When it comes to chest development, there are two exercises that have been battling it for decades in a bid to be crowned the ultimate chest exercise. The two contenders are the bench press and the humble push-up. People often discount push-ups as viable exercises because they’re simply bodyweight exercises, using nothing more than gravity and your own bodyweight for resistance. However, ask any trainer or pro bodybuilder about the benefits of performing push-ups, and they’ll talk until they’re blue in the face. Today, however, we’re not just talking about building a chest that would put Arnie in his prime to shame, we’re talking about bench presses and push-ups as a measure of strength. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at which, if any, is the best measure of strength.
Push-ups are bodyweight exercises which primarily are designed to target the pectoral muscles, and to a lesser degree, the triceps too. It is believed that some variants of push-ups were performed thousands of years ago. We do know that the Ancient Roman soldiers would regularly practice plyometric training to get them battle-ready. Push-ups were believed to be a key component of their training. Not to build up their pectoral muscles, but to build functional strength. To perform push-ups you should begin by laying prone on the ground with palms flat on the ground, just wider than shoulder-width. You then lift your body off the ground until your arms are fully extended, and then simply lower yourself back down by bending your elbows, until your chest grazes the floor. Hold for a second, return to the top, and repeat as necessary.
Push-up test as a measure of strength
When an individual performs a push-up, they lift around 75% of their total body weight. You engage your delts, your triceps, and of course, your pectoral muscles. Muscular endurance tests, however, utilize push-ups as a measure of strength. The basic principles behind this test is simply to perform as many push-ups as possible until you reach failure. For males aged 20 – 29, to be classed as ‘excellent’ 54 or more push-ups in one sitting should be performed. For males in the 30 – 39 age range, 44 should be performed.
The bench press is a free weight compound exercise that is arguably the most popular chest exercise in existence. It can be performed with a barbell or with dumbbells. It can also be performed with the bench at different angles. To keep things simple, we’ll look at flat bench barbell bench presses, as these are arguably the most common variation. For adding muscle mass to your chest, it is a fantastic exercise. Experts, however, do NOT consider it a good indicator of overall strength.
The bench press as a measure of strength
As previously mentioned, the bench press is not considered an effective way of measuring overall strength and power, and this is why. You see, the exercise measures your ability to push a heavy bar off of your chest, but that’s about it. Now, if you find yourself pinned down by a heavy bar for whatever reason, it may be useful. If not, however, it does not really offer many functional strength benefits. Push-ups help build functional core body strength which will benefit you in everyday life. The bench press helps develop power in your chest and triceps, but that’s about it.