“Bench workouts can be done virtually anywhere with little to no equipment,” says Brian Brabham, an exercise and sports science expert at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. Think box jumps, triceps dips, squat variations, modified pushups, and so much more. In fact, you can hit every major muscle group using nothing more than the bench itself. Throw in a hand weight or a heavy band and you’ll be ready to heat things up.
For this workout, expand your definition of a bench. “Anything stationary with some level of support works,” Brabham says. “You can use something like a cardio step with risers to a picnic table or a short brick wall.”
Do each of these moves for 30 seconds at a pace that gets you sweating but not panting. Rest for 30 seconds between sets, and repeat twice.
STEPUPS: Facing the bench, step up and step or hop down.
LATERAL STEP OVERS: With the bench to your side, step up and over the bench, both directions.
INCLINE PUSHUPS: Push up with feet on the ground and hands on the bench, grip- ping the edge of the bench for more control.
PLANK WALKS: Start in pushup position at the middle of the bench, then walk hands to either edge.
PRISONER SQUATS: Face away from the bench, grip hands behind head, and squat until butt touches the bench.
You’ll need: a bench, two dumbbells (10 to 20 lbs), heavy resistance band
How to do it: This is a combined strength and cardio routine. Perform 3 rounds of each of the 4 strength moves (do 10 to 15 reps per round). After each round, do 30 seconds of lateral bench hops (photo on previous page). The moves are technical, so increase the difficulty by adding reps or increasing dumbbell weight rather than ramping up the speed. The whole thing should take 40 minutes.
BENCHES EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK
The next time you’re out running or bike riding, make a pit stop at a park bench for some impromptu strength training or core work. Bring along a heavy band, which is light enough to wear sash-style. (We’d advise against lugging dumbbells.)
A trick to the timing: If you’re doing lower-body moves, slot them into the first part of your outing, before your legs get too tired to maintain form. And do upper-body or core exercises toward the middle or end, giving your legs a break before you press on.
Get creative, too. Program your own HIIT workout, pairing sprints and long jumps with bench moves like triceps dips, stepups, incline traveling pushups, and elevated single-leg squats.
And use the bench for a stretch before you go home, Brabham says. Place your foot on the top of the bench and sink into the stretch by bending your knees or sinking your hips back until you feel a release. Switch the way you’re oriented (forward, to each side) to target your hamstrings, adductors, and hip flexors.