The comment about mastering the pushup will make you rival or surpass any body builder or power lifter is so stupid. If this were the case every body builder and power lifter would be doing pushups instead of lifting weights. Even Body builders and power lifters train quite differently from each other. One utilizing Rep range from 8 -15 the other rep range 1-6. This whole functional strength argument is stupid too, to say someone that lifts weights isn't functionally strong? How is a pushup any more functional? If your building a house, carrying a baby, or doing garden work dropping down and doing 20 isn't going to help any more than bench press. I'd wager that most people that workout do it to look better and feel better. If your goals are to just generally be in better shape sure go for the pushup. It's even challenging enough for most new people to build some decent size and strength, but if you want the earth to move when you walk, the ability to push trees over, and for people to make sculptures of your body you better stack on some weights. -BrentThat fateful post from nearly seven years ago now still draws views and comments to my blog...
Things have changed over those years. While I do look back on some of my old posts and sometimes find my past self outright wrong on a few occasions, this post still stands up. Much of what I think about the bench press vs. the push up hasn't really changed all of that much. There might be a very good reason for that. That reason is that, in a lot of ways, the bench press encapsulates much of what I don't like about the strength training subculture that I inhabit.
First, the bench press needs very specific stuff to perform. You have to have a bench, a barbell and plates, sometimes lots of them. In other words, you have to have a gym set-up in order to do it. So much of what I do is based on the premise that you don't need a gym to work out in the first place. Benching anchors you to the gym if you insist on doing it.
There are lots of people insist on doing it. As I've ventured into strongman training, I've noticed that lots of people migrate over to it from powerlifting. Some strongmen, in turn, seem to take a shocking amount of programming tips from powerlifting. What lots of people therefore don't get is that working the chest doesn't simply mean doing the bench press. I've said it before: the pectoral major muscles are extremely versatile. Any movement that requires moving your arms in front of your body back towards your centerline is using them. So, you don't need to be glued to one movement that, in turn, glues you to the gym. Since I have an aversion to being intentionally stuck to a physical location to train, you can bet your ass I have a problem being married to one movement, especially one that I hate that's part of a competition of have no desire to participate.
Frankly, there is NO GOOD REASON to be so glued to the bench press. It's an incomplete upper body-push movement anyway. If done by itself, it doesn't develop the shoulder and chest muscles in a balanced manner. Push-ups can and do, which is why I prefer them (weighted these days). One thing that some strongmen do get right is they move the bench press to an accessory movement to the overhead press. There are a mess of chest exercises out there any why the more incomplete ones got selected as the go-to for chest training just boggles my mind.
To top it all off, as I said above, I just don't really enjoy bench pressing. I don't really have a rhyme or reason for that other than it just isn't a compelling lift for me. So, since I don't enjoy then why should I do it? After all, it's not a lift in any competition that I'll ever do. I can do others to get complete upper body development. Plus, I don't need to be at a gym that, aside from the past two years, I have extremely limited access to. At the end of the day, there are more practical lifts for me to consume my time with. I'll just stick to those.