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#1
Old 05-31-2015, 01:54 AM
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Weighted pushups as percentage of equivalent bench press

I read that a pushup is 70% of body weight as a bench press equivalent (forgive the tangled syntax!). Thus, if you weight 200 lbs., then doing a pushup is like benching 70% of that, or 140 lbs. This sounds reasonable to me: there is a lot of weight in the legs, etc., that is far from where you are pushing (moment arms, etc. etc.).

But I wear a 36 lb. weighted vest while doing pushups, and I the other day I had someone hold a 25 lb. medicine ball on top of that. Since I weigh about 200, that's 261 total lbs., 70% of which is 183 lbs. However, since all of that weight is directly *above* where I am pushing, it seems it should count for more.

Any ideas on how to arrive at an accurate calculation? I'm sure it's complex and would involve the length of the body, weight distribution throughout the body, etc. Thanks!
#2
Old 05-31-2015, 02:38 AM
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Put your hands on a scale
#3
Old 05-31-2015, 03:46 AM
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Ah hah, great idea!
#4
Old 05-31-2015, 05:17 AM
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I did just that, years back. I found out that in a basic pushup the resistance equals 74 % of my bodyweight. Feet elevated, the resistance rose to 78 %. In pushups, the resistance lowers as the rep progresses and the leverages change. The 74 % applies to the lowered position, nose touching the floor. In full extension (elbows locked), the resistance dropped to 70 % of BW, just as you had heard.

Donning a backpack with weight plates in it, I found out that app. 75% of the backpack weight translates into measurable resistance in pushups. To get to a BW load in doing pushups ( ie. pressing my own weight) @ 196 lbs., I had to elevate my feet and wear a 65-lb. backpack. At this point, backpack integrity and assuming the position started to become an issue, and I switched to weighted, Gironda-style dips, which is a superb chest / triceps exercise, and can be easily loaded to 100 lbs. and beyond. Having never benched, I get compliments on my massive pecs every once in a while.
#5
Old 05-31-2015, 05:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toxylon View Post
I did just that, years back. I found out that in a basic pushup the resistance equals 74 % of my bodyweight. Feet elevated, the resistance rose to 78 %. In pushups, the resistance lowers as the rep progresses and the leverages change. The 74 % applies to the lowered position, nose touching the floor. In full extension (elbows locked), the resistance dropped to 70 % of BW, just as you had heard.

Donning a backpack with weight plates in it, I found out that app. 75% of the backpack weight translates into measurable resistance in pushups. To get to a BW load in doing pushups ( ie. pressing my own weight) @ 196 lbs., I had to elevate my feet and wear a 65-lb. backpack. At this point, backpack integrity and assuming the position started to become an issue, and I switched to weighted, Gironda-style dips, which is a superb chest / triceps exercise, and can be easily loaded to 100 lbs. and beyond. Having never benched, I get compliments on my massive pecs every once in a while.
Thanks, great info! I will go with the 75% figure.

Dips are also one of my main exercises, and I add weight to them as well. But since you are pushing all of the weight, there is no mystery there.

Another exercise I am finding very effective is medicine ball pushups with very slow and even negs. It really burns out my lower chest. I will do a set of weighted dips and then do a burnout set right after on the medicine ball. I do the weighted pushups separately. I find the dips and medicine ball pushups really work the chest, whereas the pushups in the regular position seem to hit the front delts a lot more. I can see why some people feel that the bench press doesn't work their chest all that much.
#6
Old 05-31-2015, 11:17 AM
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Interesting experiment Toxylon. You both also bring up another point though ... you can determine how much weight you are pressing with the scale approach but the movement is a different one than the bench press using slightly different, albeit greatly overlapping, muscle sets. Out of curiosity, do you recall if the scale read differently at the bottom of the push up vs at the top?

Another experimental approach would be to actually determine your 1 RM weighted push up and then get to a gym (or the house of a friend with a bench press set up) and determine your 1 RM on the bench. (And that can be done by a proxy for 1 RM on each, like the max you can perform a set of 5 reps to near failure.)

OTOH for practical purposes it doesn't matter does it? One just uses the amount of weight that has you hitting the number of reps you are aiming for on the set being just able to do the last rep in decent form. If for some reason you really want to answer "Whaddaya bench?" then you gotta bench it to know.
#7
Old 05-31-2015, 12:47 PM
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I'm not sure you can assume they are equivalent re effort . A 70% bodyweight bench press is (IMO) a lot harder to do than a pushup for multiple reps.
#8
Old 05-31-2015, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by astro View Post
I'm not sure you can assume they are equivalent re effort . A 70% bodyweight bench press is (IMO) a lot harder to do than a pushup for multiple reps.
I disagree. I think the difference in perception is reps. People doing push-ups think nothing of high reps, but limit their reps per set when lifting weights; someone doing a single set of fifty push-ups would grind them out, while limiting their reps to ten or so with weights. People are more willing to work to failure with bodyweight exercises.
#9
Old 05-31-2015, 03:25 PM
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Okay, collected more experimental data/anecdote -

My weight: 155 #. Put 45# of plates in a backpack and was able to do 15 reps before struggling to complete in good form.

155 + 45 = 200. Went with the 75% figure, so should be the equivalent of benching 150# for 15 reps.

Rested a few minute and set-up the bench with 150#. 10 was the last with decent form.

Rested a while more and went down to 140#, the 70% of the weighted push-up mark. 13 reps and I had to arch my back a bit.

Conclusion with n of 1: the difficulty of a weighted push-up for a recreationally trained fitness hobbyist is less than 70% of what the same person could likely bench for the same number of reps. I do not believe my difficulty in completing more reps on the bench press was a matter of perception.
#10
Old 05-31-2015, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Conclusion with n of 1: the difficulty of a weighted push-up for a recreationally trained fitness hobbyist is less than 70% of what the same person could likely bench for the same number of reps. I do not believe my difficulty in completing more reps on the bench press was a matter of perception.
Nice experiment, thanks!

I think astro is also right: the pushup is easier for equivalent weight.

DSeid is also right: they are not the same movement.

But here's the thing: even though the pushup is easier, that doesn't mean it's hitting your chest *less* at that same equivalent weight.

I've heard a lot of people complain online that the bench burns out their front delts without working the chest much at all. I haven't benched in awhile (and it's not an exercise I enjoy), but my impression was that my delts and tris would get a workout but not my pecs very much. With the pushup, I feel a more even balance between pecs and delts. With dips, I feel it much more in my pecs and less in my delts.

So the fact that the pushup feels "easier" might be because you're able to load all the muscles more evenly. And that is likely to be a good thing, depending on what you want.

Different exercises certainly affect people in different ways. I just naturally have strong quads, and I feel squats almost totally in my lower back and posterior chain. I get no quad burn at all. For other people, it totally works the quads. Not that you all don't already know this stuff.
#11
Old 05-31-2015, 05:51 PM
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Not sure about the bench not hitting the chest much at all ... there's a lot of EMG data and many many very strong people that say otherwise. But the pattern of muscle activation is different between the two, and that is only considering the main muscles involved.

One way to think of it may be that a push up is doing a bench press while the bench gradually moves from horizontal to a slight decline press during the movement. Implicit in that is a greater variety of motor units firing at different points in the movement and fewer firing the whole time. More motor units being rotated in allows for more work to be done during the set before individual units fatigue.
#12
Old 05-31-2015, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Okay, collected more experimental data/anecdote -

My weight: 155 #. Put 45# of plates in a backpack and was able to do 15 reps before struggling to complete in good form.

155 + 45 = 200. Went with the 75% figure, so should be the equivalent of benching 150# for 15 reps.

Rested a few minute and set-up the bench with 150#. 10 was the last with decent form.

Rested a while more and went down to 140#, the 70% of the weighted push-up mark. 13 reps and I had to arch my back a bit.

Conclusion with n of 1: the difficulty of a weighted push-up for a recreationally trained fitness hobbyist is less than 70% of what the same person could likely bench for the same number of reps. I do not believe my difficulty in completing more reps on the bench press was a matter of perception.
OK, that's a good experiment, but are you able to complete three consecutive sets of 15 reps with 45 lbs. in a backpack? Because if you aren't, then fatigue probably played a big role in your results on sets number two and three.

And you have to be careful about extrapolating your findings. Since strength depends greatly on neuromuscular efficiency, it could be that a recreationally trained fitness hobbyist who practiced benches more often than pushups might get much different results.
#13
Old 05-31-2015, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Not sure about the bench not hitting the chest much at all ... there's a lot of EMG data and many many very strong people that say otherwise. But the pattern of muscle activation is different between the two, and that is only considering the main muscles involved.
Sure, it's just something that I've heard from more than one person online.
#14
Old 05-31-2015, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Enter the Flagon View Post
OK, that's a good experiment, but are you able to complete three consecutive sets of 15 reps with 45 lbs. in a backpack? Because if you aren't, then fatigue probably played a big role in your results on sets number two and three. ... it could be that a recreationally trained fitness hobbyist who practiced benches more often than pushups might get much different results.
From my regular exercise routine I know that I can repeat a multiple identical sets to point of near failure after 3 to 4 minute "rest" periods (aerobic in between), whether they be higher weight sets of 3 to 5, or medium weight sets of 8 to 12, and I gave myself significantly longer between the sets than that. For the last one I actually went out for an errand in between ... it was near 45 minutes.

I bench with more regularity than I do push ups, and much much more than weighted push ups.

No question though and duly acknowledged: n of 1. I'd be interested in what others find doing something similar.
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