If you don't like standing in line at a gym to use machines covered with other people's sweat, a weight bench is a convenient and inexpensive way to save money and time to work out at home. Even better, the only sweat on it will be your own. To use a weight bench effectively, you also need dumbbells or exercise bands to provide resistance for your lifts. Some exercises can be performed with barbells, but dumbbells and resistance bands are safer to use if you don't have a spotter.
Warm Up and Cool Down
If you have a stationary bicycle or treadmill gathering dust in your garage, dust it off. Warming up with 10 minutes of cardio before lifting reduces the risk of injury. If you don't have access to cardio machines, go for a walk, jog or bike ride, skip rope, run in place or just dance to your favorite music. After warming up, do approximately 20 minutes of strength-training exercises using your weight bench. Finish your workout with a 5- to 10-minute cardio cool-down. After you cool down, do static stretches, allowing 10 to 30 seconds each for the major muscles in your legs, back and arms.
Lift weights on two or three nonconsecutive days each week. Plan your workout around eight to 12 exercises to work all major muscle groups in pushing and pulling directions. Do compound exercises, which work multiple muscles simultaneously, before isolation exercises, which work only a single muscle. For example, do bench presses before skull crushers or biceps curls. Also, do exercises working big muscles such as your back, thigh and chest before ones working smaller muscles such as forearms or calves. Use weights or resistances that allow you to do eight to 12 repetitions with good form. If you can do more than 12 repetitions of an exercise, increase the weight or resistance. Only one set of each exercise is needed for basic fitness. Add a second or third set of a specific exercise if you are struggling with a plateau or trying to correct a muscle imbalance.
Do upper body exercises on your weight bench using either dumbbells or resistance bands. Begin by lying on your back and doing bench presses for your chest and triceps, followed by flyes to work your chest and biceps. Kneel with one knee on the bench to do bent-over rows for your back. Sit on the bench for overhead presses and lateral or side raises. Add seated isolation exercises such as biceps curls and skull crushers if you have time for additional arm work.
Lower Body and Core
To do a full body workout, you'll need to mix some body-weight exercises for your lower body and core with weight-bench exercises. Begin your leg workout with lunges, side lunges and squats, holding dumbbells for extra resistance. Use a leg attachment for leg extension exercises to isolate the quadriceps and leg curls to isolate the hamstrings. If your bench does not have a leg attachment, substitute resistance bands or ankle weights. For core exercises, lie on the floor to do the bicycle maneuver, crunches or reverse crunches. Perform back extensions on your weight bench to strengthen your lower back.
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Guidelines
- BodyBuilding.com: A Novice Trainer Trap: Overtraining
- DrMirkin.com: How Muscles get Stronger
- MayoClinic.com: What's Better for Strength Training -- One Set or Multiple Sets?
- BodyBuilding.com: Best Beginner Weight-Training Guide With Easy-To-Follow Workout!
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Warm Up, Cool Down and Be Flexible
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Bent-over Row
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Fly
- ExRx.net: Waist Exercise Menu
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.