Equipment Swap: Bench Press

6 ways to work the same muscles without the barbell

Timing is everything when you’re fitting in a training session before work, between meetings, or on a lunch break. So when the equipment you need is taken, it can really throw a wrench in your plan. That’s why Furthermore is introducing Equipment Swaps, a mini-series that offers alternative exercises when your fitness tool of choice is unavailable. 

Over time, you may get used to working your triceps, pecs, anterior deltoids, and back with the barbell bench press every week. But if you notice it’s occupied, don’t look at it as a reason to skip the muscle group altogether. Instead, be flexible, but with a purpose.

The exercises below, from Akeem Scott, a Tier 3 trainer at Equinox Flatiron in New York City, aren’t exact swaps for the go-to move, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Some of them offer unique benefits that you won’t get from using a barbell. 

Case in point: One study found that free weights work the shoulders’ medial deltoids more so than the barbell. Completing a dumbbell press at an incline works your upper chest, while pressing in a decline position takes pressure off your shoulders and targets your triceps more effectively. 

And switching from the bench to the floor requires more balance. “When people use the bench press, they often stop engaging their lower body,” Scott says. “The floor variations force you to use your legs and work your core to stabilize the weight.” 

Try one of the six exercises below as a swap for the barbell bench press. “With dumbbells, go as heavy as you can (with good form) and stick to the number of reps and sets you had planned for the bench press,” Scott says. 

Photography by Mike Rosenthal. Art direction by Kathryn Marx. Styled by Faye Power. Akeem wears Rhone shorts available at The Shop at Equinox.