The 7 Best Exercises for if You Only Have a Workout Bench

Who knew a workout bench could be so functional! We’ve found our 7 favourite exercised for if you only have a workout bench available. But get ready because this workout is going to test your strength and endurance.

The workout:

  • Hip thrusts.
  • Step ups.
  • Bench dips.
  • Dumbbell flyes.
  • Single-arm dumbbell row.
  • Seated leg tucks.
  • Box jumps.

Sometimes when the gym is busy, your workout may be limited to what’s available. However, as long as you can get your hands on a workout bench and some weights, you can still get the burn you’re looking for.

While we’re going to be giving you a full body routine using only some weights and a workout bench, we’re not going to be giving you reps and sets. This is because your workout structure should be specific to your goals.

So, pack your gym bag and head to your local because you’re going to be itching to try out this workout.

And if you need some killer music for this butt-busting workout, you should check out The Localsearch Ultimate Gym Playlist on Spotify. Oh, and don’t forget to warm-up first and cool-down at the end.

The Full Body Workout Using Only Weights & A Workout Bench

1. Hip Thrusts

If you’re not already doing hip thrusts to build that booty, be warned—these will burn! Hip thrusts target the upper and lower glute muscles, quads and hamstrings.

How to do a hip thrust.

  1. Back your workout bench up against a sturdy support, like a wall.
  2. Grab your plate, dumbbell, barbell, booty bands or whatever it is you’re using and set up your area.
  3. Position yourself with your upper back against the bench, bum on the ground, and feet placed roughly shoulder-distance apart in front of you.
  4. Ensure your chest is up, chin is tucked under, take a breath in and then exhale as you squeeze your glutes and raise your hips. If you have a barbell or dumbbell over your hips, you’ll raise the bar up, your head and neck not moving—only your neck.

Tip: If you’re finding the edge of the workout bench is digging into your back, try curling a mat over a few times and place it behind yourself.

Check out proper hip thrust form from ‘The Glute Guy’ himself, Bret Contreras.

2. Step Ups

Now you have your bench well and truly claimed, go and grab some dumbbells, take a few sips of water (or BCAAs if you’re so inclined) and get ready. If you’re newer to the gym, start off without the dumbbells and be prepared to test your balance—hello ab workout too!

How to do step ups.

  1. Ensure your workout bench can’t slide around as you want it to be stable for when you step up and down.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in either hand, stand tall facing the bench and take a deep breath in.
  3. Place your right foot on the bench surface, brace and use pressure on your right leg to bring up your left leg, exhaling as you go.
  4. Pause for a moment and then bring your left leg back down to the floor in a controlled step back.

Remember to switch sides to finish your set.

Step ups are pretty straight forward but if you want a visual guide, here is a great video by Colossus Fitness.

3. Bench Dips

Your triceps are going to love to hate you after this round of bench dips. All you need is the bench and your body, although some people do add a plate to their lap to increase difficulty.

How to do bench dips.

  1. Face away from the bench and position yourself so your knees are 90 degrees to the ground (bum against the edge of the bench), palms are on the edge of the bench and your arms are fully extended behind you.
  2. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly as you slowly lower your body, bending your elbows back and close to your body.
  3. Pause as your arms become less than a 90-degree angle before returning to your original position.
  4. Repeat as many times as you like/can for one set.

Note: To make the exercise harder, you can have your legs out in front of you, instead of at an angle.  

This video by Passion4Profession gives you a good demonstration of the more advanced leg position.

4. Dumbbell Flyes

You thought we were going to add in bench press for the chest, didn’t you? This exercise can feel a little awkward until you get used to it and it does involve some steady grip and control, but it’s well worth it. If this is your first-time doing dumbbell flyes, grab some lighter weights to begin with.

How to do dumbbell flyes.

  1. Sitting on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs, ease back to you’re lying flat against the bench.
  2. Position your hands (holding a dumbbell in each) to rest against your shoulders as if you were about to do a chest press, but with your palms/fingers facing each other.
  3. Continue to gently ‘press’ the weights up with the palm-side of your hands facing each other, stopping before your elbows lock out. This is your starting position for each reps.
  4. Keep your elbows slightly bent and rotate your shoulders so your arms lower with your palms facing up, ceasing the movement when you feel a good stretch across your chest. You’ll look a little like a bird sunning itself at this point.
  5. Pause for a few moments before bringing your arms back in a controlled motion to their original position.

Note: While you’re rotating your shoulders to move your arms, you should be focusing and contracting your chest muscles.

Okay, that exercise was a little tricky to explain, so here is a video demonstration by ScottHermanFitness to guide you.

5. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Okay, it’s time to grab some heavier dumbbells and do some rows to work those back muscles. You’ll find many variations of rows, even ones without a bench, but this option is one of our favourites for a bench-only workout.

How to do single-arm dumbbell rows.

  1. Place a single dumbbell on the right side of your bench below where your shoulder will soon be.
  2. Start by positioning yourself with your left leg (shin down) on the bench, your body bent at the waist until your front is parallel with the bench top and your palm flat down with your arm extended with an ever-so-slight bend in the elbow. You should look like a table at this stage.
  3. Reach down with your right hand and grab the dumbbell with a secure grip, the palm-side of your hand facing inward.
  4. Take a deep breath in, ensure your back is straight, shoulders as back as they can be, and pull your fist up until the weight is next to your chest while breathing out. Keep your elbow close to your body while pulling it up and back, while squeezing those muscles between your shoulder blades nice and tight.
  5. Pause for a moment before returning to your original position with a controlled motion.

Repeat for as many reps as you like on one side before completing your set on the other side.

Check out this video by Nuffield Health for a more detailed posture guide to using your workout bench for rows.

6. Seated Leg Tucks

Ready to give those abs their moment in the spotlight? To nail this exercise, you’ll need to really engage your abdominals and use controlled movements. And yes, it’s going to burn in the best way possible.

How to do seated leg tucks.

  1.  Begin by sitting on the bench with your arms holding the bench behind you to either side of your body.
  2. Place your legs in front of you, raising them with your knees slightly bent until knees are slightly under bench-height.
  3. Take a breath in, squeeze your adnominal muscles and bring your knees to your chest.
  4. Hold for a moment and then return to the starting position and repeat.

Tip: If you haven’t performed seated leg tucks on a bench before, ensure the workout bench is secure and won’t move until you get the motion down pat.

Seated Leg Tucks can be a little awkward, so we’ve found a good video to outline the exercise in more visual detail.

7. Box Jumps

Let’s finish off this workout by getting that heart rate up. Before you begin, set your bench where it can’t move around, like against a wall. You definitely don’t want it sliding out from under you for this one. What’s better than a bench is if you can get your hands on a stacked box jump, so then you can customise the height to your current ability.

How to do box jumps.

  1. Stand a little in front of the bench, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. To prepare to jump, lower yourself so you’re in a little squat, swing your arms slightly and drive through your feet to jump onto the bench.
  3. Quickly jump back, landing as quietly and gently back onto the ground.

Repeat as many times as you can for a good AMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible) finisher.

And, like every other exercise, here is a video outlining some good form tips.

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      Feature image source: Cathy Pham on Unsplash

      Sarah Russo

      UX Content Writer

      Sarah Russo is a UX Content Writer at Localsearch with a decade of experience in traditional and digital marketing. She has written for and assisted in the social media and marketing strategies for many different industries, including real estate, medical, health and fitness, trades and beauty. When she isn’t nose deep in data, SEO research or her content strategy, Sarah is a gym junkie, foodie and gamer with a brain full of random facts that come in handy far more often than you would think. As a digital marketing all-rounder and lifestyle specialist, her articles provide insight into marketing, advertising and branding for small businesses on the Localsearch Business Blog, as well as some handy lifestyle tips on the Localsearch Blog.