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How to Use a Weight Bench

A weight bench can help you get a better strength-training workout. Some benches are flat, and some are upright, like narrow chairs with high, padded backs. Others are adjustable so you can slide them to an incline or decline position.

Here are some tips for using weight benches:

  • Experiment with the angle of the bench, especially for chest exercises. Inclining the bench a few degrees allows you to work the muscle fibers of your upper chest. (But attempting chest exercises at too high an angle can put your shoulder joint in jeopardy.) Declining the bench emphasizes your lower chest. You can use a slightly different angle each workout if you want.

  • Use a bench for support. When you’re doing overhead lifts or bicep curls, adjust the seat so it’s upright, and sit snugly against it. This position protects your back and prevents you from cheating. You won’t be able to rock your body back and forth to build momentum to hoist the dumbbell. You have to rely solely on the muscle power of your biceps. However, you’ll still have to stop yourself from arching the small of your back off the bench when the weight gets heavy.

  • Use weight-lifting benches for one activity only: lifting weights. Never use a weight bench for step aerobics. You can, however, use your step bench as a weight bench as long as you’re not lifting dumbbells heavier than, say, 30 pounds.

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor or flat on the bench — whichever is more comfortable.

  • Don’t put your feet up in the air, especially if you’re a beginner. This creates an unstable position and looks like you want your stomach scratched. Instead, keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.

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