Push Ups vs Bench Press – Which one is right for you now?

The king of upper body exercises in a gym is the bench press. You’ll often hear people in the gym ask “how much do you bench?” The higher your bench press strength is the more dominant you feel as you walk around the gym. 


The bench press is great because it uses your strongest upper body muscles to perform the exercise. As a result, you’ll be able to lift more on the bench press than any other upper body exercise. 

But is the bench press the best exercise for a crossfitter like you? That’s what we’ll cover here.

The push up and bench press targets most of the upper body muscles any guy would want to grow, the chest, shoulders, and triceps. If you’re going heavy it can also activate your lats and for push ups your core also. 

If the bench press is the king of all the weighted upper body exercises, then the push up is the king of all the bodyweight upper body exercises. The weighted movement of these exercises works more muscle than any other upper body exercise. 

Read Also: Bodyweight Chest Exercises You Can do At Home

The main variations for a bench press and push up have to do with your body angle and/or hand placement. 

The incline bench press and incline push up puts more stress on the upper chest muscle and shoulders. The decline bench press and decline push up puts more stress on the lower part of your chest muscle. 

For the close grip variation, your hand placement is shoulder-width apart or narrower to put more focus on your triceps brachii muscle and less on your chest. For the wide grip bench press,  your hands are wider than shoulder-width emphasizing more chest than triceps. 

If you want more muscle mass in your chest the bench press is superior in muscle activation compared to the push up.

When it comes to strength gains the standard bench press is better simply because you can push more weight with a bench press. You can’t copy the force needed to perform a 225 lb+ bench press with a standard push up. 

BUT if you do advanced versions of the push up you can experience the strength gains of the bench press. 

To gain more muscle and strength with a push up you can use equipment such as push-up bars, bands, or weighted vests (for a weighted push up), and rings.   


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Perfect Form for Each Exercise

When performing a barbell bench press rule #1 is to always get a spot. More people get serious injuries from a bench press than any other exercise.  


You want to lift heavy weight in proper form so you can recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. To lift heavy weights properly make sure to use a spot for safety. 

Use the rings on the bar as a guide of where to place your hands. Make sure to put the same finger on the rings to make sure you’re holding it evenly. Get the spot to help you with the lift off the rack. 

You want to stay tight the entire set so you want to bend the bar, shoulders back on the bench, and squeeze your glutes. Lower the bar in a controlled manner towards the bottom of your chest. You’ll inhale as you lower and exhale as you push. 

Read Also: Bench Press Shoulder Pain Know When to Be Wary

When performing a push up lay face down on the ground and place your hands just below your armpits and outside your chest. Have your left pointer finger pointing at 11:00-12:00 and your right pointer finger pointing at 12:00-1:00.  

Go on your toes and breathe out as you push your body up. Inhale and lower yourself in a controlled motion till your nose or chest touches the ground. 

You want to stay tight throughout the entire movement as if you were doing a plank. So keep your glutes and core tight the entire time. 

Shoulder injuries are the most common injury for a bench press. The reason hand placement should be at your lower chest is to put less stress on your shoulder and targets more of your chest muscle.

The reason you want to bend the bar or have your pointer fingers pointed outwards is it keeps your elbows close to your body and puts less stress on your shoulder.  

Read Also: Alternate Exercises If You Feel Wrist pain From Push Ups

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Best Option for CrossFit Athletes

The standard bench press is better than the standard push up for building muscle and strength. But there are levels when comparing a standard bench press to a standard push up. 


The best option depends on so many factors. What are your goals? What’s your sex? How strong are you currently?

If your goal is to get stronger the bench press is the easy winner because of the weight you can lift on a bench press. 

If you’re a female it’s usually the push up that’s the winner in the push ups vs the bench press debate. Most women don’t want to develop the chest muscle men do so it’s not worth the risk of injury. PLUS you get to work your core which is more popular among women. 

A scientific study also proved push ups create better muscle stress in women than men

Read Also: Best Weight Bench For Your Home Gym

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Now if you can’t even do a push up in good form, don’t do them. Do the bench press instead with lighter weight. 

If you’re someone who can easily do 20 push ups in perfect form go into a weighted push up with a weighted vest, or some other variation. To get the same muscle activation you’ll get in a bench press variations of push ups are needed.  

Read Also:Top 5 Weighted Vests For CrossFit

Conclusion

Both the bench press and push ups are great upper body exercises. And both have their advantages. 

Depending on where you are in your fitness journey, one is usually better than the other. But you should still incorporate both into your training to get the benefits of both exercises.

Brent Rarama

Brent Rarama

"We all have the potential to be a self-made success story." Credentials ACE Certified Personal Trainer INFOFIT Group Fitness Certification Interests Sports Olympic Lifting Weight loss programs Researching different diets and exercises

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