A flat bench is basically a padded board supported by a sturdy steel frame. This piece of equipment can be used to target all of your major muscle groups with the addition of free weights. If you are new to exercise or looking for variations, try using a flat bench and weights to round out your routine.
Chest exercises on the flat bench consist of bench presses with a barbell, chest presses and flys with dumbbells and push-ups with the weight of the body. To do chest presses, lie face up on the bench while holding dumbbells above you with your palms facing your knees. Slowly lower and lift the dumbbells by bending your elbows.
Push-ups work your chest muscles two different ways. By placing your hands on the bench and feet on the floor, you target the lower chest. By placing your toes on the bench and hands on the floor, you target your upper chest. With both variations, keep your back straight and core tight as you lower and lift your body by bending your elbows.
The triceps are the major muscles on the backs of the upper arms. Close grip bench presses, lying tricep extensions and dips all work these muscles with the flat bench. Perform close grip bench presses the same way as regular bench presses, but place your hands closer together on the bar and keep your arms in tight to your body as you lower and lift the bar.
In similar fashion to push-ups, dips are body resistance exercises. To use the flat bench, stand with your back to the bench, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge, hold your butt out in front of the bench slightly and either place your feet or heels on the floor. From this position, lower and lift your body by bending your elbows.
Although leg exercises are generally reserved for machines, the flat bench can be used as well. Two variations of step-ups work the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings which are the thigh and buttock muscles. To do regular step-ups, face the bench with dumbbells held in your hands and your feet together. In a controlled motion, place your right foot on the bench, left foot next to it, then step down leading with your right foot. Step up again leading with your left foot and continue to alternate.
Side step-ups are a variation that place more emphasis on the hip abductor muscles and sides of the butt. To do these, stand in the middle of the bench with your feet in a lengthwise orientation. Carefully place your right foot on the floor, step back onto the bench and step down to your left side. Alternate back and forth.
One-arm rows and pullovers work the latissimus dorsi muscles which are found in the upper sides of the back. To do pullovers, lie face up with a barbell held straight above your chest and your elbows slightly bent. Lower the bar behind your head in a steady, arcing motion; raise it back up and repeat.
One-arm rows require one dumbbell. With your left knee and hand on the bench, place your right foot behind you, bend forward until your back parallels the floor and pull a dumbbell up to your lower stomach with your right hand. Slowly lower it down until your arm is fully extended and repeat. When lifting the weight, keep your arm tight to your side. In addition to the lats, this exercise also works the rhomboids which are found between the shoulder blades.
Abdominal exercises on the bench require the body to be in several different positions. Leg pull-ins for example are done from a leaning back position with your body lengthwise on the bench, legs extended and hands clutching the edges behind you. Steadily tuck your knees into your chest as you lean forward, then reverse the motion.
Leg-raise hip lifts work the lower abs from a face-up position with your legs extended out and hands grasping the end of the bench behind your head. Steadily raise your legs toward your head, lift your hips off the bench and hold for a second. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat.
Long-lever crunches target the upper abs and they are done from a lying position on the floor with your heels resting on the bench. Extend your arms behind your head, clasp your hands and lift your torso by contracting your abs. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat.