Bench press, push-ups, or rather a machine?

What you should use in your training and why the front section of the shoulder girdle is often trained completely wrong – find out in the aerobis Blog!

gym bench press chest training

Are also one of those guys that goes to the gym all week to look good in the disco on weekends? The main focus clearly lies on the chest and biceps! This officially makes you a special, very front-centered kind of meathead. Quickly get in that tight longsleeve with the huge v-neck, do your hair, and paint the town red!

But why focus on chest and biceps alone?

Well, obviously the potential mating candidates will notice these immediately. But does this tactic actually work out? I like to think: no it doesn’t. Especially, when it becomes brutally obvious that you have skipped leg day once too often for a good ol’ session of bench pressing.

Furthermore, a permanent problem can arise: many (if not most) of the aforementioned (commonly) prepubescent xy chromosome heaps go to the gym and focus on bench pressing as chest workout and biceps curl with the EZ bar as the workout for their arms and forget to train the antagonist muscles. Is it too drastic to claim that they probably don’t train the antagonists at all? I think not. Postural defects can be the result. Especially repeated and heavy bench pressing with the barbell can lead to a constantly increased tone in the chest musculature (pectoralis major) while possibly shortening permanently.

Almog Dayan, IPA's world champion 2007 in

Why is that so?

It lies in the very nature of the exercise that you can only lower the weight to your chest when bench pressing. In the lowest position, the bench lies on your sternum. The pectoralis (and the other involved muscles), however, can (and should!) be working in their full range of motion and be trained accordingly. To achieve full range of motion, your arms should be able to move past your body to a position significantly lower. This is impossible with a barbell. Additionally, the shoulder blades cannot glide inwards optimally when you are lying on a bench and this prevents them from working perfectly. This is also the reason why changing to dumbbells is not really the best alternative. It is like fueling for only 400 km when your holiday resort is 600 km away. The rest is simply missing. What a shame!

Muscle memory

If you are permanently training your chest musculature over a short distance, it will remember this and ask itself why it should even be able to move over the remaining centimeters. Following the motto: if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The results are excessive internal rotation of the upper arms, the common forward-leaning shoulders, and an unnatural kyphosis (bending forward) of the thoracic spine. The head sinks forward and gravity does the rest.

What’s particularly bad about this is the fact the the back, shoulder, and neck musculature is lengthened and has to work against that excentrically. A sheer struggle over time. Tension and induration are the results. Even when you are not one of the aforementioned meatheads you can suffer from this and have constant or recurring headaches and neck pain.

office sitting posture postural defect

Are push-ups functional?

You can now say that push-ups, commonly praised as being a perfect example of functional training, will also not let you train in full range of motion.

And that is surely correct! But this only goes for the chest musculature. Sure, the movement stops when you reach the floor. But at least the shoulder blades can work freely. Additionally, you will create impulses for the core and practice to keep full body tension. These are great benefits that will not necessarily help you in the disco but which will certainly make you more fit and increase your overall athletic capability. And if you claim that push-ups are not intense enough for you, I would have to respond: there are uncountable variations of the classic push-up that will make it more challenging. Whether you change the position of your body or you use additional equipment like resistance bands or a weight vest. If you are interested in progressions and regressions in bodyweight training see a previous blog post about bodyweight training here.

Exercise variations push-up resistance band heightened feet weight vest

Push-up variations: with resistance band (left), with heightened feet (center) and with weight vest (right).

However, the most effective and variable piece of equipment for chest training is the aeroSling Sling Trainer. Doing push-ups in the suspended deflection pulley trainer you can train in full range of motion, the shoulder blades can move freely, you create additional impulses for your core, and you add an element of instability to the exercise that increases your coordination and balance. The deflection pulley also helps to even out muscular dysbalances because your stronger side can no longer do the work for your weaker side. The times of cheating and copying from your bench neighbor are over! Another great advantage: with the aeroSling you can also train the antagonists. Switching from push-ups to rowing is simply a matter of seconds.

aerobis aeroSling sling trainer Push-up suspended deflection pulley trainer exercise

Since I have already given you the solution for climate change, ending corruption in FIFA, and curing the obesity epidemic in the western world, I think I don’t have to explain to you why using machines is not the best idea. If you are a somewhat regular visitor to our blog or familiar with our philosophy of training you probably know what we think of two-dimensional, guided training.

What’s also worth noting is what options in general each exercise gives you: push-ups can be done everywhere and at any time of day (or night). Even if you implement a sling trainer into your training routine you generally have no limits. All you need is a suspension point and about 4 sqm of space. The sling trainer also gives you more options when it comes to progression and regression and weighs only about 1 kg. This makes it very mobile. A bench and a barbell are practically stationary and significantly more expensive. Thinking of machine training, this is even more expensive and even more impractical. When you go to the gym you often find one machine for every single portion of your chest musculature. This is the reason why these machine parks often take up about the same space as four tennis courts.

At the end of the day, all I have left to say is: you can train your chest in various ways and you definitely should. Your body has its own memory. Vary your movements and train in full range of motion. Don’t forget the antagonists and remember to work on your mobility as well.

How about your training? How do you increase your ability to press?

And remember,
get functional!
Your Fabien

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