The bench press is one of those exercises that everyone wants to do but isn’t always possible at home. What are the best alternatives anyone can do at home?
Without equipment, the push up is the best bench press alternative that anyone can do. The standard push up can be made easier or more difficult so almost everyone can perform it. The dumbbell press or floor press are also great alternatives if a set of dumbbells is available.
How to adjust the pushups for your level and what other exercises are potential alternatives can be found below.
Alternative Bench Press Exercises Without equipment
If you don’t have any equipment but still want to do something that is similar to the bench press, it does get a bit more difficult. The most difficult part is the resistance of the exercises. Bench presses are often done quite heavy. Without equipment adding resistance can be a bit difficult. There is one good option though;
The most obvious bench press alternative is the push up. It’s a very similar movement as the bench press, just inverted. You use the pecs, triceps and front deltoid just like the bench press but also have a sort of plank built in.
There are quite a few ways you can change the difficulty of the push up as well. The lightest way is to do a standing push-up leaning against the countertop. From there you can progress to doing a push up on your knees.
Once you feel comfortable doing push up on your knees, you can progress to the ‘normal’ push up. Once normal push ups become easy, the best way to progress is to start wearing a backpack with something heavy in it. You can adjust the weight easily if you use jugs of water.
One handed push ups are also an option if you can manage them.
Even with a heavily loaded bag, it won’t exactly be the same as a heavy bench press but you can get a long way there.
Tip: If you are looking for a replacement for the incline bench, just invert it for the push-up. That means a decline push up. Just put your feet on something higher than your hands. That can be a box , stool, sofa, etc. As long as it’s stable.
Alternative Bench Press Exercises With equipment
If you’ve got some equipment but not enough to do a normal bench press, there are some options to modify the exercise to do something very similar. Of course not everyone has the same equipment so let’s see what the best bench press alternatives are even if you don’t have a bench press bench.
Rack bench press
With a power rack and separate bench you can easily do a bench press. If you’re alone, this is even safer than the normal bench press setup. A power rack has safety pins you can set to almost any height you require so they catch the bar instead of your chest.
Just put the bench in the rack and set the j-cups and safety pins to the correct height and bench pressing like normal is easy.
If you don’t have a power cage but do have a bench, the best alternative is the dumbbell press. Barbells have to be held in a place where you can grab them. Dumbbells don’t have that issue. You can pick them up and then sit/lay down with them.
Lay down on a flat bench with dumbbells in your hand. Hold the dumbbells next to your chest and push up from there.
The movement is very similar to the bench press and the main difference is that your hands are moving independently. This means you will be able to lift less weight than with a barbell. More stabilizing muscles will be used because there is another direction dumbbells can move in. For most people that aren’t necessarily going for the absolute highest weight, the dumbbell press is not necessarily a worse exercise than the barbell bench press.
Have dumbbells but no bench? Don’t worry, just skip the bench and lay on the floor. The floor press is basically a dumbbell press without the bench. That means the lowest your elbows can go is the floor. On a normal bench or dumbbell press, the elbows go lower than the body which increases the range of motion.
That means that while the floor press is a good exercise, you do miss a part of the range of motion you would get with the normal bench press. It can help increase your lock out strength on the bench but the lower part of the movement won’t be strengthened much. It does require very little equipment though. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can also use other heavy things as long as you can keep a good grip on them.
If you’re in a pinch and need to do a chest workout a few times without much equipment, this is a good option but it shouldn’t be done by itself all the time. Also, if you’ve already got a set of dumbbells, just get a weightlifting bench. They’re not very expensive and solves this problem.
Resistance band press
If there is any piece of equipment you could easily and cheaply get and give yourself tons of exercise options it’s a set of resistance bands. They’re pretty cheap, store in a small bag and can be used for a lot of different exercises.
Resistance bands are basically just rubber bands so as long as you attach them to something solid in the opposite way of where you’re pushing/pulling you can create resistance.
That means with a resistance band and door anchor, you can do a standing press.
Anchor the resistance band in the middle of the band at chest height (a door anchor is the easiest way to do this). Then grab both ends of the band. Step away from the wall until there is some tension on the band with your hands still next to your chest. From there push away while your body stays in the same position.
The downside of this method is that you can’t do really heavy pressing. Since you have to stand on your feet, at some point the resistance is going to topple you over. For light pressing this works very well but for heavy workouts, it’s not very effective.
Don’t have a barbell or dumbbells but do have a cable machine? It’s of course possible to train your chest on such a machine as well. Cables work very similarly to resistance bands in a way that they keep pulling in the same direction. However, cables keep the same resistance throughout the movement where resistance bands provide more the more you stretch them.
On a cable machine there are two ways you can train your chest in the same way as with a bench press; standing up and on a bench.
The standing method is just like the resistance band press. Put the pulleys at chest height and attach the D-handles. Then step out until there is tension on the cable in the lowest position and push. This of course has the same downside as the resistance band press; you can’t do it super heavy. For most people it will be heavy enough, especially if you work out in higher rep ranges but for the heavy lifters, it’s not enough.
In that case, using a bench can work. You’ll need a cable station that has the pulleys quite close together like a functional trainer.
Put the bench between the pulleys which should be set in the position closest to the floor. Lay down on the bench and grab the handles. Push up like a dumbbell press from there. Since the resistance is at an angle, it will feel a bit different from the normal dumbbell press or bench press which just has resistance straight down.
To get rid of this angular resistance, you can use an attachment that is a bar with hooks on either side. You attach the sides to the two cables. Now the resistance pulling sideways is negated by the same resistance from the other pulley and you can press straight up and down with a barbell just like the barbell bench press.