Now hold on. Don’t get yourself a pre workout, start flexing your muscles to come and beat me up. Just hear me out here. There are a few very good reasons why I consider the push up a better exercise than the chest press. Give it some thought and if you disagree, we’ll both go our own way.
- The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrates in a study that the push up can be just as effective for building chest and arm strength as a chest press. They had individuals do 6 max repetitions of both exercises and the muscle building results were the same. Most of the time, you don’t need a very large resistance band. Keep in mind, gravity is already a factor, which typically pulls 60-65% of your body weight down.
- You can do it anywhere, anytime. There is no equipment needed (or very minimal when you use resistance bands) while the chest press requires quite the set up. Buying a cheap bench press set up can turn out to be dangerous once you start lifting heavy.
- Safety first. The term “bench press shoulder” is quite common. Many people hurt their shoulders when bench pressing incorrectly or too heavy. With a push up, you’re much more likely to fail before you ever injure your shoulder.
- Plenty of variety. You can make countless adjustments to change difficulty and intensity, as well for limitations and injury rehab.
- Core stability. A benefit towards the push up was that you need to incorporate many other muscle groups to keep your body in position and stable, while the chest press does not require those muscles to keep your body position intact. Working your core while doing a push up is a huge benefit, which greatly improves your body’s health and injury prevention.
- Muscle imbalance. How many guys do you know who train chest all the time but don’t pay as much attention to their back and legs? It creates a dangerous muscle imbalance. A huge chest does not guarantee being a better athlete. Being well rounded does. Yes a bench press gets you a huge chest but get the other muscle groups caught up first.
- It is a STUPID measure of strength. How many times are you asked (or overhear): “What do you bench?” Who cares? I typically say that I don’t know, which I truly don’t. It doesn’t matter what you bench. It does not indicate your athleticism, preparedness or toughness.
Look, if you’re a gym rat and looking to build muscle, the reality is that both exercises complement each other. They offer variations and muscle confusion. If you’re looking to lift heavy weights, you’ll have a certain idea of how you want your body to look. That’s when the bench press is likely to be a part of that plan.
However, why would an occasional athlete who has a job and maybe a family HAVE to bench press several times a week, considering there is a better option for them? The vast majority of people are no avid weight lifters, athletes and bodybuilders. Why risk the injury if his/her goals aren’t in line with what a bench press has to offer? In my opinion, there is no reason for most individuals to use the bench press. There are plenty of alternatives and levels of intensity with the old fashion (and safer) push up.
Now put your pitch forks down…
By Sander Vanacker for FitGuana
Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana. He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.