Fitness Post – Bench Press versus Press Up

In this second Post of a series on comparing similar exercises I chose this one because most young men do the Bench Press exercise first when they enter the gym – and quite a few without some sort of warm up. Mind you, a lot end up with shoulder problems because of this addiction to this basic exercise. 

Although it is an exercise that has great merit when the priority of your resistance program is to build strength, most people who do a resistance program don’t need that sort of strength. Better to be able to utilize the strength you desire for what you need it for, so make it more functional. 

So, what are the comparisons between Bench Press and Press Up?

  • The first one I have already stated – Bench Press will help you develop more basic upper body strength as compared with Press Up. One of the reasons I have used the photo above as an example for Bench Press where this version is done on a Swiss Ball is that the way you place your hands (the palms facing towards each other and using dumbbells instead of a barbell) the exercise then becomes more functional. There are other versions of this way to do the Bench Press where you use only one dumbbell – which places a greater emphasis on Core Strength and Balance. Again, this way the exercise becomes even more functional.
  • With Press Ups you can see that you use more whole body strength in that you need balance on your hands and feet and you need to keep a rigid body, so it places more emphasis on Core Stability. There is also a far greater variety of the exercise in comparison with Bench Press. Yes, there are many versions of Bench Press: Incline, Decline, the various grip widths and the other versions I have mentioned but in comparison you can mimic these patterns of movement with Press Ups plus you have the Power versions of the exercise as well as easily being able to combine the exercise with a multitude of other ones.
  • So Press Ups are safer to do and far more functional, practical (in that you don’t need any special equipment to do it) and you can use certain variations in Rehab programs because you have more control of the factors in how you do it which can take away the stress and emphasis from injured joints.

I am not advocating not using the Bench Press movement in resistance programs, but there should be only judicial use of it when incorporating into your program design. When doing the Bench Press, most people do it wrong in that they don’t touch the bar to their chest (shortening the movement), they don’t create whole body tension before they start the movement and their elbows flare wide out to the side (instead of keeping them more tightly tucked close to the body). This poor technique places more stress on their elbows and shoulders, so placing them at greater risk for injury.

Both exercises should be done correctly (I have gone over the Press Up exercise a couple of Posts beforehand)  – this includes keeping both movements to their full range in every repetition. Bench Press is best kept to those Strength Trainers who do the Strength Set sport of Powerlifting. An interesting fact is when I asked a World Powerlifting Champion and World Bench Press record holder how he improved his Bench Press he told me that if his Squat and Deadlift improved, so did his Bench Press?

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