The bench press is one of the most popular exercises in the world. Anyone that has ever seen a gym on the inside has probably done it at least once. What do you need to do this in your home gym?
What do you need to bench press at home? To perform a traditional bench press you need 4 things;
- Flat bench
- Power rack or bench rack
- Weight plates
With those 4 pieces of equipment, you can safely bench press in your home gym. If you get the right equipment, you can also use it for countless other exercises.
What is the best equipment to get and what is the difference between a power rack and bench rack? That are some of the questions you can find the answer to below.
Must have bench press equipment
What do you need to be able to bench press in your home gym? The bench press is a pretty straightforward lift but it does require some equipment.
Here’s what you need;
- Power rack with safety pins/ Bench rack with safety pins.
- Weight plates
Alternatively to the power rack, you can use a specialized bench rack. That’s the thing you’ll see in most gyms. We’ll take a look at all of these pieces of equipment.
The piece of equipment that gives this lift its name. The standard bench press requires a flat bench. 99% of all benches are flat or adjustable so most benches will be fine. As long as it is sturdy and can handle the amount of weight you lift + your body weight, you’re good.
However, in a home gym you’ll probably want to use your bench for more than one exercise. That’s why it’s better to get an adjustable bench. This means you can adjust the backrest to different angles. This opens up opportunities for way more exercises than just the flat bench. The incline bench for example.
Not sure about what a good bench does and doesn’t do? Check this guide to discover what to look for.
Power rack vs. bench rack
As you might have noticed, I mentioned two different types of equipment. First let’s take at what they’re for;
The power rack or bench rack is important for two reasons;
- A place to put the barbell so you can easily and safely take it out of the hooks and position it over your body and put a place to put the bar back when you’re done. Unracking, racking and loading the bar all should be easy. If you have to lift the bar from the floor, you’re making things way too difficult for yourself.
- Provide safety. In a home gym you’re often alone. That means no spotter or anyone to help if you get pinned under the bar. Most power racks have adjustable safety pins that you can set to the correct height for you. Some bench racks don’t but some do.
Now what’s the difference between a power rack and a bench rack?
- A power rack is multifunctional. While it takes up a whole lot of space, it’s pretty much all you need.
- It’s adjustable. You can put the hooks and safety pins on any height you want.
- However, you need time to adjust both the hooks and safety pins for every different lift. This takes time.
- If you only want to bench press, go for a bench rack. If you want to perform other lifts as well like, squat and overhead press, I personally prefer a power rack.
- It’s a separate piece of equipment next to your power rack. That means you need more space and more money.
- The benefit is that you always have the set up ready to go. No need to adjust hooks and/or safety pins.
- Not all bench racks come with safety pins. If you decide to go this route, I’d definitely recommend to get on that does have pins or another mechanism to prevent the bar from falling on you. Especially in a home gym where you’re alone most of the time, that’s important.
- Some bench racks are adjustable and you can get them high enough to also double as a squat rack. However, that means you have to adjust everything again. While it saves space, I personally prefer power racks for squatting since they’re more stable.
Barbell + Weight plates
The barbell is the part you actually hold in your hands and press. The weight plates give the resistance you want. The barbell should be long enough to fit on the hooks so you can safely put it back after you’re done. For bench pressing the shape and type of the weights doesn’t matter too much since they never touch the floor.
Having some aggressive knurling on the bar will help with keeping your hands in the same position while getting sweaty. Feeling your hands slip while holding a heavy weight over your body isn’t the best feeling in the world.
Maybe all of the stuff above is too much for you. It takes up too much space and costs too much. That’s fair. It isn’t the smallest equipment and to get everything you need isn’t very cheap. Are there any alternatives to the bench press that have similar results but require less or even no equipment?
There are things you can do that are similar but, to get better at bench pressing, you need to practice the actual bench press. While other exercises can give you similar strength gains and muscle development, a good bench press also requires good technique. You get a better technique by practicing it. If you want a big bench press, you’ll have to actually do the bench press. If you just want a stronger and bigger chest and triceps, there are other things you can do.
- Dumbbell press. The dumbbell press still requires a bench but you don’t need a barbell, weights or rack. Instead of a barbell you use dumbbells. More people have dumbbells at home than barbells so this can be a good alternative. The movement pattern is very similar although you move your arms separately. Another added benefit is that you don’t need a spotter or safety pins. There’s no way you can get pinned under the bar since there is none.
- Push ups. One of the simplest bodyweight exercises. Is the push up. And coincidentally it also exercises the same muscles as a bench press. You don’t need any equipment at all which makes this a good alternative. You won’t have the same resistance as a real bench press so you might not develop as much strength. For muscle development, keep increasing the amount of pushups and sets and you’ll certainly see results. You can also vary the hand position for a bigger challenge.
- Dips. While dips don’t have exactly the same movement pattern as a bench press, the used muscles are pretty similar. You use shoulders, chest and shoulder muscles, just like a bench press although in a slightly different direction. That means you might not get much carryover to a real bench press but similar muscle development. Dips are also suitable to add weight to with a belt or a dumbbell between your legs.
- Floor press. The floor press is an interesting alternative to the bench press. You lay flat on the floor, grab a weight, and get it over your elbows while your elbows rest on the floor. From there you can push like on a bench press. You can use dumbbells or a barbell. If you’ve got a barbell, use large diameter weight plates so you can roll the bar over your body. This makes things much easier. The benefit of the floor press is that you only need weight. It’s also pretty safe since the weight can’t go down low enough to hurt you. That means you can lift heavier than you otherwise would. The drawback is that you don’t get the same range of motion you would on a bench press.
Does bench pressing heavy build pec muscles? Yes, the bench press is a so called compound movement that targets several muscle groups. The muscle groups targeted by the bench press are;
However the upper back, abs and legs are also used to stabilize the movement.
Is the bench press the best exercise to build chest muscles? While the chest press is a great upper body strength and mass builder, by itself you might not get the best results for chest. For optimal chest muscle growth it’s better to add in other exercises like dumbbell press, cable fly, dips and the pec deck.
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