Push-up or Bench Press: Which Exercise is Better for Your Chest?

push up or bench press

There is a lot of confusing and contradicting information about what you should or shouldn’t as part of your training. Our goal is to create some clarity in the exercise fog and present you with evidence-based articles only. We came across some great information that will blow your mind and provide you with a great way to strengthen your upper body. Which one do you think is better? Push-up or bench-press? Let’s find out!

Push-up or Bench Press?

A scientist at the Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences did a study into progressive resistance training. His goal was to determine whether progressive calisthenics push-up training is comparable to traditional bench press training as a way to increase muscle strength and thickness. Twenty-three moderately trained men participated and were assigned to either push-up training or a traditional bench press program. They exercised three days a week for four consecutive weeks.

Push-up Training

After warming up, all men did their assigned training sequence. The push-up workout began with three sets of six reps for double arm progressions or three reps per side for single arm progressions. There was a three-minute rest interval between sets. Difficulty levels were increased during the study once the men were able to handle them. This gradual increase in intensity continued throughout the four weeks.

Bench Press Training

The bench press group did traditional bench press training. They increased weight-intensity and used the well-known one repetition max (1RM) bench press. This 1RM method is quite simple: Calculate your maximum capacity (100%) and start training at, for example, 60% of your maximum capacity. This technique was used during the study of the bench press group.

What Are the Results?

At the end of the four weeks, there was little to no difference in muscle strength and thickness in the two groups. A progressive push-up routine can increase upper body strength just as much as the traditional bench press exercise. This is the first study we know of that proves that progressive push-up variations are just as effective in increasing upper body strength as the bench-press exercise.

4 Tips for Your Own Training

  1. You can increase upper body strength by changing body and hand position. Try to make your push-ups more difficult rather than increasing reps to gain strength. For example: 1) start on your knees, 2) use a ball to shrink the range of motion, 3) remove the ball to increase range of motion or use 1 handed variation if you become more advanced.
  2. Everything has its limits. When you reach the highest level of progression than it cannot be increased. But you can always add some additional weight, right? 
  3. Bodyweight exercises require a combination of muscle groups working together for stabilization and balance which helps secondary muscles to strengthen too. That differs from traditional weightlifting, in which muscle groups are trained in isolation. The more you challenge yourself with your own bodyweight, the more your body will try to adapt to new strength. Do you want to isolate muscles or train the full package? Our recommendation is challenging multiple muscle groups instead of isolating them by using more complex and combined movements.
  4. It’s always hard to translate results from “one” study to “one” athlete. However, you could easily implement this knowledge for your own personal training.

If you want to learn more about calisthenics push-up training or weightlifting or how to put this information into practice, please contact us for any questions.

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References to the original article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29466268

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