Nobody ever asks how many push-ups you can do. It is always how much you can bench. However, you don’t need weights, plates, bars, and dumbbells to develop strength and get a great chest workout. To confirm this, a study was done that compared push-ups and bench presses. The researchers used an EMG to measure the stimulation of muscles during both exercises.
Here is what they discovered.
Researchers found that muscle gains and strength development are the same when you perform a one or six-rep max using the push-up or bench press. Both exercises significantly and equally improved strength.
The sites they monitored were the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulders, and found equal contraction levels. So, if you want to use push-ups rather than bench presses, you must ensure it is based on a six-rep maximum.
The research is not surprising because the stimulus depends on the force and load. It is the perception and illusion that you need to use weights and bench presses to make gains.
If the load is the same, so will the strength gains for both exercises.
Furthermore, they found that close-grip push-ups or bench presses increased the intensity more than a moderate grip.
How to Increase the Intensity of Your Push-Up
It is easier than you think to increase the intensity of your push-ups. For example, you can use resistance bands by securing it with your hands around your back. Another way to increase the intensity is by making the leverage harder, for instance, by putting your feet on a bench. One of my favorite ways to do push-ups is on kettlebells. When using kettlebells, you can go deeper into the range of motion than the floor. As a result, it creates more eccentric stretch on your chest.
Unique Benefits of Push-Ups
1. You need stability before you do unstable movements. And push-ups are great for developing shoulder stability. If you are unstable and do unstable movements like a bench press, chances are you will not become stable. The idea of training instability is to challenge your stability when you have it. The reason I mention this is because push-ups do just that. The information is not telling you not to do bench presses. It is saying that it strengthens the stability you can transfer into your bench press.
2. Pushups require you to use your whole body. Ideally, you should contract and squeeze your glutes when doing a push-up. Doing this stabilizes your hip, which reciprocates to contract and stabilize your abdominals and core. You can also contract your quads to increase the intensity. The more muscles you contract increases the force on the structure and alignment. As you move, it is like adding weights. So, when you do push-ups, you use your whole body, not just your chest and shoulders.
3. When doing push-ups off boxes or steps, you can move deeper into the range of motion more than a bench press. Moving deeper into the stretch activates the upper back, mid-back, and shoulder muscles to stabilize as you stretch and push.
4. Push-ups are more practical in life and sports.
You can and should still do bench press. The purpose is for you to understand that they both produce similar results when loaded appropriately. However, combining the two works great and gives you variety. Learning to push your body weight is excellent for strength and movement coordination. It trains the neuromuscular chain, your entire body. Just because there is no iron involved, don’t underestimate it.
For more information about strength, speed, and explosiveness, check out the book, INSTANT STRENGTH.