How the Pushup Can Rival the Bench Press
Trade in your barbell for your body: The pushup is just as effective for building chest and arm strength as the bench press, finds a new study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
Now, it’s no secret that the pushup is a killer exercise. However, when it comes to building upper-body strength, a lot of guys opt for loading up a barbell with heavy iron plates instead of pumping out reps of a bodyweight movement. But researchers found that when participants performed a 6-repetition maximum of both the pushup and bench press, the muscle-building results were the same.
How? By looping a resistance band around the shoulders to create tension as you do a push-up.
You may not even need a big band to provide enough pressure to exhaust your muscles in just 6 reps. “What makes this variation so difficult is that the elastic band provides the most resistance at the top of the pushup,” explains David Jack, owner of ActivPrayer, and creator of the Men’s Health 60-Day Transformation. “That also happens to be where we’re strongest and can recruit the most muscle—and the more fibers you get involved, the more that get strengthened as a result.”
And it’s not just your chest muscles that reap the benefit of the band-resisted pushup. “While the band helps zero the tension in on your chest, you still have to engage every muscle from head to toe to maintain a perfect position,” explains Jack. That isn’t the case when you’re performing a press while lying on a bench.
Still, “if you like to bench, bench,” Jack says. Just remember that when your body needs a break from the heavy barbell—or you’re working out at home or on the road—the pushup is a great alternative that will not only help you avoid losing muscle mass and strength, but gain more of both, too.
Grab a continuous-loop resistance band that’s about 2 to 3 centimetres thick, suggests Jack. It may not sound like much, but it should be enough resistance to induce some serious muscle-building benefits, he says.