Want to bench press in your home gym but don’t know what you need or the most efficient equipment setup is? Here’s what you want to know.
The most efficient way to bench press in a home gym is with a power cage and an adjustable bench. Dedicated bench press benches can work but are less multifunctional and not always as sturdy as a power cage. A barbell and weight plates are always needed.
Find out more about exactly what you need and what’s best for your situation below.
What you need to bench press
The bench press is just one of those exercises that is so popular, pretty much everyone knows it, even people that don’t work out. Almost any gym in the world will have at least one bench press setup but most of them have more than one.
At home a proper barbell bench press is a bit rarer. You have to pick the right items to be able to do one.
To do a bench press at home, you’ll need a few items;
- Barbell: A full sized barbell is the best option. Some weight benches can fit a 6’ barbell but those are difficult to use on any other equipment. If you are buying a separate barbell just for bench pressing, one that fits your bench is fine, otherwise a full sized men’s or women’s barbell is better and more usable all round.
- Weight plates: You’ll need a set of weight plates as well. Of course you’ll need as much weight as you can lift but preferably a bit more so you’ve got room to grow. Make sure to get the right basic set of plates so you can follow a linear progression without having to make huge steps.
- Bench: The bench press is performed laying down. It can be flat or incline but laying down nonetheless. You also want your elbows to be able to go further down than your body to perform a bench press with full range of motion. A bench of some sorts is the best solution.
- Something to hold the barbell at the correct height: You want the barbell to be suspended above your chest when laying down. Lifting a full bar from the floor and then laying down, lifting and putting it back is no good.
The barbell and weight plates are necessary no matter what other equipment you buy. However, the bench and what holds the barbell can be different. Let’s look at the three best options below;
#1: Power rack/squat stands and separate bench
Space and money is often a limiting factor in home gyms. So the equipment you buy ideally serves more than one function. A simple weight bench that’s just used for bench pressing can’t be used for much else. A barbell and weight plates can be used for almost countless exercises as long as you’ve got the right supporting equipment. So getting the right supporting equipment that can be used for bench pressing as well as other lifts is the most space and money efficient option.
In a home gym that’s accomplished by getting a;
- Power rack or squat stands
- Adjustable bench
Combine that with a barbell and weight plates and you have yourself a setup that is great for pretty much all barbell exercises. You can perform bench presses but also squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, curls, etc.
A power rack is preferable in my opinion. Because it’s a cage you can lift inside, it’s safer if something were to go wrong. Power racks are also more stable and can handle more weight than squat stands. On the flipside, squat stands are much cheaper, smaller and easier to move around.
To lie down, you’ll need a weightlifting bench. In this case a bench that doesn’t hold a barbell is fine but it’s a good idea to get an adjustable bench. This means the backrest is adjustable in angle. This allows for flat bench pressing but also incline bench pressing as well as a whole host of other barbell and dumbbell exercises.
That flexibility is why this should be the first choice for most home gym builders.
#2: Adjustable weight bench
If you’ve got more space and already have a power rack, an adjustable weight bench is a good option. This is one piece of equipment with built in barbell holder and an adjustable backrest. This way you have a dedicated piece of equipment where you can do flat and incline bench presses.
There are quite a few choices in this category but some are definitely better than others. The load limit of these benches is often relatively low. So don’t expect to bench press more than 300 lbs. on one of these and for it to stay stable. However, for people that bench press less than 300 lbs. these are a good choice.
Many of these also offer some extra functionality like a leg builder. This often means you can attach a part that allows you to do leg extensions and leg curls. That’s a nice benefit since this is actually a bit difficult to get in a home gym otherwise.
These benches usually work with a 6’ barbell. So you can also save some money and space by going for a shorter bar. Double check that this is the case for the specific model you’re going to buy though.
#3: Flat weight bench
You really just want to focus on training the flat bench press. Maybe for a competition or other personal reasons. Or maybe you just really like the exercise and really don’t care much about other exercises or already have a power rack? Adjustable weight benches have the problem that their load limits are pretty limited. So if you want to bench over 300 lbs. and don’t want to use a power rack a dedicated flat bench is the right way to do so.
Since you’ll probably be lifting very heavy, it’s good to find a very sturdy bench.
Home gym bench press alternatives
Don’t want to buy any of that equipment above? Or maybe you’re missing a piece. What are the best alternatives? A bench press mainly targets the chest, triceps and front of the shoulder. There are a few other exercises you can do at home with equipment that’s available to more people.
(Weighted) push up
No equipment required. The push up is a classic bodyweight exercise and for good reason. It targets mostly the same muscles as the bench press but feels quite different. To get some more resistance on this exercise, you can wear a backpack with something heavy in it.
If you don’t have a barbell and weight plates but a pair of dumbbells, you can do a dumbbell press. This is the same movement as a barbell bench press but with dumbbells. It’s even possible to do on the floor if a bench is not available. That would turn it into a floor press. On a bench is still the best option though.
Dumbbells can move independently from each other. For that reason, you have to use more stabilizing muscles. This means you can use less weight in dumbbells than you would with barbells but while it lacks some of the raw strength building potential, you have the benefit of creating more strength and stability in the surrounding muscles.
Resistance band press
Resistance bands can also be used as an alternative for the bench press. This exercise is performed standing up with the bands anchored at about shoulder height. Grab the handles and push just like you would on the dumbbell press.
It’s hard to get the same amount of resistance though because you’re standing up and your back isn’t supported. Beginners can build some good chest strength and muscle but intermediate and advanced lifters won’t see much difference. They can use bands for their other benefits though.