing your heel towards your bum. Switch legs each time.
Full body weight bench exercises
Once you have practised some upper and lower body exercises, the bench can be used to support you in some bodyweight exercises. You don’t need a weight for these instead, use the weight of your body to add difficulty to the exercise. These are great exercises for building overall strength.
- Push-ups: This exercise targets the chest, shoulders, biceps, and core. You should place your hands on the bench with your feet on the ground and stretch out until you’re in a plank position. Lower your body down towards the bench using the bend in your arms, and try to keep your back straight. When your chest is close to the bench, you can push back up to the starting position.
- Bench dips: The triceps, chest, and shoulders are targeted in this exercise which starts with you sitting on the edge of the bench with your hand next to your hips. You should extend your legs out so they are stretched and then push your bum out so it's hanging off the seat. Use your arms to lower your bum to the floor, without touching it, before raising yourself back to the starting position.
- Reverse crunches: To perform crunches on a bench, you should lie on your back with your feet flat on the bench and your knees bent. Then lift your hips off the bench as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with them when fully extended, and lower yourself back to the starting position. This exercise will help to work your abs.
Weight benches and weights: the kit you'll need to get started
It's now time to get your equipment together so you can practise what you've learned. To help make your purchasing easier, The Recommended have put together comprehensive reviews for the best weight benches and best dumbbells. Here's a selection of our best picks from these:
Some of our favourite weight benches
- Reebok deck, Amazon, £120: Not your traditional style of weight bench, the Reebok Deck is great for anyone looking for a bench to use for light weight lifting and that doubles as a multi-exercise accessory.
- YOLEO Adjustable Commercial Grade Weight Bench, Amazon, £89.99: This steel bench is designed to provide a stable base for lifting heavy weights at home. It features a 1.5mm thickened wall tube, which YOLEO guarantees can withstand 500lbs of weight.
- Bulldog Gear Adjustable Bench 2.0, Bulldog Gear, £495: This commercial-style weight bench from Bulldog Gear is recommended by our fitness expert Dan Roberts for those looking for a sturdy and comfortable base for lifting heavy weights at home.
Some of our favourite dumbbells
- KG Physio Dumbbells Set, Amazon, £55.99: This set of dumbbells ticks all of our experts’ boxes: hexagonal design, neoprene coating and a variety of available sizes for different exercises and levels of ability.
- ZIVA Performance Hex Dumbbell, Physical Company, £55: This pair of sturdy, rubber-coated hexagonal weights is recommended by our fitness expert Tom House, who uses ZIVA weights in his own studio.
- Xn8 Neoprene Dumbbells, Mirafit, £29.95: These neoprene-coated hexagonal dumbbells are ideal for a range of strength-building workouts, and their design means they won’t end up rolling around as you switch between exercises.
Want more guidance on fitness and wellness? Check out our wellness and fitness sections, with guides including yoga vs pilates, best posture tips, and the best multi-gym equipment for working out at home.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.