Push Ups vs Bench Press Pt2

An in-depth comparison of two popular workouts on multiple criteria!

March 18, 2019
Push Ups vs Bench Press Pt2

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The push up and the bench are awesome chest exercises. Both also work your shoulders and triceps. For building a better chest, both exercises are very valuable but, in the battle of the chest exercises, is one better than the other? We gave you an overall comparison before, but now we’ll go more in-depth to compare these two workouts on multiple criteria!

Before trying to decide which the best, it’s important to understand that you’ll get more from both of these exercises if you do them properly. A well-performed push up will always produce superior results to a badly-performed bench press, and vice versa.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to give you detailed instructions on how to do push ups and bench presses properly, but here are a few technique bullet points that will steer you in the right direction.

Push ups

  • To work your chest, your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart

  • From full arm extension, lower your chest all the way to the floor

  • Keep your legs, hips, and shoulders aligned, and don’t drop your head or hips

  • Keep your entire body braced and tight, especially your abs 

  • Imagine rotating your hands outward to activate your lats and stabilize your shoulders 

Bench presses 

  • Adjust your grip so that your forearms are vertical at the bottom of each rep

  • Lower the bar to lightly touch your mid-chest on each and every rep. No bouncing! 

  • Pull your shoulders down and back and press them into the bench for stability

  • Your lower back should be slightly arched, and your core braced 

  • Drive your feet into the floor and keep them still

Now you have been reminded how to do these exercises properly, let’s look at their advantages and disadvantages.


If you go to a gym to work out, the bench press is a fairly convenient exercise to include in your program. After all, any decent gym will have at least one bench press station equipped with a barbell and plenty of weight plates. However, the bench press is also a very popular exercise, especially on Mondays, which is National Bench Press Day in most gyms. You could find yourself waiting a long time to for your turn to bench press.

In contrast, push ups require no equipment so you can do them anywhere, and anytime. You could even pump out a set after reading this! Even if you go to a gym, if the bench press is busy, you could make the switch to push ups to save having to waste your time in the bench press queue.

Winner: Push ups 


Scalability refers to your ability to adjust the difficulty of an exercise. After all, exercises that are too easy will not produce results, and doing exercises that are too hard could lead to injury. The bench press is very scalable. If you are a novice, you can do it with nothing more than an empty barbell or even just a broomstick.

As you get stronger, you can add more plates so that you get progressively stronger. Providing you have access to a range of weight plates, this means the bench press is infinitely scalable, from very light and easy, to very heavy and hard.

Push ups are scalable too. By changing the angle of your body and your base of support, you can make push ups as easy or as hard as necessary. For example, push ups against a wall place very little weight on your arms and chest. In contrast, one-hand push ups are a much more challenging exercise. You can also add a weight vest to make any push up variation much more demanding.

Winner: It’s a draw! 


Safety is a very important consideration. If you hurt yourself during your workout, you could end up missing weeks or even months of training, losing much of your hard-won progress in the process. Safety also refers to your long-term health. Injuries can also be chronic, meaning they come on gradually rather than suddenly.

Bench presses involve an element of risk which increases with the amount of weight you lift. A failed rep could send the bar crashing down onto your chest. If you are unable to free yourself, this weight could suffocate you. For this reason, it’s never a good idea to do heavy bench presses without a spotter or power rack. That way, if you do miss a rep, you won’t get hurt.

Bench presses also have a reputation for being hard on your shoulders. This is because your hands (and therefore your arms) are in a fixed position. A lot of regular bench pressers also have creaky, painful shoulder joints.

Push ups are much less risky. You can train to failure with no concerns over safety. Unable to complete a rep? Don’t worry; just lower your chest to the floor and rest. You can also easily move your hands to find the best, most comfortable position for your shoulders. With no bar to hold on to, you are free to move your hands and modify your push ups to match your personal preferences and requirements.

Winner: Push ups 


For an exercise to be considered functional, it should serve a purpose. Some exercises are more functional than others because, as well as building muscle and strength, they also prepare your body for activities outside of training. For example, squats could enhance your jumping performance for basketball, while pull ups could boost your rock climbing performance.

The bench press is a good way to increase your chest, shoulder, and triceps strength and size. However, outside of those goals, it does not have many other benefits. You perform bench presses while lying on your back and with very little lower body or core involvement. That means it will not have much of an effect on activities outside of training.

Push ups, like the bench press, work your chest, shoulders, and arms, but also engage your core and your legs too. This makes the humble push up a full body exercise. Because the push up teaches you to use your arms, core, and legs at the same time, it is more likely to transfer to life outside of exercise.  

Winner: Push ups 


Using the criteria of convenience, scalability, safety, and functionality, the push up is the winner. Does that mean it’s the better exercise and that you should ditch the bench press? Not necessarily.

Both exercises are very valuable and can help you on your journey to get stronger or build muscle. If you can’t do bench presses, don’t feel that you are shortchanging your workouts in any way – you aren’t. Push ups will help you achieve your fitness goals. But if you enjoy bench pressing then why not include some push ups in your chest workout and enjoy the many benefits this exercise offers? Variety is, after all, the spice of life!

In Madbarz Premium, you will find a variety of workout plans that include push up variations of all kinds. Get your Madbarz Premium here and spice up your push up routine!

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Post a comment

  • Dan "The Menace" Brenes 1.558 workouts (level 205)
    Great content! August 15, 2019
  • madbarz 111 workouts (level 10)
    We are glad you like it :) April 10, 2019
  • Dan T 132 workouts (level 85)
    Very good read on some key subjects. March 21, 2019

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