Exercisers or ab-lovers who have hit a plateau in their ab exercises often go looking for new exercises or equipment to up their game. Adding a weight bench to your home gym can also add new difficulty and variety to your ab exercise routine. But with so many weight benches on the market, a person who just wants to get better abs is often at a loss of what to do. With so many choices, your best bet is to stick to the basics. But first figure out your objective, and you might end up using your bench for more than just ab workouts.
Do You Need a Weight Bench?
If you’re stuck in the decision-making process of what kind of weight bench you need for your ab workout, you might possibly have lost place of your objective. If your goal is simply to work on your abs, you might not even need a weight bench. You can perform most of the ab exercises you would perform on a weight bench without a weight bench. Exercises such as crunches, jack-knives and leg-hip raises might feel better on a weight bench, but doing them on the floor and doing them on a bench make little difference in terms of muscle activation. So clarify your objectives before you actually make the purchase, lest you waste money. Some good questions to ask yourself are “Will I use the weight bench for other exercises?” “Do I have the space for a weight bench?” and “Would using a substitute -- such as a long, sturdy, padded table -- be enough?”
The weight bench is not a complex contraption. It’s simply a bench that keeps your back flat yet cushioned while you perform a number of exercises from a lying position. When choosing a weight bench, your most important criteria should be related to the basics. A suitable weight bench should be sturdy, padded to where you feel comfortable lying down and long enough to fit your body from head to hamstrings. As long as a weight bench fills these three criteria, you need not look for something more expensive, lavish or branded. After all, every weight bench is made of the same components: four legs and a cushioned plank. When it comes down to choosing among several similar benches, choose a cheaper bench that still feels comfortable and sturdy. Another aspect that some exercisers consider basic is the ability to change the incline of the bench, allowing you to add more resistance to situps. The ability to change the incline is a useful, but not necessary, aspect of a good weight bench.
If you plan to use your weight bench for more complex ab exercises or non-ab exercises, you will also need a rack and some weights. The rack goes above the bench so that you can easily push and pull weights from it while lying on the bench. Your barbells and weights should fit firmly on the rack, not wobbling, so that you can be sure nothing will fall off the rack while you exercise. A full set -- with a bench, rack, barbells and weights -- will allow you to perform a multitude of exercises, letting you work nearly every major muscle in your body. The addition of the rack, barbell and weights will also help you do more complex, weighted ab exercises, which can help you break through if you reach a bodyweight-exercise plateau.
Ab Exercises for Your Bench
Lying leg-hip raises work better on a bench than on the floor due to your ability to hang your legs over the bench. In doing so, you can grasp a dumbbell between your ankles, putting more resistance on your abs. To perform a lying-leg hip raise, lie flat on the bench with your legs hanging off it on one side. Flex your hips to pull your knees in toward your chin. Return to the starting position. Sit-ups done on a weight bench work just as well as sit-ups done on the floor, but with a weight bench, you generally have better padding, which keeps your back from feeling sore. With an incline, you can increase the resistance of your sit-ups. But even with a standard bench, you can convert sit-ups into incline sit-ups. To perform incline sit-ups on a standard weight bench, place your legs over the bench while you lie on the floor. Hook your heels under one side of the bench to hold you in. Sit up like normal. Incline sit-ups should feel more difficult due to the higher elevation of your legs. You can do the same on a bench with a rack and barbell by placing your legs over the barbell as you lie on the bench.