by Katie Duzan
Exercise benches are extremely versatile pieces of equipment. Although in gyms, exercise benches traditionally serve as a spot for bench presses and other barbell exercises, they are actually useful among weights and machines for working all of your muscle groups. They look simple, but they are very useful in a fitness routine, especially a weight lifting and cardiovascular workout plan. To properly use an exercise bench, think beyond bench pressing to the multitude of opportunities for including it in a general fitness plan that involves using a wide range of weights and machines.
Chest press: Lie flat on your back on the exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Bending the elbows outward, hold the dumbbells at chest level by the shoulders. Lift them up until the arms extend completely. Bring them back down slowly to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 12 to 15 times to give the chest muscles a good workout.
Triceps press: Dip down to work the triceps. Sitting on the bench, place your hands on the bench right next to your body, your fingers slightly over the edge. Scoot forward until your bottom is completely off the bench, sliding your legs forward slightly as well. While bending your elbows, lower your body as far as possible. Pull up, and repeat 12 to 15 times.
Power squats: Stand tall by using the exercise bench as a high step. While facing the bench, step up with the right foot, then the left. Step back to the floor, right foot first. Switch sides and repeat 10 times. This works the legs and buttocks. Another exercise for stepping up is the side step. Standing next to the weight bench, step up sideways with the leg that is closer to the bench. Pull the other leg up, and then step down with the leg facing the other side. Repeat to work both legs. Step up 10 times. Hold dumbbells to increase workout intensity.
Biceps curls: Stay seated for some bicep curls to work the arms. Sit with your legs shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and lean over keeping your back straight, until your right arm is resting on your right knee. Keeping everything but your lower arm still, extend your right arm as far as possible without moving your elbow and knee. Lift your lower arm up until your hand reaches your upper arm. Lower your right arm back down, and repeat 12 to 15 times. Switch arms, and do the exercise with the left arm.
Push-ups: Vary your push-ups by first putting your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the weight bench. Step back until your legs are extended and your body is a straight line from shoulders to heels. Do a set of 12 to 15 push-ups. Push-ups work the arms, chest and back muscles.