The bench press and push up are two classic push exercises for strengthening the upper body. If you want to build more muscle mass while developing strength, both are excellent choices, but which is right for you?

In this article, I’ll be comparing push ups vs bench press and explain the similarities and differences between the two exercises. 

For Building Chest Muscles 

When comparing push ups vs bench press, a 2019 study showed that if you’re looking to build your chest muscles, it didn’t necessarily matter if you use push ups or bench press, so long as you kept the load the same, each movement is interchangeable, and the results are almost the same [1].  

Even though the study clearly shows this to be the case, it’s worth noting that the participants were all athletes and had specific programming to ensure the loading was exact, and they did everything with close supervision. In real life, this wouldn’t always be the case.  

If you want to overload your chest muscles, you should use the bench press and its variants to build a well-rounded chest. Lifting heavy will stimulate your muscle fibres, promoting muscle growth.

Push ups do also target your chest muscles, however, the stimulus needs to be high to get the same training response you get with bench press and other weighted variations.

I’m always a fan of using push ups and bench presses in my training sessions. They complement each other well and make an excellent basis for building your program around, particularly if you have a home gym and don't want to spend a fortune on equipment.

man doing barbell bench press

Total Upper Body Strength Development 

When it comes to strength development, many people would be surprised to learn that bench press and push ups can cause similar upper body strength development.

According to a 2015 study, they are at comparable levels of muscle activity, resulting in similar strength gains [2]. It should be highlighted that the study was done using a banded push up, creating resistance.

Load for the push up is determined by bodyweight. Adding load to push ups requires advanced variations and new skills to add enough stimulus to the muscle. It is a lot more challenging to increase the stimulus for push ups than bench press. 

The load is key for strength gains, it is a lot easier to add load to the bench press by simply adding weight plates.

Even though you can get similar upper body strength development doing the bench press and push ups, due to the ease of loading weight on bench press it's the better choice when comparing the two.

Ease Of Exercise 

The push up is one of the most versatile exercises around; not only are there endless variations, but you can do them pretty much anywhere. You can do them in the gym, at home, in a hotel room, on the street, literally any place you want.  

One excellent benefit of push ups is that you don’t need a spotter present. You can go until failure, and the worst thing that’ll happen is you’ll have to lie on the floor for a few minutes until you can push yourself up again.  

However, when performing a barbell bench press, you need to have a dedicated area with specific equipment to do this movement. You’ll need a bench, barbell, and Olympic weights. One other thing you’ll need is a spotter, particularly if you plan to lift heavy. Nobody wants to get stuck underneath a loaded barbell; not only is it embarrassing, but it can result in severe and sometimes fatal injuries.  

But, you can get around needing a spotter by performing a dumbbell bench press. As you’ll be using a set of dumbbells instead of a barbell, there’s no chance of you getting stuck underneath. At worst, if you fail, you can throw the dumbbells on the floor until you fully recover.  

By looking at the ease of exercise for push ups or bench presses, I believe push ups are far easier to perform, especially if you’re looking for an exercise that requires little to no equipment and is an excellent option if you travel or work away.  

The only downside to using push ups to develop your chest is that you’ll need to find ways to increase the difficulty over time, but you can get a few ideas from earlier in this article. 

man doing dumbbell bench press

Physical Equipment 

When it comes to the equipment you need for push ups or bench presses, it differs significantly. To begin with, a push up doesn’t require any equipment and can be performed anywhere with a solid floor.  

However, you can purchase push up bars as a way to enhance the push up movement and to take your workouts to the next level. Also, some users have found that using push up bars make the push up movement easier on the wrists.  

If you suffer from a wrist injury such as carpal tunnel or any other wrist aggravation, you might find using the push up bars far more comfortable [3]. This will allow you to perform a push up without pain or discomfort.  

There are many push up bars available; many of them are covered in my thorough review of the best push up bars.  

Other optional equipment for press-ups are weighted vests or resistance bands, and both are brilliant ways to add additional load to your push ups.  

On the other hand, to perform a bench press, you require a lot of expensive equipment, plus you'll need the space to set it all up. If you have a home or garage gym, this won't be much of a problem, and adding a bench press to your gym will be an excellent addition.  

The basic equipment you’d require for a bench press would be: 

  • A flat or adjustable bench 
  • Olympic Barbell 
  • Olympic weighted plates 

The cost of this equipment can vary, but if you look around online, you’ll find some excellent deals on quality bench press equipment.  

Related Article - Best Olympic Weight Sets

Muscles Worked

Push ups and bench press essentially work the same muscle groups. They are both horizontal pressing movements. 

The muscles worked by both exercises are:

  • Pectoralis major
  • Anterior deltoid
  • Triceps

When performing the bench press, the weight is pressed while your body is stable on the bench, providing more of a training stimulus to the chest muscles and making it easier to lift more weight. The bench press also challenged shoulder stability more than the push up. 

During push ups, the body is being moved without support, so it increase the range of motion the joints are moving through plus, there is more core stabilization required for push ups. 

The shoulders and scapular are the most overlooked muscle groups that do a lot of the work during the push up. As you descend during the push up, your scapular retracts, and your back muscles contract, counteracting the stretched chest muscles. The back and chest often have an antagonistic relationship, clearly demonstrated during the push up movement.  

man doing a push up using push up bars

Push Ups Overview

The push up is a brilliant upper body exercise that mainly targets the chest and triceps muscles, although it does work almost all your body due to your need to stabilize. The movement is a fantastic exercise for developing full-body strength and has carryover into sports.

Push ups are a brilliant exercise for all levels, from beginner to advanced gym-goers. There are many push up variations, some easier and some notoriously tricky, so be sure to choose one to match your ability level.

man doing a regular push up

Push Ups Variations

Weighted Push Up 

The weighted push up is precisely how it sounds; it’s a push up performed using added weight. The added weight can come in either a weighted vest or by placing standard Olympic weighted plates on your back.

This movement is best suited for anyone who’s mastered the standard push up and needs more of a challenge.

Wide-Grip Push Up 

This push up variation requires placing your hands in a much wider position (1.5-2x shoulder width); this will work the anterior shoulder greater than the standard push ups.

Again, I wouldn’t recommend this movement to beginners; it’s best suited for anyone who needs a tougher challenge.  

Spiderman Push Up 

The Spider-man push up gets its name from everyone's favorite superhero... Spider-man. It's named after the famous web-slinger because you look like him climbing a wall while performing this exercise.  

This variation requires you to move your leg towards your upper body during the push up movement, and it places more stress on your core, triceps, forearms, delts, and upper pecs.   

The Spider-man push up is a difficult movement to master and should only be performed if you’ve mastered regular push ups.  

Staggered Grip Push Up 

The staggered push up is an advanced variation of the exercise due to it using more core, shoulder, and triceps stability than the regular version of the exercise. 

While the staggered push up helps develop strength in all of the same areas a regular push up does, it’s worth noting that you’ll gain more strength using this variation when compared to having your hands shoulder-width apart.  

It’s best suited for intermediate-advanced ability levels.  

Diamond Push Up 

Performing diamond push ups offers many benefits and is an excellent way to maximize the work your lateral head (outside head) of the triceps muscle must do. This will help you develop a great set of triceps.

This push up variation is one of the most challenging, mainly due to the biomechanics of the movement. Your triceps are required to do most of the work, and if your triceps are weak, you’ll struggle with this movement. 

Deficit Push Up

Deficit push ups are a great way to increase the range of motion during the push up movement. This will not only help you activate more muscle fibers, but it'll promote more muscle growth.  

The most common way to perform this variation is to place each hand on a weighted plate, raising your hands, allowing you to get your chest below your hand level at the bottom of the movement.  

Resistance Band Push Up 

Resistance band push ups can be used to change the load pattern of the push up movement. As you approach the bottom of the movement, it will become easier. However, as you push upwards toward the top end, the band will stretch and place more force on the pecs, triceps, and shoulders. This variation does require resistance bands. 

Incline/Decline Push Up 

Incline push ups will make the push up movement easier to perform. This is best suited for beginners who struggle with regular “floor level” push ups. They’re commonly performed by placing your hands on an elevated platform. 

Decline push ups make the movement more challenging by increasing the load on your upper body. They are usually performed by elevating your feet on a bench or step. Both movements are easy to scale and can be performed for high reps.  

man doing a decline push up

Pros & Cons Of Doing Regular Push Ups


  • No equipment required 
  • Works core & stabilization muscles 
  • Full body movement 
  • Can do them anywhere 


  • It doesn’t increase bench press 
  • Results are slower 

Benefits of Push Ups

Push ups should be included in everyone's fitness regime due to how simple yet effective this bodyweight exercise is for building strength.

It's one of my favorite exercises as it's highly accessible for everyone and it's easily modified depending on your strength and fitness level, making it a great way to increase your fitness without any equipment. 

Other benefits include:

  • Targets multiple muscle groups at the same time such as core, shoulders and back
  • Works on core activation and stabilization
  • Accessibility, no equipment required
  • Can help reduce the risk of injury

do push ups help with bench press?

Yes, push ups can help improve bench press. 

Firstly, push ups can help with bench because it trains the same muscles. As I have highlighted, the bench press and push up engages the same muscle groups - pectoral, anterior deltoid and triceps. Push ups can assist to increase muscle mass, muscular endurance and muscular strength.

Push ups can be used to increase work capacity for bench press, in other words, you can add training stimulus without the high demands of the bench press. 

Push ups assist with healthy shoulder movement because it allows more freedom of movement in the shoulder blades and it activates muscles like the serratus anterior that helps keep the shoulder joint health during pushing movements. 

Finally, you can use push ups to assist with any weakness you experience during the bench press. Push ups can be done with a narrow hand position to target the triceps. If your tricep strength is holding your bench press back, it's an excellent way to target this weakness. 

Bench Press Overview

When it comes to developing a great looking chest, the bench press is one of the go-to exercises for most gym-goers. It has many benefits from increased upper body strength, pushing power, and improved bone & joint health.  

The bench press works the pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoids, making it a T-shirt filling exercise. The standard version of the bench press is suitable for most ability levels ranging from beginner to advanced. There are even variations of the movement that can regress or progress the difficulty of the exercise. 

Bench Press Variations

Barbell Bench Press 

This will be the variation you’re most familiar with. It’s commonly performed worldwide and is the staple movement of most gym-goers workout programs.

The barbell bench press requires a bench and a barbell (with added weighted plates). It allows you to massively overload the chest muscles and is brilliant for pec development.  

top view of a woman doing barbell bench press

Close Grip Barbell Bench Press 

Close-grip barbell bench press emphasizes the triceps and less on the chest muscles. This is great if you’re triceps are lagging and need further development.  

The movement is performed by taking a closer grip on the bar (usually shoulder width) and pressing the bar as you would for a regular bench press but with the elbows tucked in towards your sides.   

Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press 

By taking a wider grip on the barbell bench press, you'll be placing more focus on the chest muscles, specifically the pec major, also known as the "lower pecs." Other muscles are also engaged during this variation, such as the anterior delts and triceps.  

You can perform this movement by taking a wide grip on the bar (1.5-2x shoulder width) and performing the bench press movement.  

This is best suited for anyone looking to stimulate the pecs further.

Glute Bridge Dumbbell Bench Press 

The glute bridge dumbbell bench press is a simple variation of the bench press that greatly impacts the body.  

By performing the glute bridge while pressing the dumbbells, you not only develop a strong upper body, but your glutes will be fully engaged trying to stabilize your body.  

All you need is to position yourself sideways on the bench with your body supported by your upper back and legs. Squeeze the glutes together and perform a dumbbell bench press.  

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press 

The alternating dumbbell bench press is a brilliant variation that requires a large amount of engagement from the core muscles to help stabilize the body while pressing. This movement is great at ironing out any muscular imbalances as each side of the body needs to work independently. 

To perform this movement, hold two dumbbells at your chest, lie down on a bench and perform a bench press movement.  

Incline Barbell Bench Press 

If you need to develop your upper chest muscles to give you a barrel-like chest, then the incline barbell bench press is the exercise for you.  

The incline barbell bench press is performed exactly like a regular bench press, but with the bench set to an incline position. The ideal incline is between 15-30%, but you can go up to 45% if needed.

I’m a big fan of this movement as it’s suitable for all abilities; be sure to have a spotter nearby.

Dumbbell Neutral Grip Bench Press 

The dumbbell neutral grip bench press is a great variation that eases the stress placed on the shoulder joint, making it ideal for anyone with shoulder injuries or tightness.  

By changing the grip position to neutral (palms facing each other), you engage the triceps more than you would by using regular pronated grip.  

You can perform this movement precisely like a regular dumbbell press, but with your hands facing each other.  

Pros & Cons Of Regular Bench Pressing


  • Focuses on maximal pushing strength 
  • Faster progression 
  • Increased shoulder stabilization 
  • You can lift heavier loads 


  • Requires equipment 
  • Need space/dedicated area for the bench 

benefits of Bench Pressing

The bench press is by far the most effective way to build upper body strength when you have access to the correct equipment.

A strong bench improves pushing strength and adds definition to your triceps, shoulders, and chest. It will also improve other pressing movement such as overhead press. 

The bench press can also be modified by changing the bench angle or your grip to target a range of muscles and to improve weaknesses.

Benefits of the bench press include: 

  • Increases pecs, tricep and shoulder size
  • Focuses on maximal/absolute pushing strength
  • Works more on shoulder stabalization
  • Improved blood flow and bone health
  • Improvements to sports performance

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are push ups better than bench press for beginners? 

When it comes to push ups vs. bench press for beginners, it depends on your individual strengths. Not everyone who can bench press can perform press-ups and vice versa. Neither exercise is better than the other; both have their place in anyone’s workout routine.  

However, it all comes down to your goals; if you’re looking to build strength quickly, then the bench press is a better choice.  

Do push ups improve bench press ability? 

Becoming stronger in push ups doesn’t always correlate with your bench press ability. While performing push ups will help develop areas of your body that the bench press doesn’t work, I wouldn’t be performing them with the sole purpose of improving my bench press.  

But, they can be used to supplement your workout and assist your bench press work, which I’ll cover in the next question.  

Should you do both push ups and bench press when working out? 

Yes, I’d strongly recommend doing both push ups and bench presses during your workout. Why? – well, they both compliment each other so well; it would be a shame to miss out on the strength you can develop from performing both movements regularly.

I use push ups with my clients to add more volume to their workouts, and it’s always lovely to add calisthenics to their program. 

As the push up is different from the bench press (mechanically), you’ll work areas of the body you usually wouldn’t hit during a bench press session.  

How much can I bench press based on how many push ups I can do? 

Unfortunately, there’s no correlation between the weight you can bench press and the number of push ups you can do. For example, just because you can do 100 perfect push ups doesn’t mean you’ll be able to bench 220lbs.  

If you need to know how much you can bench press, the easiest way to figure it out is to start bench pressing.  


After comparing push ups vs bench press, I've found that both exercises can build your upper body strength by developing your chest muscles. While the bench press is ideal for raw strength and muscle mass, I found that push ups shouldn’t be overlooked when developing a fantastic looking chest.  

In conclusion to this comparison, I’d recommend that you include both exercises in your workout program. They both compensate each other brilliantly, and you won’t regret performing either one of these movements. 





Last Updated on October 2, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.