Introduction: Wooden Incline Weight Bench

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Weight benches provide a solid platform for performing a variety of resistance exercises, notably presses and flys. Constructing them so they incline increases the range of possible movements. Here's how to make an inexpensive one from wood.

This bench needed to be solid, simple and easy to construct using tools and materials we already had. We don't have a welder and had very little metal hardware on hand so it needed to be mostly wood. We ended up building it from a piece of project board, a few 2×4s and a couple of hinges. To make it look good, all screws were hidden or replaced with Miller dowels, but if you want something quick & functional, revealing the screws would be fine.

Step 1: Design

I design things on paper then once finalized I move to Fusion360 for visualization and checking. I wanted this bench to be easy to build for a novice woodworker, as my son (14) was going to be building it (the bench is his request). This design has no complicated joinery but manages to create very solid joints with a minimum of visible fasteners.

If you want to make the bench more heavy-duty, you could consider doing any or all of the following: widen the feet a little; add a third upright to the legs; use a double thickness of project board for the seat and back; use a double layer of 2×4 for the back prop. You can freely mess around with the design yourself at

Step 2: Materials and Tools

You'll need three 8 ft lengths of 2×4 and a 4 ft length of 12" wide project board. Project board is 3/4" thick and made of small pieces of solid wood laminated together. It costs only a little more than plywood of the same dimensions but does not suffer from the ugly edges and is more rigid. You will also need a short rod about 5/8" in diameter - we had a dowel.

You will need a way of cutting wood accurately. We used a table saw but it isn't strictly necessary - it was just to make the lumber look less like construction lumber (which has rounded rather than sharp edges). We also used a miter saw. But this bench could be made with a circular saw just fine. We used a palm router to round over the edges - again, sandpaper or a hand plane does the same job.

We used deck screws and Miller dowels as fasteners. But use whatever type you like - regular dowels, biscuits, pocket holes, all would work. The wood glue does most of the work!

Step 3: Cut Lumber

Cut the 2×4 lumber to length:

  • 4 × 382
  • 2 × 286
  • 4 × 105
  • 2 × 940 (both ends cut at 45 degrees for miter)
  • 2 × 155 (ends cut at 45 degrees for miter; will trim to fit exactly at later step)
  • 1 × 560 (ends cut at 45 degrees, parallel)

Cut the project board to length:

  • 1 × 320
  • 1 × 700

Run the 2×4 through the table saw to remove the rounded edges. Alternatively: use a jointer and/or a thickness planer, or a hand planer. This left the 2×4 38 × 85 mm. If you don't mind the look of the rounded edges, skip this step. It does make a lot of sawdust!

Note that you can skip this step altogether for the legs and feet, because they can be cleaned up after glue-up.

Step 4: Glue Up Feet and Legs

Two one-handed clamps are useful for this step, to align the wood for drilling. You'll screw the legs together with two slightly angled 3" deck screws at the top and bottom (that way they will be hidden), so predrill holes and drive the screw almost all the way in, then back out again. Unclamp, apply liberal wood glue to both faces, and reassemble. If you're moderately careful, the holes will realign perfectly and the screws will do all the clamping you need.

The feet should be assembled such that the legs fit between the two small blocks. Use the same screwing and gluing routine as before, making sure the screws will not be in the way of the miter cut you will make later.

Step 5: Trim

Run the legs and feet through the table saw again to tidy up the glued sides. This brought them down to about 82 mm wide. Trim the feet to length at each end and make miter cuts as shown.

Glue and screw the legs and feet together, driving the screws through the soles of the feet.

Step 6: Frame

Attach the mitered pieces around the legs as shown with plenty of glue. We used Miller dowels here, four on each side and one in each end. Same protocol as previous: clamp to align, drill holes, drive screws, remove, glue, screw together.

A mix of wood glue and sawdust was used to fill any holes and cracks. We used an orbital sander to do a final tidy up.

Step 7: Add Seat and Back

Attach a cross-piece 300 mm from the front of the frame to hold the hinges for the back piece. To ensure the back is the same height as the seat, you need to recess the hinges. This can be done with a router and/or with a chisel. We clamped some blocks on the frame and carved dadoes to accommodate the pins and leaves of the hinges.

Step 8: Add Prop

The incline feature is an angled piece of wood with holes in it. That piece of wood has a 560 mm long edge with parallel 45° angles at each end, and should be ripped out of a 2×4 to be 75 mm wide. We drilled 15 mm holes every 50 mm through the 75 mm dimension. This operation would be best done with a drill press and a Forstner bit - we did it with a power drill and a spade bit, drilling halfway from each side. We cleaned up the nasty holes with a roundover bit in a palm router.

Attach to the back as far to the rear as possible without interfering with the frame, using glue and your choice of fasteners. Rip another piece of 2×4 to 75 mm wide and cut to 300 mm long with a 45° miter at one end. Use that to reinforce the spine as shown.

Step 9: Finish

We finished the bench with a few coats of clear polyurethane. The bench has no padding on it, but foam could easily be added if you found it necessary.

Enjoy your sturdy new bench and crank out a few reps.

If you enjoyed this project, here are some other pieces of wooden exercise equipment I've documented the building of: wrist rollers, ab wheel and a plyometric box.

Exercise Speed Challenge

First Prize in the
Exercise Speed Challenge