Thursday, February 21, 2008
The Pushup vs. The Bench Press
As I previously mentioned in my Perfect Pushup review, I've come across a surprising amount of information claiming that the pushup might in fact be better for overall development than the gold standard in weight lifting, the bench press. In the past half century or so, the single greatest way for a man to prove his power was to flaunt his bench press number. Now, the pushup is an exercise as ancient as civilization itself but it had, for a while, fallen out of place in serious strength training. Since you could pile on more weight than just your own bodyweight with a bench press, it has been the assumption that its superior. The pushup is merely an exercise for muscular endurance. In other words, it doesn't build power and size. So, which one is really better for building strength?
My take is a no-brainer, the pushup. However, I have evidence. Even some from people who train with and teach weightlifting. The problem with the bench press is the bench. Your upper body is immobilized on the bench. Your core doesn't do any work in order to stabilize your body. It's all done for you, and that's a bad thing. If you really want to be honest with yourself, core strength is one (if not the biggest) of the biggest sources of power, strength and health in your body. Probably more than any other part of your body, if you don't have core strength you don't have strength at all. The pushup demands it and the bench press skips it.
Even worse is the lack of recruitment of the serratus anterior. I won't go into detail when I can post a link where a guy smarter than me can explain it better.
Yet again, the pushup demands more muscular recruitment and the bench press skips over.
Geeze, isn't the bench press starting to sound like a lazy exercise yet? Still, it builds a huge chest though. Plus you can add weight and make it more difficult. Let me ask you this: Is that really a good thing? This is one of the things that many of us BW guys believe about weight lifting: all of that iron isn't good for your body. It places a lot of stress on your muscles (good) which in turn strengthens your bones (good too). It also places a lot of stress on your tendons and ligaments (not so good) and if you put too much on, it ruins your cartilage pads in between your joints (BAD).
So, if you want the maximum in overall strength and development, the bench press simply can't touch the pushup. The pushup demands less out of your pectoral major muscles than a bench press can but the bench press omits far more muscles which are critical to muscular power. Plus, you can do a pushup anywhere you want to. That is one thing that a bench press will never be able to touch.