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How to Do Bench Presses Without a Bench
Not enough room for a weight bench in your studio? No worries.
A bench press without a bench sounds a lot like a sandwich without bread or football game without a pigskin. The fortunate reality is, however, that it's a lot less disappointing than either of those scenarios. That's one of the many beauties of fitness — you don't actually need a lot of expensive equipment to make it happen.
Not only can you totally bench press in the comfort of your home without a space-hungry bench, the bench-less method actually offers some surprising benefits — it's basically a win-win situation for your pecs.
How to Press, Sans Bench
To start benching without a bench — an exercise better known as the floor press — place your barbell on a firm, open and flat floor space. It's a bit easier to get into position using larger plates, but you can start with however much weight you're comfortable with.
Lie down on the floor and slide your legs underneath the bar, so it's right at the crease of your hips. Put your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent and toes pointed out at about 45 degrees. To get a good grip, put your elbows on the ground and hold you arms up at 90-degree angle, then lower your forearms and securely grab hold of the bar with your palms down.
Thrust your hips upward (as a bonus, you've just done a hip thrust extension) to push the bar up over your chest, with your elbows still on the ground. This'll be your starting position. Now you're ready to extend your arms and raise the weight up over your chest, slowly and steadily lowering it to the starting position to complete one rep — just like a regular bench press.
As long as you've got a barbell and some plates, you're good to go.
Whether you press on a bench or go with the floor-based alternative, you're going to reap some serious benefits. Like its benched cousin, the barbell floor press gives the pecs an excellent workout, while also engaging key arm muscles such as the triceps, biceps and deltoids.
More than that, you might discover some advantages exclusive to the floor press. For one, you won't be able to use tempting tricks like bouncing the bar off your chest — starting from the floor means you start with zero momentum, relying only on your own strength to press the weight.
In terms of safety, lowering the bar too much during a bench press can put serious strain on your shoulders' acromioclavicular (or "AC") joints. The floor itself acts as an effective stopping point, here, helping reduce the likelihood of shoulder strain.
In addition to fitness experience including USFCA fencing discipline, stage combat, track and equestrian training, Dan has contributed health and fitness-oriented content to AZCentral, SportsRec, JillianMichaels.com, ModernMom, The Nest and more.