What is a Flat Bench?

Douglas Bonderud

A flat bench is a piece of exercise equipment used for weightlifting. It is a horizontal bench, with no back and usually supported by metal legs. This bench may be freestanding or attached to a larger apparatus. This equipment is usually 48 in (121.92 cm) in length, and 12 in (30.48 cm) in width. Typically, the bench seat will be padded with foam and covered in vinyl for easy cleaning.

Incline bench presses, a variation of flat bench presses, primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.
Incline bench presses, a variation of flat bench presses, primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.

The most common use of a flat bench is for a bench press. In this exercise, a person lies flat on the bench and places their hands about shoulder width apart, with their feet flat on the floor. He should then grasp either two dumbbells, or one weighted barbell, and hold the weight at arm's length above his chest. The weight is then lowered toward the chest as the elbows flare out to the sides. Once the chest is reached, the weight is raised again.

Some flat benches have two separate cushioned pieces that can be adjusted.
Some flat benches have two separate cushioned pieces that can be adjusted.

This equipment typically comes in a variety of styles. The most basic flat bench is a simple, single-piece cushion with two inverted metal T's that act as legs. Another model is one in which the bench has two separate cushioned pieces. With this type, one cushion is shorter and remains horizontal, while the other is long and can be adjusted to the angle at which the user wishes to exercise.

This adjustment is usually accomplished by attaching a diagonal bar underneath the flat bench, so that its highest point is at the middle of the bench, and the lowest point is at the base. The bar has holes along its length to allow for placement. The longer cushioned section of the bench also has a bar mounted underneath it. At the end of this bar is a collar that fits over the first bar, and contains a pin and release. This allows the longer piece of bench to be raised or lowered, this is called an incline bench.

Flat benches may have optional attachments, mounted on the legs of the bench. These legs are hollow, and also have holes along their lengths. Attachments, such as a preacher curl pad or leg press, can be added by inserting them into these holes. Pins, that run through both bars, fasten the pieces together.

Often, the flat bench will be found as part of a larger apparatus, which may include a lifting cage or a rack for barbells. Flat benches can also be used for other exercises, such as a seated row, concentration curls, or tricep extensions. They are a standard piece of equipment in any professional or home gym.

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