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GoodRx HealthPush-Up vs. Bench Press: Which Strengthening Exercise Is Better?

Understanding the distinctions between push-ups and bench presses reveals insights into optimizing strength training for different fitness levels, with broader implications for injury prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

Choosing the right exercise for your strength-training regimen can be challenging, particularly when deciding between push-ups and bench presses. Both exercises target the upper body, but each offers unique benefits and considerations that can influence your decision based on your fitness level and goals. This article compares the starting positions, muscle activation, exercise intensity, and practical applications of push-ups and bench presses, providing a comprehensive guide for incorporating these exercises into your — or your patients’ — regimen.

Key Points:

  • Starting Position:
    • Push-ups: Begin face down on the floor, engaging core and upper body muscles.
    • Bench Presses: Start lying face up on a weight bench, lifting and lowering a barbell or dumbbells.
  • Muscle Activation:
    • Both exercises activate the chest (pectorals, serratus anterior), shoulders (deltoids), and arms (triceps).
    • Push-ups additionally engage core muscles, including the abdominals and latissimus dorsi.
  • Exercise Intensity:
    • Push-ups use body weight for resistance and can be modified for beginners (e.g., half push-ups on hands and knees).
    • Bench presses allow for increased resistance with added weights, suitable for advanced athletes.
    • Research indicates push-ups support 69-75% of body weight, with variations available to increase intensity (e.g., weighted vests, resistance bands).
  • Form and Technique:
    • Proper technique is crucial for both exercises to maximize benefits and minimize injury risks.
    • Push-ups: Maintain a high plank position, engaging the core and ensuring straight body alignment.
    • Bench presses: Ensure proper hand placement and controlled movements, ideally with a spotter for heavier weights.
  • Advantages and Disadvantages:
    • Push-ups:
      • Pros: Require no equipment, strengthen core, improve posture, safer for solo practice.
      • Cons: Potential wrist, shoulder, or lower back strain with improper form, challenging for beginners to master, limited resistance progression.
    • Bench Presses:
      • Pros: Easily increase resistance, target different muscles by modifying angles and grips, suitable for increasing absolute strength.
      • Cons: Require equipment and spotter, higher injury risk with improper form.
  • Practical Implications for Clinical Practice:
    • Beginners may start with push-ups to build foundational strength before progressing to bench presses.
    • Advanced athletes can incorporate both exercises for comprehensive upper-body conditioning.
    • Clinicians can tailor exercise prescriptions based on individual patient needs, fitness levels, and goals.

Cardiovascular diseases have been studied in various subgroups. Resistance exercise has been shown to be effective in preventing cardiovascular disease in obese people. However, in this group, combined therapy has better results compared to both aerobic and resistance exercise alone. (BMC Public Health)

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