Weight benches are versatile pieces of fitness equipment for training your upper body. Find out what bench exercises can give you bigger and stronger arms.
These exercises range from compound movements that also work other areas to isolation movements for when you really want to focus on one arm muscle.
As you can expect, you also need some type of resistance to do these bench exercises effectively. Dumbbells and resistance bands are often great but you can use other options too.
1. Bench press
This first option is already an exercise where many people use a barbell instead of dumbbells or resistance bands. Besides that, you can use a flat incline or decline bench.
Take the following steps to do a bench press with a flat bench:
- Rack the barbell at a height where your arms are slightly less than stretched when you lie down with your hands on the barbell.
- Lie down on the weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands on the barbell at the desired distance. If you are unsure about this detail, shoulder width apart is a good start.
- Push the barbell up to unrack it and move it above your chest.
- Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Keep your arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Push the barbell back up into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
The bench press is not the most beginner-friendly exercise but once you get the technique right it is a great compound movement for working your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles.
One of the benefits of using a barbell is that it can hold a lot of weight. This allows you to really work the main muscles mentioned.
On the flip side, you can also do bench presses with something like dumbbells. These will work a variety of stabilizing muscles around your shoulders to a larger extent.
2. One-arm weight bench row
To do a one-arm weight bench row you need a one-handed weight, preferably a dumbbell, and a flat sturdy bench. Once you have these, take the following steps to do this arm compound exercise:
- Pick up the dumbbell with one hand. Stand right next to the weight bench with your side opposite to the dumbbell pointing to the bench.
- Put your knee and hand on the side opposite to the dumbbell on the weight bench. Keep your upper leg more or less vertical and your shoulder above your hand. Let your arm and shoulder blade with the dumbbell hang down for now.
- Raise the dumbbell to your body in a controlled motion by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm. Keep your upper arm close to your side.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back into the position of step 2.
Whereas the previous bench arm exercise was a push movement, this one-arm weight bench row is a pull movement that works the opposite muscles.
More specifically, this movement works your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), biceps, and trapezius (upper back) muscles.
Since these are relatively big muscles, one-arm weight bench rows can also be helpful for fitness goals like weight loss.
If you like doing rows with a weight bench but don’t like having to work out each side separately, you can also consider doing chest-supported rows on an incline bench.
3. Incline dumbbell curl
As the name implies, you want an incline bench and a one-handed weight to do this next exercise. Once you have these, take the following steps to do an incline dumbbell curl:
- Set the incline bench to about 45 degrees, pick up two dumbbells, and lie down on the bench. Let your arms hang down for now.
- Slowly move up the dumbbells as far as comfortable by folding your arms. Keep the rest of your body, including your upper arms, in the same position.
- Lower the dumbbells back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
Using a weight bench for dumbbell curls instead of just standing up changes a few things.
First of all, by lying down on a weight bench, it becomes harder to cheat and move the dumbbells with other muscles. This allows you to focus more on your bicep (front upper arm) muscles.
Additionally, an incline bench allows you to do bicep curls with your upper arms behind your body. This leads to more focus on the long head (outer part) of the bicep brachii muscles.
This second difference is not necessarily better or worse for everyone than doing seated dumbbell curls where you sit up straight. However, it could align more with your training goals.
4. Chest-supported reverse fly
The chest-supported reverse fly is another arm exercise where you need an incline weight bench and one-handed weights. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the chest-supported reverse fly:
- Set the bench at about a 30-degree angle, pick up two dumbbells, and lean against the incline bench with your chest against the upper edge. Let your arms hang down for now.
- Move the dumbbells sideways and up in a controlled motion until your arms are about horizontal. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched. Keep your shoulder blades still if you really want to focus on your rear deltoids.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back into the position of step 1.
As mentioned, if you keep your shoulder blades in the same position, the chest-supported reverse fly works the back parts of your deltoids (main shoulder muscle).
By moving your shoulder blades you would also work your trapezius (upper back) muscles.
Next, you could also do this arm exercise bent-over without a bench. This does require more lower back muscle engagement and more focus on coordination.
Because of that, you may prefer the weight bench version of this shoulder isolation exercise.
5. Lying tricep extension
Lying tricep extensions are more versatile than some of the other arm exercises when it comes to what equipment you can use in an effective way.
For example, take the following steps to do a lying tricep extension with an EZ curl bar:
- Put the EZ curl bar in front of a flat weight bench and load it with the desired weight.
- Pick up the EZ curl bar, hold it in front of your chest, and lie down on the end of the weight bench.
- Push the EZ curl bar up until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Tilt your upper arms back so that you have room for the next step.
- Slowly lower the EZ curl bar behind your head by folding your arms. Keep your upper arms in the same position.
- Return the EZ curl bar to the position in step 3 in a controlled range of motion.
As the name implies, this bench exercise mainly works your tricep (back upper arm) muscles.
Doing lying tricep extensions on a weight bench instead of the floor is more comfortable and allows your tricep muscles to go through a larger range of motion.
Many people like doing this tricep exercise with an EZ curl bar because it puts their wrists in a relatively comfortable position while not requiring too much stabilization muscle engagement.
That being said, you can also use a barbell, dumbbells, resistance bands, etc.
6. Seated overhead press
Ideally, you have a weight bench that allows you to put the back support vertically to do a seated overhead press. That being said, you can also make something work with a flat weight bench.
Take the following steps to do a seated overhead press with dumbbells:
- Get two dumbbells to shoulder height with a clean movement.
- Sit down on the weight bench. Either lean against the vertical back support or keep your upper body straight up.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Point your upper arms forward at about 45-degree angles to the horizontal line of your shoulders in the first part of the movement.
- Lower the dumbbells again into the position of step 2. Again, keep the angles of your upper arms in mind at the bottom of the movement.
Seated overhead presses mainly work your front and side deltoids, triceps, and trapezius muscles.
By sitting on a bench during shoulder exercises like the overhead press, it becomes easier to avoid using your leg muscles to create upward momentum for the dumbbells.
Additionally, a weight bench with a vertical option reduces to what extent you need to work your core muscles to keep your upper body upright. This allows you to focus more on the arm and shoulder muscles mentioned.
7. Seated wrist curls
This next arm exercise definitely does not look the most impressive but it could deserve a spot in your workout routine. Take the following steps to do a seated wrist curl with dumbbells:
- Pick up two (light) dumbbells, sit down on a weight bench, and put your forearms on your legs so that your hands still have room to move. Whether your hand palms should point up or down depends on your training goals.
- Lower the dumbbells as far as comfortable in a controlled motion.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells as far as comfortable.
Seated wrist curls work the muscles in your forearms. More specifically, the side of your forearms that is pointing up when you do the exercise (which you can change by pointing your hand palms up or down).
While you work your forearm muscles to some extent with many other exercises, wrist curls can help you really isolate, grow, and strengthen this area.