'You don't know what you've got until it's gone' is a pretty universal concept. Whether it's public transportation, a dewy summer morning or even running water, there are plenty of things we all take for granted every now and again.
A closed gym will certainly make you realize that you've taken the weight bench for granted — and how hard it is to recreate a weight bench at home.
While there's nothing that can truly replace a weight bench when it comes to function, there are some common household items that can make an excellent (and safe) temporary swap. Before you get discouraged, try these four at-home weight bench alternatives.
1. Piano or Dining Table Bench
Remember those hours you (or your kids) have spent practicing the piano? Or maybe your dining table pairs with a bench rather than chairs. It's time to put those benches to another use.
In most cases, a piano bench will probably be shorter than your standard weight bench, so your entire body may not fit, says Samuel Chan, CSCS, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. But the key is to make sure you keep your head and upper back supported by the seat. Your hips and pelvis can hang off the end.
"Focus on engaging your core and glutes, maintaining a good contraction so that your hips do not drop toward the floor," Chan says.
2. Couch Armrest
While you can use the edge of the couch as a bench, Chan prefers the armrest, as it provides more firmness. When you're lifting weights, you'll want to feel as stable as possible, which typical cushions don't provide.
Chances are, your armrest will support even less of your body than a piano bench, though, so it's especially important to focus on your form. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to keep your hips up as you exercise, Chan says, with the couch supporting your upper back and head.
Also, keep your head supported, not allowing your head to extend backward. Keep your neck long and tuck your chin slightly throughout the exercise. Lastly, consider using lighter weights than usual. Since you're less supported with an armrest, you're using more strength to support your body.
3. BOSU or Stability Ball
If you have a BOSU or stability ball at home, these can also double as a weight bench. There's just one big difference: they're unstable. While that makes exercises more difficult, it also helps build balance, Chan says.
That also means form is crucial. You'll want to rest your upper back and head on the ball, using your core, glutes and hamstrings to keep your hips up and parallel to the ground. Since the ball will cause you to rock slightly, you may want to plant your feet a little further apart to give you a wider base of support.
"When you lie with your torso across a stability ball instead of a weight bench, your core muscles must work overtime," Chan says. "So much so, that you want to lift lighter weights until you've mastered this new challenge. You can also ask a family member to help you stabilize the ball at first or wedge it between two chairs."
4. The Floor
When all else fails, you can use the floor instead of a bench. This is probably the safest alternative if a proper weight bench is unavailable, though you sacrifice some range of motion, since your arms can't move below your body.
But this limitation may actually benefit your strength gains, Chan says. If you're performing a chest press, for instance, you won't be able to lower the weights or barbell to chest height. But the shorter range of motion will also prevent you from using momentum to lift the weights. Plus, your leg drive is reduced with a floor press, which means you have to use more upper body strength to lift and lower the weights.
You can also tweak floor exercises to make up for the shorter range. If you're performing a chest press or chest fly, raise your lower body into a glute bridge, pressing your heels into the ground and raising your hips toward the ceiling. This adjustment recruits more muscles across your body, making the exercise more of a challenge.