Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pushup vs Bench Press Redux

Pete Townsend was obviously prone to his prima-donna moments. After getting a boxed set of the biggest hits of The Who, I read the little booklet from cover-to-cover (several times) and apparently, he was kind of pissed that, "I can see for Miles" one of his favorite songs that the Who ever did wasn't the smash hit he expected. When it barely broke the top 10, he said that he, "spat at the British Audience."
Kind of a douchebag statement, but what do you expect from a guy who got busted for looking up kitty porn on the internet?

I can sort of relate to his sentiments about his writing. It's not that I get pissed when something that I think is my best writing doesn't attract the most accolades but I'm curious as to why certain things that I write become so, damn popular than others. One such instance is my, by the BW-Files standards, iconic post: The Pushup vs. The Bench Press I still don't quite get why it's always my most popular all-time post.

According to BWF's CentCom, and after the title of my blog itself, a lot of my traffic comes from the following Search keywords:
push ups vs bench press
body weight bench press

Yeah, I admit, the pectoral major's are important muscles. Put your arms above your head, move them down, and then move them to the front of your body. Your pec-maj's are doing a lot of that. So, we need to work on those. That deserves a lot of attention.

Still, THIS much attention? While chest exercises will always land on pretty much everyone's top exercises, we'll all sheepishly admit that none of them are really the best exercises out there.

What's the best exercise in the world? Give me $20 and I'll tell you. THE SQUAT! No, you can't have your $20 back.

So, why all of the fuss?

It must be the mirrors. I still think that regardless of how much a lot of people talk about being geniunely strong, balanced, functional, real world, athletic or any other catch phrase designed to not seem obsessed about the way that they look, they're full of shit. It's far closer to a lot of people's minds than they let on. I've seen this several times when I'm working out in public, usually in a hotel parking lot. I could be doing some sort of single leg squat work, some nasty plyos, or working some sandbag cossak squats and it doesn't attract nearly as much attention if I was doing ring dips, one-arm push-ups, etc.

The upper body still rules in people's minds. The bench press rules upper body exercises.

Yeah, I do more blog entries on upper body work than the lower body. There's a lot more room for varation up top than down below since the arms move in more directions than the legs. That doesn't mean that it dominates my training and I certainly don't think it should dominate yours. In my perfect world (and mabye this is my prima-donna moment) I'd simply get rid of all of this fixation on the pecs.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think the bench press sucks.  Said before, and will say again:  I don't think that it strengthens the shoulder muscles equally enough to warrant it's run-away popularity.   I could care less if I ever do one ever again. The push-up movement has got it all over the bench.  You could probably do push-ups with no other assistance exercise and keep your shoulders intact.  Even hardcore powerlifters will admit that you can't do that with the bench press.  Besides, I try to keep my back and my ass off padding as much as possible during a workout.  I think that there's a lot of logic to this. 

The problem is that most disagree because most don't bother to take the push-up beyond a high rep or a warm-up exercise.  Weighted push-ups are a nice middle ground if you seek max strength and huge chest alike. I've been doing lots of these with sandbags on my upper back.

I like the sandbag because I can place it on my back when I'm alone and put the weight of the bag over my shoulders, neck and head.  If you're going to way down a push-up, this is key. 
For a bodyweight purist, exericse minimalist, or budget-minded basement gorilla, you just can't go wrong with some sort of suspension training gear. This doesn't have to be expensive. I made one out of scrap rope, PVC pipe, and some knotting know-how. Push-ups on such a rig take on a whole different character.

Were these variations tried more often,  I don't think that many would miss the challenge of a heavy bench press.