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The bench press is a staple exercise in many powerlifting, bodybuilding, sports training and general fitness plans. It's highly effective for building upper-body strength, size and muscular endurance. Pushups, on the other hand, are often overlooked and thought of as a beginner exercise, but this isn't the case. Both exercises have different benefits and can be used in the same routine for optimal results.
Bench presses work your chest, shoulders and triceps muscles, but they also hit your glutes, hamstrings and core, claims powerlifter and corrective exercise specialist Mike Robertson. When bench pressing for strength, you should drive your hips into the bench and feet into the floor and think of it as a total-body exercise. Pushups also work the chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Wearing a weighted vest doesn't change what muscles are worked but does place slightly more stress on your abdominals and lower back.
Ease of Performance
For a beginner, bench presses may be a better option. Although both exercises require an equal amount of coordination and concentration to perform, you can start with just an empty barbell to learn the technique on bench presses. Performing body-weight pushups when you're new to training, however, can be quite difficult, and that's without adding a weighted vest into the equation.
Bench presses can place unnecessary strain on your shoulder joint, according to trainer Chad Waterbury, author of "Huge in a Hurry." Performing bench presses on a regular basis can lead to muscle imbalances and damage to the soft tissue that surrounds the joint. Most lifters don't use correct technique, which often leads to shoulder issues later down the line, adds athletic strength coach Eirik Sandvik. Pushups, on the other hand, tend to be easier on the joints, claims coach Eric Cressey in his book "Maximum Strength." The range of motion is more natural, and even weighted pushups are relatively risk-free.
Use both exercises in your routine. Because bench presses can be demanding and pose a slightly higher risk of injury than weighted pushups, you should only train them with heavy weights for short periods of three to four weeks at a time. In the next four weeks, make weighted pushups your main upper-body exercise. Perform three to five sets of five to eight repetitions on each. After your second four week cycle, take a week's rest then go back to bench presses, aiming to use slightly heavier weights than before.