Do Push-Ups Help Bench Press? (Yes, Here’s How)

Do Push-Ups Help Bench Press (Yes, Here's How)

Whether you are a general gym-goer, bodybuilder, or athlete, loads of people want to have a big bench press. 

Coaches and lifters have their different philosophies on programming and exercise selection for increasing bench press. 

But one common question we get frequently is…

Do push-ups help the bench press? Yes, push-ups do help the bench press. Push-ups help bench press performance by improving work capacity, building muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and maintaining healthy function of the shoulder joint and shoulder blades for training longevity.

In this article, we will go through exactly how push-ups can help with the bench press, who should and should not perform it, and how it can be implemented into your training to help the bench press.

How Do Push-Ups Help the Bench Press? (3 Ways)

Three ways that the push up can help the bench press are:

  • Push-ups train the same muscles that the bench press uses
  • Push-ups help keep the shoulders healthy for pushing exercises
  • Push-ups can help with sticking points on the bench press

1.  Push-Ups Train the Same Muscles That the Bench Press Uses

The push-ups target the pectoral, deltoid, and tricep muscles, which are also the primary muscles used in the bench press. Push-ups can help increase muscle mass, muscular endurance, and muscular strength in these muscle groups.

If you are someone who is used to bench pressing or generally doing horizontal pressing exercises with higher intensity loads, you may benefit from performing push-ups. 

Push-ups may be performed at high reps to a low load exercise to add a novel stimulus for muscular endurance and muscle hypertrophy. This will increase work capacity for your bench press training (i.e. you’ll be able to perform more sets and reps than previously).

If you are a novice or intermediate lifter, then push-ups themselves can be a big enough stimulus for increasing muscle mass and muscular strength as well (especially if you perform the reps to failure). This will in turn increase your bench press strength.


Muscle mass is important for long-term gains in muscular strength as research shows that muscle mass is correlated with strength performance among powerlifters.

2.  Push-Ups Help Keep the Shoulders Healthy for Pushing Exercises

Lateral Raise

Push-ups allow more freedom of movement of the shoulder blades and activate muscles such as the serratus anterior (the muscles that wrap around the rib cage). This muscle is important for keeping the shoulders healthy in pressing movements.

When we perform the bench press and other common pressing exercises such as dumbbell bench press, we often keep our shoulder blades pinched back and down. Over time we risk overuse injuries in our shoulders and pec muscles especially if the pecs are trained through a very stretched range of motion.

The push-ups can help by still training a similar movement, but allowing more natural freedom of movement in the shoulders. Training these stabilizing muscles such as the serratus anterior is helpful for health and longevity in the shoulders.

3. Push-Ups Can Help With Sticking Points on the Bench Press

Push-ups can help with sticking points in the bench press by having the push-up being performed in different hand positions.

For example, if you are someone who tends to over-flare the elbows and fails in the mid position of the bench press, you could benefit from having a push-up with a narrow hand position where the elbows are more tucked. 

This will also target the triceps more as when you tuck your elbows closer to your side it will reinforce the proper position of how your elbows are supposed to be in the bench press, as well as increasing the range of motion for your triceps.

Check out my Top 16 Tricep Exercises To Increase Bench Press Strength. 

Who Should Do Push-Ups for the Bench Press?

Here are 4 types of people who should use push ups to increase bench press strength:

  • If you have little gym equipment
  • If you find discomfort in your shoulders during bench press
  • If you want to build work capacity for bench press
  • If you plateau in your bench press

If You Have Little Gym Equipment

If you are someone who trains at home, you may find yourself lacking equipment if all you have is a barbell and bench press. The push-up is an accessible and very versatile exercise where you can change the way you place your hand and your body to create different stimuli.

Changing the way you position yourself can change the difficulty in the push-ups as you get better at them (wider for more pec activation, narrower for more tricep activation). 

You can also put a load on your back to increase the intensity of the push-ups (such as a weight plate).

If You Find Discomfort in Your Shoulders During Bench Press

If you are someone who bench presses a lot or does a lot of pressing with your shoulder blades pinched back, you may benefit from doing push-ups where you allow yourself to reach and protract your shoulder blades more.

As with all discomfort and injuries, you should always seek a qualified medical professional or physical therapist to support you with such matters.

But push-ups can be an excellent bench press alternative if you can’t perform a loaded barbell bench press pain-free.  

If You Want To Build Work Capacity for Bench Press

The push-up is an exercise that can be performed to high repetitions as you get better at them. This means that you can use push-ups to increase your muscular endurance and energy systems to improve your overall work capacity.

Increasing your work capacity means that you can perform more work in the bench press (more sets and reps over time), which is important for making continuous long-term progression.

If You Plateau in Your Bench Press

If you plateau in your bench press, it may be that you are struggling with a position in the bench press range of motion or you are struggling to perform more reps.

Push-ups are a good way to solve both of these problems as:

Who Should Not Do Push-Ups for the Bench Press?

Here are 2 reasons why you should not do push-ups for the bench press:

  • If you struggle to keep your shoulders pinched back during the bench press
  • If you want to improve your bench press technique

If You Struggle To Keep Your Shoulders Pinched Back During the Bench Press

Many novice lifters may struggle with keeping the shoulder blades pinched back during the bench press. This is important to be able to bench safely.

The push-up movement encourages you to protract your shoulder blades (have your shoulders in a more ‘forward position’, which is undesirable for the bench press. So if you are trying to practice keeping them back during the bench press, you want to avoid doing push-ups.

Alternative exercises to the push-ups that may help the bench press are incline bench press, close grip bench press, and dumbbell bench press.

Related Articles: Dips vs Push Ups: Pros, Cons, Which Is Better? and Diamond Push Up: How To, Benefits, Muscles Worked

If You Want To Improve Your Bench Press Technique

If you are looking to improve your bench press technique as you may be inconsistent between reps or you are very shaky, then you should not do push-ups.

Instead what you need to focus more on is the bench press movement and perform more work and specificity to the bench press. Having push-ups in your routine is going to add a lot of variation, which is not what you want in this case.

Useful variations you may benefit from with this problem are the tempo bench press where you spend more time during the descent of the barbell to the chest or the long pause bench press where you spend more time holding the barbell by the chest.

How Should Push-Ups Be Performed To Improve the Bench Press? (3 Variations)

Push-ups can be performed in different ways so here are 3 great variations to try, and what problems they can solve:

  • Deficit Push-Ups
  • Close Grip Push-ups
  • Weighted Push-Ups

Deficit Push-Ups

Deficit push-ups are push-ups that are performed with an elevation on your hands. 

You should check out the following items that assist with the deficit push-ups:

Performing deficit push-ups are great for increasing the range of motion and stretching the pecs out more, which makes it useful for anyone looking to build more muscle or increase the strength off of the chest during the bench press.

Close Grip Push-Ups

Close-grip push-ups are push-ups where your hands are a little closer together at around shoulder-width grip and kept at around lower chest level.

The close-grip push-up is useful for anyone who wants to bias the stimulus on the triceps more. Also for anyone who tends to over flare their elbows in the bench press to the point that their elbows are no longer under the barbell during the bench press.

Weighted Push-Ups

Weighted push-ups are regular push-ups where you place a load on your back. This is useful for anyone who is competent at push-ups to the point that they can perform many push-ups to a high number.

Weighted push-ups are suitable for anyone looking to generally increase their bench press strength with no specific sticking point.

Check Out Other Push Up Guides:

How To Program Push-Ups for the Bench Press?

Beginner Push Up Program for Bench Press

Week 1

Day: 1

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Day: 2

  • Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 8 reps

Week 2

Day: 1

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Day: 2

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Week 3

Day: 1

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 9 reps

Day: 2

  • Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 10 reps

Week 4

Day: 1

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 9 reps

Day: 2

  • Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Intermediate Push Up Program for Bench Press

Week 1

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 8 reps

Week 2

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Week 3

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 9 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 10 reps

Week 4

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 9 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Advanced Push Up Program for Bench Press

Week 1

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 8 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 10 reps

Day: 3

  • Deficit Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 10 reps

Week 2

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Day: 3

  • Deficit Push-Ups
  • 2 sets 10 reps

Week 3

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 11 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Day: 3

  • Deficit Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Week 4

Day: 1

  • Weighted Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 12 reps

Day: 2

  • Close Grip Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Day: 3

  • Deficit Push-Ups
  • 3 sets 10 reps

Other Resources For Increasing Bench Press


About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com