Does bench pressing work out the same muscles as push-ups?

If not, What's the difference?


2 Answers 2


I'm sorry, but the selected answer for this question is terribly ill-informed. It doesn't even answer the OP's question of which muscles are actually utilized for each of these activities.

Common myth #1: The pushup is merely an exercise for muscular endurance.

Common myth #2: The bench press is far superior to the pushup for building muscle, mainly due to the ability to quickly and easily adjust resistance.

The problem with the bench press is the bench itself. Your upper body is rendered immobile by the bench, preventing your core from doing any work to stabilize your body; it's all done for you, which is a bad thing. Many professional bodybuilders agree that if you don't have core strength, you have no strength at all. The pushup demands core strength, while the bench press ignores it.

The bench press also ignores the serratus anterior (muscle group on sides of chest from 1st to 8th ribs,) while the pushup, again, demands it.

In fact, doing a proper pushup engages every muscle between your shoulders and toes. Including abdominal, hip, thighs, etc. The bench press can certainly chisel your chest, but little else. You are conserving energy by using far less muscle groups, but you are chiseling far less of your body. So you will end up looking disproportioned if the bench is all you care about.

There are also risks involved with the bench press that are moot with pushups. The bench press will put increased strain on ligaments and tendons (not good,) and can even damage the cartilage pads between your joints (very bad.)

Let's also stomp the misconception in this thread about not being able to apply additional resistance to a pushup. This can easily be accomplished through stacking plates on one's back, wearing a weighted vest, wrapping chains around the torso, elevating one's feet, using one arm, well you get the idea.

Quick anecdote: I know a guy who was doing 350+ on the press, but tore a rotator cuff whilst throwing a tennis ball to his dog. Why? Because all he cared about was the bench. He believed he was far stronger than he actually was simply because of the size of his arms and chest.



http://www.livestrong.com/article/139168-push-ups-vs-bench-press/ http://thebodyweightfiles.blogspot.com/2008/02/pushup-vs-bench-press.html

  • 2
    Could you please add some sources for your theses?
    – mchlfchr
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 7:27
  • 1
    I think a well rounded workout with squats, deadlifts, overhead pressing, benching, chins and dips will build a strong well proportioned body. Pushups are just not easily incrementally loadable. Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 5:06
  • @mchlfchr Sure thing, I've edited my answer and added sources to the bottom. Thanks for pointing that out :)
    – arkon
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 2:22
  • Agreed. The selected answer for this question doesn't remotely answer the question, this should be selected as answer instead.
    – MJB
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 13:14
  • 2
    All of the features of your enhanced/better answer focus on more muscles throughout the body being used or engaged. If the exerciser is trying to isolate and develop the pectoral muscles, that makes your explanation much worse. not better. Not engaging the core is only a bad thing if you don't do anything else. I get that you prefer the pushup, but that doesn't make it better, or worse. It all depends on the entirety of the workout program and the goals of the person exercising. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 16:36

Bench press

  • Can use a lot more weight, so it's ideal for the low rep anaerobic range. It's for mass building.
  • Can be assisted by a spotter, so you can go to failure. This is good for breaking plateaus and stimulating growth.
  • More dangerous if you don't have a spotter. The bar can fall on your chest if you have no more strength to get it back up.
  • You can do incline, decline, or flat bench press which targets upper, lower, and entire chest respectively. A push up is the same angle as a flat bench press.

Push up

  • Only uses 50-70% of the body weight depending on your body proportions, so you're going to do higher rep aerobic range. It's for cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Wrists have to do a little bit more work because of the bent position.
  • Allows for hand position variations than bench press. For example, placing hands near the abs turn the pushup into a tricep workout. Another example is the diamond pushup, which puts more emphasis on inner chest and tricep.
  • 7
    Don't forget about incline and decline pushups to target different muscles. Really the only main difference between pushups and bench press is the amount of weight. Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:09
  • 1
    Both can be used aerobically or anaerobically depending on variables such as load, sets and rest intervals. One nice thing is that you can do push ups anywhere!
    – csi
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 19:21
  • Since I usually work out alone, I do my bench presses using a squat rack. I set the pins so that the weight stops just above my chest and I can safely do the exercise to failure without a spotter. Just make sure that you set the pegs high enough that the weight doesn't rest on your chest at all. Depending on the adjustability of the rack and the bench that you're using, it might not be possible to find a good height, so this can be hit or miss. I've been lucky at most of my gyms in the past.
    – Aardvark
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 18:54
  • 1
    The squat rack doesn't work the stablizer muscles
    – JoJo
    Commented May 16, 2011 at 19:38
  • 2
    @jojo - It sounded to me that Aardvark was referring to using the safety bars in a conventional squat rack or power rack, not a Smith machine. A setup of that sort does work the stabilizer muscles because it's still a bench press with a free barbell instead of a machine press. (If I'm wrong and he's using a Smith Machine or similar and calling it a squat rack, then your response is totally accurate and appropriate.) Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 22:21

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