A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the muscle activation of the bench press and push-up. Participants were broken into a push-ups group, bench press group, and control group.
What researchers found after a 5-week study was that both exercises experienced the same contraction intensity for the 6RM test, according to EMG (electromyography) analysis.
Both push-ups and bench press are extremely beneficial exercises for your body. Both of the exercises are equally good when it comes to muscle activation and muscle building.
- If you want to help your athletes recover, bench press has an advantage. As an exercise which effects on the treatment of serratus anterior and upper trapezius, the bench press is proved to be more suitable. In this research, it is confirmed by EMG (electromyography) analysis that the bench press is more suitable than modified push-ups in the recovery of patients. The main reason is that bench press is performed on a stable surface. Push-ups activate more muscles at the same time, but bench press activates targeted muscles better.
- Push-ups have more variations, which make it more versatile. There are knee push-ups, one-legged push-ups, one-arm push-ups, v-push-ups and lot more. Push-ups can be performed on a medicine ball, Swiss ball, box… even in nature. Bench press has wide grip, regular grip and narrow grip, which can be combined with incline, decline, and flat positions. The exercise can also be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, even with the medicine ball if you are creative! So the bench press isn’t much behind when it comes to variations!
- The bench press can fatigue you if you work on 40-50% of your 1 RM, but perform the movement explosively. Push-ups will make you fatigued, but it depends on the push-up variation. Both of these exercises can boost your heart rate. This research confirms there is a contributive role of maximal strength to muscular endurance tests could be identified for the upper body. This means both push-up and bench press boost your heart rate. Both bench press and push-ups can be used for muscular endurance.
- The bench press has an advantage when it comes to building muscle mass. You can use some variations with push-ups for muscle mass, like speed reduction and changing positions and angles. When training the bench press, you can increase the weight gradually, for example, from 80 to 85 kg. You can also perform push-ups under load, such as a partner can sit on your back or you can place a weight on your back. But you will hit 4RM, 6RM or 12RM zone more precisely if you use weights.
- The plank position activates your abdominals, but abdominal muscles are used as stabilizers during the bench press. If you perform flat or incline bench press, you will feel the abdominals more. Both exercises have an excellent secondary effect on your abdominals.
- Push-ups have an advantage when it comes to convenience. You can do it in nature, in the home, even in the basement or in the creek. You don’t need any special equipment. To be able to perform the bench press, you need at least a bench and a weight. You can load bottles with water for example, but if you don’t have a bench, you can perform the repetitions of the ground.
- Which is the most impressive exercise? Some people prefer someone who lifts a lot of weight from bench press over someone who performs a lot of push-ups. However, many people cannot do 20 push-ups! If you are smaller, you cannot lift 200lbs, but you can do 100 push-ups – this is your chance to get attention! So, both exercises can make other practitioners looking at you while in the gym.
You have the choice. What is your goal? Both exercises are awesome! Which one will you choose?
Option #3: include both exercises as part of a comprehensive plan.