The Push-Up Or The Bench Press?

Because this time of year everyone’s starting or intensifying their workouts for the summer – swimsuits, vacations, etc – I wanted to prevent you from making some common training mistakes.

So in keeping with the “ramping up the workouts theme”, here’s a common question I like to ask…

Which is better the push-up or the bench press?

If you said the bench press, I strongly believe you are wrong and trust me I learned the HARD way…2 surgeries later!

Typically when most of us walk into the gym, what is the first thing you jump on?

(This is mainly for the guys, but ladies this is still important to you even though most women do not make this mistake)

The bench press.

I was definitely one of those guys. I was actually benching 2-3x per week at one time. I know, I know, I’m still paying for it 13 + years later.

So lets get back to the original question…the push-up or the bench press?

The push-up is much more effective and safer than the bench press.

When I say safer, just walk into any gym and look at the older powerlifters walking around. They are the one’s with the severely rounded shoulders and the one’s who can’t lift their arms above their heads.

I already know what you are going to say…

“All the athletes do it”

NO, all the athletes USED to do it.

Just think about it for a minute…In what sport do you lie on your back and push a load up in the air, and which this is considered a GOOD thing?


In most sports if you are on your back you are in BIG, BIG trouble.

In addition to lack of functionality, the bench press WREAKS HAVOC on the shoulder complex.

On the other hand, push-ups and the hundreds of variations are some of the best upper body exercises you can do. Not only do they develop upper body and core (Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex) strength, but can also hit your lower extremities as well.

Check out the Blast-Off push-ups…

Here are 3 more reasons NOT to bench press and to do push-ups instead:

1.) Your shoulder blades are “stuck” in a fixed position when using the bench press

Because the shoulder blades are unable to move, this weakens the finger like muscles, serratus anterior, who’s primary job is to stabilize and pull the shoulder blades forward.

If theses finger like muscles are prevented (and weakened) from doing their job, this causes your shoulder blades to “wing” (move away from the midline of your body), limiting your shoulder range of motion. This limited range of motion will lead to muscle imbalances and injury..most likely impingement syndrome, which hurts like HELL.

The push-up actually strengthens AND allows the serratus anterior to do its job.

2.) Your core musculature is NOT activated

When lying on your back performing the bench, the musculature of the core is relaxed because the bench is actually taking over the job of your core. If those muscles do not get used, they get weak.

The movement of the push-up actually forces your core to fire and work throughout the whole movement.

3.) Safety

Believe it or not, you put your shoulders under the most “stress” (pressure/risk) when putting/pulling the bar on and off the rack. This puts a lot of excessive strain on the rotator cuff.

And this is ON TOP OF the strain the bench press puts your rotator cuff in while performing the movement itself.

Through my years working in a physical therapy clinic, rotator cuff tears are one of the worst injuries to come back from. Surgery and rehab ARE torture.

Push-ups on the other hand, are extremely safe because you don’t have to rack and re-rack your body.

So get off the bench and start doing those push-ups.

Here’s a few more variations for you…

If you’re not already doing so, add a few of these push-ups to your program TODAY and I guarantee you will be happy with the results and so will your shoulders : )

Committed to YOUR success,


P.S. Another great substitution for the bench press is the dumbbell floor press. Check it out…

Much safer on your shoulders as well!

P.P.S. Here are some other posts you need to check out (in case you missed them)…

9 Exercises to AVOID
5 Types of Strength Training
Cross-Fit: Yes or No?

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