What distinguishes push-ups from other chest exercises such as the bench press and dumbbell flies?
Looking to know the difference between push-ups, bench press and dumbbell flies? Look no further. In this article, we take you through what distinguishes one from the other and what you need to know for the best results.
As you know the main differences between push ups and bench press / dumbbell flies is the fact that the latter uses weights and the former is entirely bodyweight orientated. But there’s much more to it than that.
What distinguishes push-ups from bench press and dumbbell flies in terms of muscle activation?
Push Ups, Bench Press and dumbbell flies mainly do the same thing – they all target your chest, front shoulders, triceps and lats from a pushing motion. However, when doing Bench Press and Dumbbell Flies the weight moves and your upper body is stabilized on a bench, which makes it easier to focus on your chest and push more weight.
However, when you’re doing push-ups, you’re moving your body instead of the weight. In doing so, you’re performing more joint movement and core activation to achieve similar levels of stabilization.
In short, with weights like dumbbell flies and bench press you’re moving more weight but activating less muscles, but with push ups you’re activating more muscle groups but usually pushing less weight.
What distinguishes push-ups from bench press and dumbbell flies in terms of strength gains?
Under the same load (weight) bench press, dumbbell flies and push ups can result in similar strength gains according to studies .
The important part of that sentence is that we said under the same load. In reality, it’s much easier to up your strength with a bench press or dumbbells as you can easily increase the weight and as your strength increases.
Whereas with push-ups, you either need to start adding weight to yourself via weighted equipment or by introducing variations to your push-up routine. Both of which is more difficult that just changing a plate or a dumbbell.
In summary, bench press and dumbbell flies are easier options to produce strength gains, whereas push-ups require more technical skill, equipment and general variation.
Could you substitute your bench-press or dumbbell flies with push-ups?
You could, but the results would not be the same. The issue is that the bench press and dumbbell flies concentrate on absolute power of your upper body, whereas push-ups focus more on your core and more.
If you have no other option they are a great choice, but don’t expect to go back to your bench press and be able to lift the same amount of weight.
The main advantage of push-ups here is that it works with your body as a whole. You have to use your muscles to stabilize yourself, instead of a weight. In doing so this may help you to build more functional strength, as opposed to the more isolated chest, shoulders, triceps and lat results you’d get with a bench press or dumbbell flies.
Summary: What distinguishes push-ups from other chest exercises such as the bench press and dumbbell flies?
In conclusion, these are all similar exercises but they do have different benefits when you get down to the finer details.
Push-ups have the advantage of being more accessible as you can do them anywhere. They’re also good for overall body-weight strength which can be more functional as they work your core and general stabilization.
Bench Press / Dumbbell Flies on the other hand are all about maximum power. You can also progress on these lifts much easier as all you do is change plates / dumbbells to challenge yourself. They also help improve your overall should stabilization.
It’s your call as to whether you want a more functional base or a power base.
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- What distinguishes push-ups from other chest exercises such as the bench press and dumbbell flies?
 Calatayud J, Borreani S, Colado JC, Martin F, Tella V, Andersen LL. Bench press and push-up at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(1):246-253. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000589