What is a Weight Training Bench?

D. Messmer
D. Messmer
An angled platform known as a preacher bench is used to target the biceps.
An angled platform known as a preacher bench is used to target the biceps.

A weight training bench is a piece of exercise equipment that provides support during a weightlifting exercise and helps the athlete who is performing the lift to maintain proper form. These benches differ from weight machines in that the purpose of a weight training bench is to enable the athlete to safely and effectively use free weights. Weight training benches need to be sturdy enough to withstand the strain of large amounts of weight, and they need a wide base for stability. The top surface of a weight training bench usually is padded for the comfort and safety of the user.

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 type of weight bench is the flat bench. These usually are a little bit more than 1 foot (0.3 meters) wide, 3 to 4 feet long (0.9 to 1.2 meters) and 1.5 feet (0.45 meters) high. They are useful when performing any number of exercises, including bench presses, flys, lying rows and exercises that require the athlete to be seated.

Flat benches are particularly important when performing any kind of bench press involving free weights. They often include brackets to hold barbells, which make it easier and safer for an athlete to perform bench presses, because they have a place to set the weight immediately before and after the lift. There also are folding flat benches that allow the athlete to change the angle of the bench relative to the floor. This enables him or her to perform incline bench presses, decline bench presses and a host of other exercises. Most importantly, a flat bench allows the athlete's elbows to go below the plane of his or her back so that the weight can be lowered all the way to his or her chest — something that would be impossible if the exercise was done on the floor.

Some flat benches allow the athlete to change the angle of the bench relative to the floor.
Some flat benches allow the athlete to change the angle of the bench relative to the floor.

Another common weight training bench is a hyperextension bench. These benches provide support for the abdomen and have padded braces behind the ankles and just above the knees. This locks the athlete's legs in place while allowing him or her to bend at the waist. From this position, the athlete can perform various back raises and exercises that benefit the lower back, glutes and hamstrings.

There also is a weight training bench that enables the athlete to effectively work the abdominal muscles. An athlete can set these abdominal benches at different angles of decline to provide a more intense workout during crunches. Abdominal benches have a padded roller at the highest end so that the athlete can secure his or her feet in order to perform safe and effective abdominal exercises.

The final form of weight training benches is the preacher bench. These benches help an athlete maintain proper form during arm curls. The preacher bench allows the athlete to sit and place his or her arms on a padded surface that slopes away from the body. With the arms in this position, it is impossible for him or her to use momentum to complete the arms curls, and thus the bench helps to target the biceps and improve the intensity of the workout.

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    • An angled platform known as a preacher bench is used to target the biceps.
      By: Jiri Miklo
      An angled platform known as a preacher bench is used to target the biceps.
    • Incline bench presses, a variation of flat bench presses, primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.
      By: vgstudio
      Incline bench presses, a variation of flat bench presses, primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.
    • Some flat benches allow the athlete to change the angle of the bench relative to the floor.
      By: dulsita
      Some flat benches allow the athlete to change the angle of the bench relative to the floor.