Can push ups really help to improve your bench press?
After all, when doing a typical push up, you are only pushing (at most), 70% of your body weight.
I tip the scales at 210. That means when I do push ups it’s like benching 145lbs. That’s not an impressive bench for a 210lb guy. I think I could have done that in junior high after a cross country meet.
I love to bench. Without question, it’s my favorite lift. I mean it. If I could get away with it, I’d do it everyday.
And I’m always looking for new ways to increase it. Always looking to get more reps at different weights like…
- 405 (it’s only at 1, but I would like to do it for reps)
But will doing push ups help? I’d never do a bench workout with 145lbs.
Can such a simple bodyweight exercise make me stronger?
As Chandler explained in the video, the answer is yes. Push ups can help you bench more. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at either.
Not only does this incredible exercise help expose weakness in the bench, but also many other weaknesses throughout your body come to light. Beyond the obvious. Shoulder dysfunction and triceps weakness are the first to show up. But it doesn’t take long for many other problems to become evident. And as you tire, even more reveal themselves.
The more common problems outside the shoulders and triceps, lie in the core. I’ve seen division 1 football players not able to do a proper push up. Their hips would sag. Their shoulders would be hunched over. You’d see a lack of strength in the core.
Push Up Workouts
There are a few cool ways you can add push ups to your workouts. And in doing so, you improve your bench press, your core gets stronger, many dysfunctions get addressed, and you may even pack on a little extra muscle mass.
Give these different workouts a try.
100 Rep Race
This is a quick and simple method to increase strength and muscle endurance.
Bang out 100 reps at the end of your workout. Rest when you need to. Take as long as you need. Though the goal is to complete all 100 reps in as few sets as possible. And to do so as quickly as possible.
If you don’t go all the way up, your rep doesn’t count. If you don’t touch your chest to the floor, your rep doesn’t count. If your knees touch before your elbows lock out, your rep doesn’t count.
If you don’t have a lifting partner to challenge, race against yourself. Every time you take the test, make it your mission to out do your last performance.
4 Minute Test
This is a fun yet challenging test. Here are the rules:
- Start the timer before your first rep.
- Test starts from the up position.
- Chest has to touch the floor.
- Elbows have to lock on at the top.
- Poor reps don’t count. Example, knees touch before elbows lock out, allowing hips to sag.
- You can rest, start and stop at any time.
- The goal is to do as many as you can in 4 minutes.
- Record it and beat it next time.
One tip. Don’t go to failure each set. Be sure to leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank. Once you push to the point of failure, each rep gets so much more difficult.
Explosive Push Ups
I use this method all the time. I adopted this from the guys over at Westside Barbell. They do a dynamic effort day on the bench where they use 8×3. Their objective is to move the bar as fast as possible.
I apply the same method with my push ups. I explode up as fast and as hard as I can for 3 reps. I then rest one minute and repeat. This is done for a total of eight sets.
To increase the difficulty of the push-up, I elevate my feet to change the center of gravity so that it’s more over my chest. This is done gradually. Each month my feet are raised a little higher.
This routine is done once a week at the beginning of an upper body push day.
Push Up Variations
Once you’ve mastered the push up tests, it’s time to add some variation into the mix. Below are a few that I like.
Swiss Ball Push Ups
Unlike the typical Swiss ball push up where the hands are on top, with this version you’re going to place your hands on the side of the ball.
With this lower hand position the intensity goes through the roof.
With your hands on the side of the ball it is necessary to squeeze the ball to keep from sliding off. The squeezing action is what Ben referred to as intentions. The shoulder, triceps, and pecs get more stimulation than what you would doing a regular push up.
Resisted Push Ups
With resisted push ups, you have a lot of choices. When I was a youngster, I would have a buddy pile plates on my back. Not the best idea, but it did the job. Luckily, no one ever got hurt. A better method is to use chains or better yet, bands.
Though bands don’t look as cool as chains, they’re much easier to work with. All you have to do is twist the band so it makes an X in the middle. Slip your arms in each side like your putting on a sport coat. Now that X you made should be in the center of your back. Grab each end in a hand, then get down to business.
Med Ball Push Up
Great variation for targeting the triceps. Of course the chest gets its fair share of work. The shoulders, they work overtime as they fire to balance and stabilize your body. All the tiny muscles of the shoulder get a good workout.
Doing a med ball push up isn’t all that different than a regular push up. It’s more difficult, but the mechanics remain the same.
Set up like you would with any other push up. But instead of doing it on the floor do it on a tiny med ball. This means your hands will be closer and it ends up being more like a diamond push up. This really hits the triceps.
Feel free to add resistance to this variation too.
For an added challenge, do the two different tests and watch your arms blow up as you get an incredible tricep pump.
Proper Push Up Form
If your looking to increase your bench press through the aid of push ups. Form matters. Do them wrong and you don’t really get the benefit. In the first video below strength and conditioning coach Eric Cressey goes through a common pushup error. That is followed up by what a good pushup looks like.
Eric Does A Few Push Ups The Proper Way
To correctly perform a push-up start by lying face down on the floor. Have your foot flexed so your toes are pointed and carrying your weight. Your core is tight. Hands are just outside your shoulders. Your head is in a neutral position looking straight down.
Use your upper back muscle to essentially pull you down into the bottom position.
As you press up, be sure to keep the everything tight. Your glutes, and stomach need to be flexed, along with the hands. Thinking about grabbing the floor with your hands and turning your hands out. They won’t move, but you still need to apply plenty of force.
Elbows will be about 45 degrees from your body. It’s common to see the elbows flair. But this is hard on your shoulders. Plus this is the same position you’ll want your elbows will be when you bench.
One aspect that needs stressing is that you go through a full range of motion. Go down all the way. Then at the top of your push up, go all the way up. Think about pushing your body as far away from the floor as possible.
For the longest time I wouldn’t bother with push ups. I thought they were beneath me. I think it was when I first benched 225. I was as proud as a peacock. I didn’t need to bother with such an easy exercise anymore.
As I aged I did get smarter. Even though I’m well past a 225lbs bench press, I still include push ups in my workouts. Add push ups to your workout and watch your bench press increase.