Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2020) 19, 289 - 297

Research article
Push-Ups vs. Bench Press Differences in Repetitions and Muscle Activation between Sexes
Shahab Alizadeh, Machel Rayner, M. Mamdouh Ibrahim Mahmoud, David G. Behm 
Author Information
School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

David G. Behm
✉ PhD School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Publish Date
Received: 02-12-2019
Accepted: 21-01-2020
Published (online): 01-05-2020

Push-ups are an ubiquitous resistance training exercise. While exhibiting a relatively similar upper body motion to the bench press, there are substantial differences in repetitions when employing similar relative loads. The objective was to examine sex-related differences in repetitions and muscle activation associated with push-ups and bench press exercises. Twenty resistance-trained participants (10 men [22 ± 6.1 years] and 10 [24 ± 5.7 years] women) performed maximum push-up and bench press repetitions with loads relative to the body mass during a push-up. Electromyographic (EMG) electrodes were positioned on the middle and anterior deltoids, triceps and biceps brachii, and pectoralis major muscles and their relative (normalized to a maximum voluntary contraction) activity was compared between the two exercises performed to task failure. Both females (3.5 ± 3.9 vs.15.5 ± 8.0 repetitions; p = 0.0008) and males (12.0 ± 6.3 vs. 25.6 ± 5.2 repetitions; p < 0.0001) performed 77.4% and 53.1% less bench press than push-up repetitions respectively. Males significantly exceeded females with both push-ups (p = 0.01) and bench press (p = 0.004) repetitions. Significant linear regression equations were found for females (r2 = 0.55; p = 0.03), and males (r2 = 0.66; p < 0.0001) indicating that bench press repetitions increased 0.36 and 0.97 for each push-up repetition for females and males respectively. Triceps (p = 0.002) and biceps brachii (p = 0.03) EMG mean amplitude was significantly lower during the push-up concentric phase, while the anterior deltoid (p = 0.03) exhibited less activity during the bench press eccentric phase. The sex disparity in repetitions during these exercises indicates that a push-up provides a greater challenge for women than men and regression equations may be helpful for both sexes when formulating training programs.

Key words: Electromyography, muscle endurance, resistance training, females, gender

           Key Points
  • Greater push-up repetitions were completed than with a similar load bench press.
  • Men had less EMG activity during the exercises potentially contributing to their higher repetitions in both bench press and push-ups compared to women
  • Based on the strong correlation between bench press and push-up repetitions a regression equation was calculated to predict the bench press repetitions from push-up performance. The regression equation can aid in developing training programs
  • Push-ups may provide a greater training stress to women than men and provide an excellent starting point when initiating a resistance training program.
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