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Weightlifting benches are very common in commercial and home gyms but are they really necessary? it depends on your personal workout routines and fitness goals. Let’s dive in and find out if you need one.
Most home and garage gyms require a weightlifting bench in order to properly perform many pressing exercises. While there are alternative exercises and equipment, the bench provides a simple and affordable way to dramatically increase the number of exercise options available.
That said, not everyone absolutely needs a weight bench so let’s dive in to see what they’re good for and if you need one for your home gym.
Who Needs a Weightlifting Bench?
Just to be clear, we’re talking about separate weightlifting benches that can be moved around. Not complete bench press setups where the bench is built into the rack.
A weightlifting bench opens up a lot of new exercise options. Without it, you can’t bench/db press which is a big deal for many people. There are more things you can do with a utility bench but the pressing movements are the main thing a bench is beneficial for.
Of course, if you have no interest in weight training or only train while standing up, you don’t need a weightlifting bench. However, most people who are building a home gym for the purpose of strength and muscle building will need one sooner or later.
Which Lifts Do You Need a Bench For?
A weightlifting bench can open up a variety of dumbbell and barbell movements, making it a valuable addition to your gym setup. This is the main reason to add a bench to your home or garage gym setup.
Here are some key dumbbell and barbell movements you need a bench for:
Dumbbell Movements That Require a Bench
Barbell Movements That Require a Bench
And that’s just what you can do with a fixed flat bench. If you’ve got an adjustable bench, you can add an incline and/or decline variation to many of those exercises.
While many of these movements can be modified or performed without a bench, having a weightlifting bench enhances your range of motion, stability, and exercise variety. A bench also makes many exercises much easier to set up.
Advantages Of Having a Bench In Your Garage Gym
Incorporating a weightlifting bench into your home gym setup offers a range of advantages that can significantly enhance your workout experience and fitness results.
1. Exercise Variety and Versatility
A weightlifting bench expands the variety of exercises you can perform, enabling you to target different muscle groups and engage in a wider range of movements.
This alone makes your workouts more effective and less boring. Without a bench, you might be limited in what you can do and this makes your workouts less effective and more monotonous.
2. Progressive Overload and Strength Building
A weightlifting bench allows you to gradually increase resistance by using dumbbells or barbells, supporting the principle of progressive overload.
Without a bench, you would be limited to bodyweight exercises, especially for the chest. And while you can make gains doing those for a while, progressive overload is the key to continued strength and muscle gains.
On a bench, you can use barbells or dumbbells. Those are the best tools for progressive overload. By adjusting the weight you lift and incorporating different bench angles, you can challenge your muscles and promote continuous improvement.
3. Range of Motion
Some movements, especially when the bench is flat, could be done on the floor. There is such a thing as a floor press. However, a bench allows for a much greater range of motion. This is very beneficial for muscle growth.
Also, in many places, you really don’t want to lie on the floor. A bench keeps you cleaner.
For example, doing a standing vs. seated shoulder press is a very different experience. Both have their pros and cons but the seated shoulder press lets you focus more on engaging the delts. This can help muscle growth through a better mind-muscle connection. You also spend less energy stabilizing your body and more energy moving the target muscle.
A good bench will have a wide and supportive seat/backrest. This gives you the stability and confidence to push harder and heavier. In turn that leads to more strength and muscle gains. Using the right bench is key here though. A wobbly bench with an unsupportive backrest is going to be counterproductive.
5. Effective Upper Body Development
Bench presses, both with dumbbells and barbells, are excellent for targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Even the back can be targeted with a bench.
An adjustable bench also allows you to emphasize different parts of these muscle groups through incline, flat, and decline angles.
All that variety can be used to target your muscles in different and new ways which leads to more strength and hypertrophy.
For lower body development a bench is not that useful. Sure, you can use them for box squats and Bulgarian split squats but you can also find a random box for those exercises.
Who Doesn’t Need a Weightlifting Bench
While a weightlifting bench can be a valuable addition to many garage gyms, there are certain individuals or scenarios where a weightlifting bench might not be necessary or the best fit.
Here are some situations where someone might not need a weightlifting bench:
1. No Horizontal Pressing
There are types of workouts where horizontal pressing doesn’t play a large role. Think about Olympic lifts, none of which require a bench. And of course, if you just do bodyweight or cardio, your home or garage gym doesn’t need a bench either.
Think about your fitness plans and goals and see if you need a bench. Still not sure? Leave the bench out at first. You’ll notice soon enough if you need one.
2. Budget Constraints
Can you absolutely not afford a bench after buying a set of dumbbells or a barbell and plates? You can still train many muscle groups without a bench but you’ll be limited in the exercises you can do. Especially the amount of pressing exercises will be limited.
If you can’t afford a bench now, it should be your first upgrade.
You might also want to read this article on how much weightlifting benches cost.
3. Space Constraints
Got a super tiny home gym where you can’t fit a bench? It’s still possible to use dumbbells and train many muscle groups. If you can’t fit a bench, barbells are probably not going to fit either.
You’ll be pretty limited though because if you can fit a bench, you can’t lay down on the floor either and that means any horizontal pressing is going to be hard.
There are foldable weightlifting benches available. So if you’ve got enough space to use it but not enough to store a normal one, that can be the solution. After use, fold up the legs and lean it against the wall and it will barely take up any space.
Weightlifting Bench Alternatives
A functional trainer, also known as a cable machine, is a versatile piece of equipment that can replace a weightlifting bench to some degree. Functional trainers consist of adjustable pulleys and cables that allow for a wide range of exercises, including chest presses and flyes.
- Chest Press: Functional trainers often come with attachments like handles and bars that enable you to perform chest presses. You can adjust the height and angle of the cables to target different parts of your chest.
- Chest Flyes: By adjusting the pulley positions, you can mimic the motion of a traditional dumbbell flye, effectively engaging your chest muscles.
- Constant Tension: The continuous tension provided by the cables challenges your muscles throughout the entire range of motion.
- Limited Load: Since your back is not supported, the amount of load you can push is limited.
- Cost: Functional trainers can be more expensive than a basic weightlifting bench, but they offer a broader range of exercises.
- Space: Functional trainers require a dedicated space in your home gym, which might not be suitable for everyone.
A multi-gym, also known as a home gym station, is a comprehensive piece of equipment that combines various exercise options into one unit. While primarily designed for full-body workouts, many multi-gyms come with attachments that allow for effective chest training.
- Chest Press Station: Multi-gyms often feature a chest press station that simulates the bench press motion. The adjustable seat and handles accommodate different body sizes and angles.
- Chest Flye Attachment: Some multi-gyms come with attachments for chest flyes, providing a similar movement to dumbbell flyes.
- Full-Body Workout: Multi-gyms offer a wide range of exercises for various muscle groups, making them ideal for comprehensive home workouts.
- Space: Multi-gyms are relatively large and require a dedicated area in your home gym.
- Cost: Multi-gyms can be a significant investment, especially if you’re looking for a model with chest-focused exercise options.
Resistance bands are versatile and cost-effective tools that can provide an alternative to a weightlifting bench for chest training. They create resistance by stretching the bands, engaging your muscles in a similar way to using free weights or machines.
- Chest Press: By anchoring the resistance bands to a sturdy point and gripping the handles, you can perform chest presses that challenge your chest muscles.
- Chest Flyes: Mimic the motion of chest flyes by holding the bands in front of you and bringing your arms together.
- Portability: Resistance bands are lightweight and portable, making them a great option for home workouts or travel.
- Resistance Levels: Resistance bands come in various levels of resistance. You might need to experiment with different bands to find the right intensity for chest exercises.
- Anchoring: Properly anchoring the bands is crucial to ensure a safe and effective workout.
- Progressive Overload: You can’t press as heavy as you can on a bench because your back isn’t supported.
The TRX suspension trainer is a unique piece of equipment that uses your body weight as resistance. While it might not directly replicate all bench exercises, it can still provide an effective chest workout.
- Chest Press Variation: Performing a TRX chest press involves leaning forward and pushing your body weight, engaging your chest muscles.
- Chest Flye Variation: Similar to the chest press, a TRX chest flye variation challenges your chest muscles by using your body weight as resistance.
- Core Engagement: TRX exercises also engage your core muscles, promoting stability and balance.
- Learning Curve: TRX exercises require proper technique and balance. It might take some time to become familiar with the movements.
- Suspension Point: You’ll need a sturdy anchor point to attach the TRX straps for your workouts.