Added On November 1, 2011
Push-ups vs. Bench Press
Over the last week I saw various posts over the Internet regarding the weighted push-up and its effectiveness. Many people are looking down to the push-up and prefer the bench press but the truth is that the push-up can be highly effective. Even more effective than the bench press. Since doing bodyweight push-ups is relatively easy this article will make a comparison between weighted push-ups and the bench press.
"Ok. Bro. I like push-ups but how do I make them harder?"
There are a lot of ways to add weight to a push-up or make it harder. One of the most affordable ways would be to load a backpack with some books and hit the floor. However this makes it a little hard to track your progress especially if you need the backpack and the books outside of the gym. Most people will have hard time being consistent if they perform the exercise this way. In order to increase the difficulty of the push-up I like performing them on gymnastic rings or the so-called suspension system. BTW don't buy the famous TRX System. I go in more details about it here.
Doing ring push-ups will greatly increase the difficulty of the exercise and will hit your stabilizers harder than the barbell bench press, much harder. It's not uncommon to have sore lats and traps the day after your first session of ring push-ups. The main reason for that is that they act as shoulder stabilizers and have to do a lot of work because the rings like to move in all kinds of directions. On top of that the rings allow you to increase the stress on the chest if at the end of each repetition you bring your hands together. This makes the exercise a combination of a press and a partial fly. In order to increase the stress on the pecs even further make the distance between the ring ceiling/pull-up bar attachments wider that shoulder width. That way the squeezing strength of your chest will be test even further since during the whole movement the rings will try to go the opposite side.
"Ok. Bro. But I'm out of chains and I don't care to buy more of them anytime soon? What now?"
Change the order of your exercises. For example perform dumbbell bench press prior to hitting the rings. This will greatly diminish the work you can do and you will still find a way to reach failure while staying at the hypertrophy rep range.
"Ok. Bro. But wouldn't it be easier to just bench?"
It depends. The bench is very easy to load obviously and you can load it forever. It's also an easier exercise if you are somewhat overweight. However many people will complain from shoulder pain when going wide grip. The ring push-up and/or the dumbbell bench press should fix that problem while actually increasing the stress on the chest musculature.
Also the push-up will hit your scapula stabilizers much more. This will make your shoulder girdle less injury prone. You can do both if you want but the push-up will forever remain more shoulder friendly and safer to perform when training alone.
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