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Push-Ups Vs. Bench Press: Which Builds Muscle Better?

Push-ups vs bench press is an age-old debate and both have their fan base. If you are someone looking forward to building chest muscles, you ...

by Jessica Bennet

This article was created after thorough research and has been improved with the assistance of AI technology. Furthermore, our dedicated editorial team has meticulously fact-checked and polished its content for accuracy and clarity.

Push-ups vs bench press is an age-old debate and both have their fan base. If you are someone looking forward to building chest muscles, you would have come across this dilemma. What is the difference between both? What are the benefits and risks involved? Do they both give the same results? Let’s find out!

How Is It Done? 

Build Muscles Better

While doing a push-up, you get down on all fours, your face facing the ground. Keeping your body in a straight line, you move closer to the ground, making a 90-degree angle with your elbows. You push yourself back until your arms are straight. 

In a bench press, you lie flat on your back on a bench, your feet firm on the ground, and press weight upwards using dumbbells or barbells. bench press targets the upper part of your body. 

Difference between push-ups vs bench press

The fundamental difference between a push-up and a bench press is that a push-up is a body-weight exercise where you push yourself upward from the ground to a high-plank position, whereas a bench press is a weighted exercise where you push weights away from your body.

Being upper body workouts, both target chest, triceps, and shoulders. Push-ups amount to a full-body workout that helps activate the core, glutes, and back. Bench presses focus more on the chest and muscles and not as much on the core, glutes, and lower back as push-ups do. But on the brighter side, it can be customized using load specification. 

Benefits of push-ups vs bench press

✅ Push-ups 

The main advantage of a push-up is that it is an equipment-free workout and can be exercised practically anywhere, which makes it an ideal choice for a home workout. Push-ups are great for enhancing the functional strength and stability required in daily life activities.

Targeted muscle activation and progression are also possible push-ups through different variations like wide wide-grip, close-grip, and decline push-ups. The plank position of push-ups involves high core engagement, which helps develop core strength and stability. Besides, it improves your posture and reverses the negative impacts of prolonged sitting and slouching. 

✅ Bench press 

Unlike push-ups, bench press allow progressive overload by gradually increasing weights that help in strength training and muscle growth. Specific muscles can be isolated and targeted by adjusting the hand position, grip width, and angles.

Depending on individual goals and preferences, bench presses can be done using dumbbells, barbells, or machine presses. Being primarily a chest and tricep exercise, it is better suited to develop chest muscles and triceps than push-ups or any other exercises. By improving muscle mass and strength, it helps build endurance for daily activities.

Limitations of push-ups vs bench press

✅Push-ups  

Push-ups depend solely on body weight resistance, and they can become insufficient for individuals seeking greater strength gains over time. Push-ups offer limited resistance, and the progression may plateau eventually without additional weights.

Being a full-body workout, push-ups engage different muscle groups simultaneously, but they fail to provide isolation and targeted muscle activation like bench presses. 

✅ Bench press

The major drawback of bench pressing is that it can only be performed with adequate equipment. Hence, it escapes the category of a simple home workout and can be done only at gymnasiums. Although it is an effective chest exercise, excessive focus on bench press may lead to muscular imbalances if other muscle groups are neglected. 

Risk perception

Improper form, excessive load, or even carelessness can injure the shoulder, chest, wrist, or arm in bench press. Push-ups can also lead to strained wrists if the form is not right or when overdone. Hence, it is important to balance out push-ups with pulling exercises like rows, bicep curls, and plank pull-throughs.

However, bench presses are way more riskier than push-ups, as not only are you lifting weight, you are doing it above your head. Besides, it can also cause spine injury if proper form is not adapted. Therefore, it is advised to do bench presses under the guidance of a trainer. 

Are they interchangeable?

Although both push-ups and bench presses offer more or less similar gains, bench presses cannot be replaced by push-ups, as the former requires an external load. However, weighted push-ups (adding load on the back while you take push-ups) can enhance muscle growth and strength similar to bench presses. 

Conclusion

We hope you have made up your mind about which one to choose by now. Both push-ups and bench presses promise similar gains. Go for push-ups if you are looking for a full-body workout, but if you are specifically inclined toward chest muscle development, the bench press is your buddy. 

Reference

  • Cogley RM, Archambault TA, Fibeger JF, Koverman MM, Youdas JW, Hollman JH. Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2005;19:628–633.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16095413/

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