Push ups are just as good as a bench press if you want to get big arms: official | T3

Push ups are just as good as a bench press if you want to get big arms: official

Push ups, with just one small addition, can activate your muscles as much as any bench press

Push up
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The humble push up is having a moment, thanks to lockdown. Not only is it a calisthenics exercise that can be done in a small space, it's also easy to do and surprisingly effective. 

With fitness fans largely unable to access the best home weights, and no squat racks or bench press in their sheds, more and more home exercisers are turning to push ups, and other bodyweight exercises, to continue training their muscles.

While pull-up bars and resistance bands are becoming invaluable training aids, science claims you can actually replace one key piece of gym equipment with a simple body weight exercise. 

A study published in the journal Sports Medicine International Open measured the muscle activation of eight upper body muscles when performing bench press and push up moves. 

Push up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The study measured bench press exercises and push ups, using weighted vests to simulate the effects of a heavier load on the push ups. The results speak for themselves: the study demonstrated no differences in muscle activation between the two exercises.

This is great news for people struggling to get their gains in while the gyms remain closed. Bench presses and push ups activate the same muscle groups, including the triceps, deltoids and pectoral muscles. 

With the addition of a weighted vest, participants were able to lift different loads, matching the muscle activation recorded during a bench press!


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Weighted vests can transform your normal bodyweight routine. It can increase the difficulty of squats, pull ups, push ups and total-body exercises such as burpees or Turkish get-ups. Adding to the difficulty of your normal routine simulates the increased stress you put your muscles under with gym machines, training your muscles harder than you could ever manage with bodyweight reps alone.

There's more: one study from the University of Gothenburg found simply wearing weighted vests eight hours a day, for three weeks, and doing no additional exercises resulted in a drop in BMI and lower obesity risks. If you're now working from home, you can go about your day wearing the extra weight and improve your body without even upping your exercise routine. 

Who needs access to the bench press? Grab yourself a weighted vest and get your own home gym for a fraction of the price. Who knows: you might even like it so much that you cancel your gym membership once everything reopens.

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