Bench Press Versus Pushups Study
Can pushups be used as a substitute for bench presses? Can an athlete develop as much pushing strength using pushups as they can with bench presses? A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research attempted to answer these questions. They used 30 university students with advanced resistance training experience. Some trained with bench press only and others with pushups only (plus a control group). The key to this study is that they matched the EFFORT of the bench press and pushup group using electromyography (measures muscle nerve activity to determine degree of muscle activation). They added resistance to the pushups as necessary to match muscle activation of the bench press group. At the end of 5 weeks, improvement was similar between both groups. Pushing is pushing, whether you use a bench press or a pushup, as long as muscle activation is high.
Calatayud J, Borreani S, Colado JC, Martin F, Tella V, and Andersen LL, Bench press and pushup at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(1), 246-253, 2015.