When it comes to chest workouts, a good weight bench is a key component of your fitness equipment collection. Discover some of the chest exercises you can use it for.
Something to note first is that you will also need extra resistance for most of the movements on top of a sturdy weight bench.
Examples of fitness equipment you can use include a barbell, dumbbells, resistance bands, a workout sandbag, etc.
1. Bench press
The bench press is generally considered to be the best chest compound exercise there is. Take the following steps to do this weight bench exercise with a barbell:
- Rack a barbell at a height where your arms are slightly less than stretched when you lie down on the bench and put your hands on the bar. Load the desired number of weight plates and adjust any safety bars or find a spotter.
- Lie down on the weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands on the barbell at about shoulder width.
- Push the bar up to unrack it and move it above your chest.
- Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Make sure your shoulder blades stay in position and keep your arms at 45-degree angles or closer to your sides.
- Push the barbell back up to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Many people prefer using a barbell because it can hold a lot of weight and engages your stabilizing muscles less. In turn, you can really give your chest, tricep, and front deltoid muscles a good amount.
On the flip side, dumbbells can also be a good equipment choice for bench presses if you want to train the stabilizing muscles like the side deltoids and latisimuss dorsi to a larger extent.
Resistance choices aside, the bench press is a relatively heavy lift. You definitely want a sturdy and stable weight bench to avoid any accidents.
2. Dumbbell fly
This next weight bench exercise is more of a chest isolation movement. As the name implies, you need two dumbbells of the right weight.
Once you have these, take the following steps to do a dumbbell fly:
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand, sit on a weight bench while holding the dumbbells on your upper legs, and kick back the dumbbells while you lie down on the weight bench. Similar to the bench press, you want to keep your shoulder blades back.
- Push up the dumbbells so your arms are pointing up and slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly move your arms sideways and downward as far as comfortable. Keep them slightly less than stretched throughout the movement.
- Return your arms to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
By lying down on a weight bench and keeping your other joints at more or less the same angles, you can really focus on working your chest muscles.
This can be helpful for growing and strengthening this area but also for improving the mind-muscle connection. In turn, this can lead to better workouts in other lifts.
The dumbbell chest fly is the most popular version but you could also use other chest workout tools like a cable machine, kettlebells, and resistance bands.
3. Dumbbell pullover
While there is again some flexibility in terms of equipment options, most people will want to do the pullover with a dumbbell. Besides that, you just need a stable bench. Take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Lie down on the end of a flat weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back, one dumbbell in your hands, and your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Hold the dumbbell behind the upper weights.
- Move the dumbbell back and down as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. Keep your elbows in the center to work your chest muscles.
- Slowly raise the dumbbell again until your arms are pointing up.
Many people are confused about the pullover exercise because it can focus on the latissimus dorsi or lower chest muscles depending on how you do them.
By keeping your elbows close to the center, pullovers become a lower chest dumbbell exercise. If you feel your middle/upper back muscles working too hard, your elbows are likely pointing outward too much.
4. Incline and decline pushups
You likely don’t want to get a weight bench for only this purpose but if you have one, you can use it to do incline and decline pushups. Take the following steps to do a decline pushup:
- Sit on your knees right next to the weight bench with your back toward it.
- Put one foot on the weight bench and then the other foot. Do this so the front parts of your feet are leaning on the surface of the bench.
- Walk forward with your hands until your body is in a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Keep your hands below your shoulders and your arms slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly lower your shoulders as close to the ground as comfortably as possible. Keep your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides and your body straight.
- Raise your shoulders again in a controlled motion until you are back in the position of step 3.
Regular pushups on a flat surface work your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles similar to a bench press.
By raising your feet with a weight bench, the pushups become harder and focus slightly more on your upper chest and shoulder muscles.
Similarly, you can put your hands on the bench and your feet on the ground. This will make the movement easier, focus more on your lower chest muscles, and focus less on your shoulder muscles.
5. Weight bench dip
This next chest movement is not the greatest but it is worth a quick mention before going into popular variations of one of the previous weight bench exercises.
Take the following steps to do a weight bench dip:
- Stand in front of a flat weight bench, bend down to put your hand palms on the bench, and step forward with your feet so more weight rests on your slightly less than stretched arms. You want to pull your shoulder blades back and keep your upper body close to the bench.
- Slowly lower your body as far as comfortable by folding your arms.
- Push yourself back up into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
Typically, dips are done on two horizontal dip bars. This makes it easier to tilt your upper body forward to focus more on your lower chest muscles.
Weight bench dips will inevitably focus a lot more on your tricep muscles because the bench is in the way of tilting your upper body forward.
So again, weight bench dips are not as great as the regular version for things like working your lower chest muscles. You could consider them if you like the tricep isolation part.
6. Incline bench press
As the name implies, you want an incline bench for this next chest exercise. Additionally, you need some type of resistance to make the movement challenging enough.
For example, take the following steps to do a dumbbell incline bench press:
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand, sit on a weight bench while holding the dumbbells on your upper legs, and kick back the dumbbells to chest height while you lie down on the weight bench. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
- Push the dumbbells upward in a controlled motion until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Keep your arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells again into the position of step 1.
By changing the angle of the weight bench, you also change what muscles have to work harder to push the dumbbells up and away from your body.
More specifically, incline bench presses focus more on your upper chest and shoulder muscles.
What angle of incline bench you want to implement depends on your training goals and personal preferences. The more vertical you go, the more you focus on your upper chest and shoulder muscles.
Since these body parts tend to be weaker than the entire chest muscles, incline bench presses are generally harder than flat bench presses. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
7. Decline bench press
There are also decline weight benches where you anchor your feet behind pads and lean down with your upper body. You can use one of these to do a decline bench press by taking the following steps:
- Rack a barbell at a height where your arms are slightly less than stretched when you are positioned on a decline weight bench with your hands on the bar.
- Anchor your feet behind the pads and lie down on the decline weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands on the barbell at about shoulder width.
- Unrack the barbell and move your arms forward until they are about vertical.
- Lower the barbell to your chest in a controlled motion. Keep your arms at 45-degree or smaller angles to your sides.
- Push the barbell back up to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
As you can expect from the explanations above, decline bench presses focus more on your lower chest muscles and less on your shoulder muscles.
Contrary to the previous weight bench chest exercise, this is not necessarily easier or harder for everyone.
In any case, decline bench presses are not necessary for everyone. Whether you want to do them or not depends on your personal preferences and training goals.