New Study Shows How The Push-up Can Rival The Bench Press

You don’t need any iron to build serious upper-body strength and work your muscles from head to toe.

Trade in your barbell for your body: The push-up is just as effective for building chest and arm strength as the bench press, finds a new study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Now, it's no secret that the push-up is a killer exercise. However, when it comes to building upper-body strength, a lot of guys opt for loading up a barbell with heavy iron plates instead of pumping out reps of a bodyweight movement. But researchers found that when participants performed a 6-repetition maximum of both the push-up and bench press, the muscle-building results were the same.

People who did push-ups used an elastic band for resistance, as shown in the video below:

You may not even need a big band to provide enough pressure to exhaust your muscles in just 6 reps. "What makes this variation so difficult is that the elastic band provides the most resistance at the top of the push-up," explains David Jack, owner of ActivPrayer, and creator of the Men's Health 60-Day Transformation. "That also happens to be where we're strongest and can recruit the most muscle—and the more fibres you get involved, the more that get strengthened as a result."

And it’s not just your chest muscles that reap the benefit of the band-resisted push-up. "While the band helps zero the tension in on your chest, you still have to engage every muscle from head to toe to maintain a perfect position," explains Jack. That isn’t the case when you’re performing a press while lying on a bench. 

Still, "if you like to bench, bench," Jack says. Just remember that when your body needs a break from the heavy barbell—or you're working out at home or on the road—the push-up is a great alternative that will not only help you avoid losing muscle mass and strength, but gain more of both, too. 

Grab a continuous-loop resistance band that's about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, suggests Jack. It may not sound like much, but it should be enough resistance to induce some serious muscle-building benefits, he says. 

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