No access to a weight bench? No problem. Check out these 9 workout bench alternatives that are great for bench press, dips and much more.
Reviewed by Brian Richards, CPT, CSCS. Last updated 16th December.
In this article, you’ll discover the best workout bench alternatives for lifting weights at home, as well as household items that don’t work so well (in my opinion).
You may find different weight bench alternatives are better suited to different exercises – for example, a chair can be used for exercises such as dips, L-sits, and incline push-ups, whereas a step can be used for step-ups, elevated push-ups, and box jumps. Even the floor can be used more effectively than you might think if you know how to adapt the exercises properly.
In this article, I’ll outline 9 items you might have access you when working out at home and explain the benefits and drawbacks to each. This is based on lifting weights at home and what I’ve found to be preferrable in my own experience.
Whatever weight bench substitute you decide on, be sure that it is sturdy enough to hold both your own weight as well as the weight you are lifting (e.g. dumbbells, barbell, kettlebells, etc).
As Livestrong points out, stability balls are some of the most common workout bench alternatives on the market. They’re fairly cheap, and you can find them in most exercise stores, online retailers, and chain stores, such as Wal-Mart. Furthermore, they provide an additional level of stabilization in your core.
As the ball slowly rolls left or right, your abs naturally accommodate the motion by tensing up. The result is that you’ll be able to bench press (or perform other exercises) while activating your core throughout the whole session. Even if you have a bench at home, it’s a good idea to use a stability ball every now and then.
Benches Are an Excellent Substitute
Another suggestion is to use a dining bench or a piano bench. You can also try to work out on an outdoor bench as long as it doesn’t have a backside. The most important detail of alternative solutions is that you can have free motion in your arms while having a solid foundation to support your body movement.
Benches are often much cheaper than workout benches if you find them second-hand. Try looking around at thrift stores, online second-hand retailers (eBay, Facebook Marketplace, etc.), or garage sales. For an added layer of comfort, put a thin yoga mat on top.
Yoga Mats Provide Cushion
Speaking of yoga mats, you can use them by themselves to substitute for a workout bench. Try to find a mat that’s the width of your back or chest without stretching beyond your shoulders. Even the slight ½-inch of elevation can be enough to comfortably perform a multitude of exercises.
As mentioned above, you can also place a yoga mat on top of benches, tables, and a variety of other surfaces to make them a bit more comfortable. Nothing’s worse than being on the 10th rep of your 3rd set on a rock-hard bench. Your shoulders, spine, and hips will surely thank you later.
Try a Step Stool
Step stools that are well-supported provide more than enough stabilization for several bench exercises. The Handy Laundry Folding Step Stool is an excellent example. It’s significantly cheaper than workout benches, and you’ll be able to use it for plenty of other activities around the house.
Here is a 3-step guide to using the stool:
Start by centering your upper back and neck on the stool.
Bend your knees to form a 90-degree angle, resting your feet flat on the ground.
While lightly tensing your abs, perform the exercises. It’s essential that you flex your core to maintain the bridge that you’ve created.
Coffee Tables Work in a Pinch
Almost everyone has a coffee table somewhere around their house. As long as it’s not fragile or shaky, you can use it as a workout bench alternative. Center it in the room to prevent the weights from bumping into the wall or anything else. Start bench pressing, ensuring that your arms are evenly hanging off of the sides.
If you decide to lay something on top of the coffee table to save yourself from back pain, make sure that it doesn’t roll around. Blankets and sheets are not ideal since they slide around every time you move. As suggested, use a yoga mat. You could also try using a dense memory foam 2-inch mattress topper.
Stack a Few Weight Plates
PopSugar gave the great suggestion of stacking weight plates rather than using a workout bench. Load up about 3 or 4 plates, depending on your height. You should also choose the plate sizes based on the width of your back and chest. Feel free to make two stacks; One for your upper half and one for your upper legs.
Note: If you decide to use stacked weight plates, they have to be the same size. The most important part of this process is that they don’t move around or shake while you are lifting on them.
Renovate an Old Dining Chair
If you have a dining chair sitting around that you don’t want to use anymore, you can remove the backing. You will be left with a flat stool, similar to a couple of the other suggestions on this list. Remember that you should be able to place your feet flat on the ground while your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Before you start hacking away at any chair within sight, you should make sure that it’s stable. Shaky, rocking, old furniture should never be used. Consider locating a tag with a total weight capacity. If your weight combined with the dumbbells or barbell is too much, then don’t risk it.
Aerobic Steps Are Perfect
Aerobic steps have quickly grown to become one of the most popular pieces of equipment in the fitness industry. They’re incredibly versatile for a broad range of exercises, including bench presses, calf raises, lunges, and more. Place the aerobic step far away from any walls or objects that could come in the way while you’re exercising.
The Tone Fitness Aerobic Step is perhaps the best-seller on Amazon due to the countless positive customer reviews. It can be adjusted, which is perfect if more than one person is going to be using it. Most of them are non-slip, which is crucial for heavyweight workouts.
Foam Puzzle Tiles
Last but definitely not least, you could use an arrangement of foam puzzle tiles. Much like aerobic steps, these puzzles are becoming increasingly common in recent years. They can also be placed together as a buffer between you and a bench or coffee table. However, don’t try to stack them unless they’re directly on the floor.
Foam tiles can be stacked upon one another up to one foot until they start to become a bit unstable. You can make a full-sized workout bench by interlocking them together. Try out the ProsourceFit Puzzle Exercise Mat if you want a top-notch set without spending too much.
Workout benches might be a big part of muscle growth, but they’re not the only option around. You can use household furniture, makeshift benches, and a ton of other solutions to save time, space, and money. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to get multiple uses out of every choice on the list.
Here is a quick recap of the post:
Stability balls, stacked weight plates, aerobic steps, and foam puzzle tiles are all exercise equipment that can be used in place of a workout bench.
Try looking around for household furniture, such as old dining chairs, step stools, coffee tables, or flat benches.
No matter what you choose, it needs to be flat, stable, and level to keep you safe throughout the workout session.