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7 Powerful Whole-Body Exercises Using Only a Bench

Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Summer is just around the corner and many people prefer to switch up their gym routine for outdoor workouts. Since there are no gym machines and free weights around, you have to get creative with whatever equipment and whichever tools you can find around you.

Benches and stairs are amazing for creating whole-body workout routines that will challenge you on a whole different level. Here are some of the best exercises you can include in your next outdoor workout session.

Bench Incline Push-Ups

A great exercise for your upper body, incline push-ups will help you focus on your form and prevent you from dropping to your knees. It’s a slightly easier version than the basic push-up on the floor, so make sure to really focus on your performance. 

Place your palms on the edge of the bench and extend your legs behind you. Bring your hips to a neutral position and ensure they stay like that throughout the entire workout. Inhale, activate your core and bend your elbows, bringing your chest as close to the bench as possible, gazing forward as you do so. Exhale and push your body back to starting position, keeping your core active, and preventing your lower back from taking over.

At the end of your push-up, you should have a slight curve in your upper back, creating space in between your shoulder blades. This way, you’re protecting your lower back and making sure your hips stay in a neutral position. Repeat 10-12 times.

Inverted Bench Push-Ups

Taking it upside down, inverted push-ups put all the weight on your shoulders, isolating them and strengthening each and every muscle surrounding them.

Turn around so your body faces away from the bench, squat all the way down to the floor, and place your palms a few feet away from the bench. Lift your legs on the bench, one at a time, until they’re fully extended. It might need some adjusting until you set up the perfect position. 

Activate your abs and push your palms into the floor, fully extending your legs and bringing your hips to a neutral position. Inhale and bend your elbows, bringing your chest close to the floor and staying high on the balls of your feet. Exhale and push your entire body up, avoiding making a curve in your lower back. Repeat 10-12 times.

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Bench Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian squats are one of the best isolating leg exercises that really target your glutes and hamstrings while working on your balance at the same time.

Turn around so you’re facing away from the bench and step two feet away from the edge. Bring your feet hip-width apart and lift your right leg back, bending your knee and placing the ball of your right foot on the bench an inch or two from the edge. 

Activate your core muscles and keep your hips squared, facing the front. Place your hands on your hips or clasp them in front of your chest, and keeping a straight spine, inhale and bend your front knee, aiming for a 90-degree angle. Exhale, and push your entire foot into the ground, extending your front leg and squeezing your glute at the top. Repeat 10-12 times before switching over to your other leg.

Bench Step-Ups

First and foremost, make sure the bench you’re using is not too tall. Test it by stepping up and down. If you can do it without compromising your form, the height is ok. If you’re struggling to even do the test step-up, try to find a lower bench or a set of stairs. 

Stand in front of the bench, feet hip-width apart, core active. Inhale and on your exhale step with your right leg on the bench, bringing the left up to meet it, and squeezing your glute at the top. Inhale and step down. You can keep going for 10-12 repetitions with the same leg or alternate.

Additionally, if you want to intensify your exercise, when you’re stepping up, instead of the other leg simply meeting the right, bend your knee and drive it towards your chest. This requires more balance and adds an extra burn on the standing leg, fatiguing your glute and hamstring.


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Bench Dips

A perfect setting to work your triceps, dips are one of the best exercises you can perform on a bench. Even if you were in a gym setting, you’d still probably perform it on a bench. 

Come close to the bench and turn around so you’re facing away. Squat down and place your palms on the edge of the bench behind you. Step away from the bench enough so that your elbows make a 90-degree angle and keep your knees bent. Inhale and drop your hips towards the floor, exhale and extend your arms, lifting your entire lower body. Your lower body does not move, the entire move is performed by your triceps and shoulders.

If this feels too easy, try extending your legs and turning your body into a stiff plank. Dig your heels into the floor and lift your entire body up on your exhale, making your triceps burn. Repeat 10-12 times.

Bench Side Plank Twists

Benches are even amazing for working your abs and obliques. All you have to do is take the exercise you would normally do on the floor and elevate it to the bench. 

Place your left palm on the bench and turn your body to the left, stacking your right leg on top of your left. Activate your quadriceps and flex your feet. Tighten your core muscles and lift your right arm up towards the sky. Inhale and on your exhale, bring your right arm under your left ribcage, twisting and allowing your upper body to follow suit.

Keep your hips in the same position, making sure you’re not moving them around, and isolate your obliques. Inhale your arm back up towards the sky and repeat 10-12 times. Do the same thing on the other side.

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Bench Side Lunges

Another great lower body exercise, side lunges focus on the outer part of your leg, isolating your glute and hamstring. When your leg is elevated on the bench, your standing leg gets an even harder challenge as it can’t even try to depend on the other one. 

Stand two feet away from the bench, facing away, and then turn to the left. Lift your left leg up on the bench and keep it extended and active. Flex your foot, so that it’s resting on your heel. Open the foot of your standing leg slightly so you have more space for your knee.

Inhale and bend your right knee, dropping your sitting bones low toward the floor. Exhale and extend your standing leg, focusing on driving from the ground up and squeezing at the very top. Repeat 10-12 times and do the same with your other leg.

Taking your workout outside when the weather is nice is way better than sweating it out in a stuffy gym. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these awesome outdoor summer activities you can do with your friends and have fun while working on your fitness goals.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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