Press Up vs Push Up Variations & Alternatives

Press Up vs Push Up

Building a thick, strong, and muscular chest can be difficult if you have limited gym equipment. Fortunately, exercises like the press-up can help you build muscle without equipment.

So what exactly is a press-up? And how is it different from a push-up?

Read on for answers to those questions and learn how to do press-ups to build your chest and arms. You’ll also get 7 unique exercise variations to work your muscles in multiple ways.

What Is a Press-Up?

The press-up is a common calisthenics exercise where you push your body weight from the floor to arm’s length in the prone position. By extending your arms, press-ups work the muscles supporting the shoulder and elbow joints and the stabilizer muscles of the hips and abdomen.

Press Up Exercise FAQ

Here are some quick answers to the most frequently asked press-up and push-up questions.

What is the difference between a push-up and press-up?

The term press-up is synonymous with push-up. In other words, they are the same exercise, and there is no real difference between them.

Instead, the difference is simply regional dialects. Press-up is the British name for the exercise, while the rest of the world calls it a push-up.

Other than that, they are the same thing. So from here on out, I will use the terms press up and push up interchangeably.

What are the benefits of push-ups?

Push-ups are a versatile exercise with numerous benefits related to strength and conditioning. Here are the top 5 benefits of push-ups:

  1. Build upper body strength
  2. Develop core stability
  3. Require little to no gym equipment
  4. Functional movement that translates to practical strength
  5. Multiple variations for beginners and advanced athletes

How many push-ups a day is a good workout?

You’ve probably heard of some people doing hundreds of push-ups a day to get in shape. But most people will benefit from 50-100 per day.

How many push-ups you do per day depends on your experience level and fitness goals. And, of course, you should focus more on quality than quantity to get the most results from your push-ups.

Related: How Many Pull-Ups Should You Be Able to Do?

Do push-ups reduce belly fat?

Some of the calories you burn while doing push-ups come from fat. However, push-ups do not directly burn belly fat.

Moreover, you will only lose body fat if you burn more calories than you take in daily. Push-ups can help increase your energy expenditure to create this calorie deficit, but you must also pay attention to your diet.

Related: 10 Tips for How to Get Abs Faster

Press-Up Muscles Worked

All variations of press-ups or push-ups target your chest muscles, also known as the pectorals. In this regard, push-ups are similar to the bench press exercise.

In addition, push-ups work your shoulder and triceps muscles. Specifically, the front deltoid and long head of the tricep get the most activation during this exercise.

Press Up Exercise Muscles Worked

How to do Press-Ups

The easiest way to begin the push-up exercise is by getting on all fours. Then place your palms flat on the floor with your hands about shoulder-width apart.

Next, lift your knees off the floor, so your legs form a straight line with your upper body. Your weight should now be supported on your hands and toes.

From there, lower your body towards the floor by bending at the elbows and shoulders. Once your chest reaches the floor, extend your arms to lift your body back to the starting position.

Repeat this down/up motion until you can’t complete another repetition with good form or you reach the desired number of reps.

7 Press-Up Exercise Variations

There are several different ways you can do the press-up exercise. Some variations are more challenging or target specific muscle groups. At the same time, others are easier and more accessible to beginners.

1. Wall Press-Up

The wall push-up is basically a standing version where you push your body away from a wall instead of the floor. With this variation, you don’t have to fight against gravity as much, so it’s much more manageable for beginners.

Therefore, you can use a wall push-up if you cannot perform a complete repetition with your body weight in the prone position.

2. Knee Press-Up

Another good option for beginners is the knee push-up. For this variation, you support your weight on your knees instead of your toes.

This minor change reduces the body weight you must lift, making it easier than a standard push-up.

3. Pike Press-Up

The pike push-up is performed with your hips up and your head down. This inverted position shifts the load away from your chest and onto your shoulders.

Therefore, the pick push-up is more like a shoulder press than a bench press. And you can use this variation to work the anterior deltoid.

Pike Press Up

4. Decline Press-Up

The decline push-up is where you elevate your feet on a box or bench while performing the exercise. You can target more upper chest during the push-up by changing your body angle in this way.

Essentially, it’s like doing an incline bench press vs flat bench press.

5. Banded Press-Up

As you get stronger and more experienced, you may need to add resistance. For example, the banded push-up uses a resistance band wrapped around your back to make the exercise more challenging.

However, it’s important to note that the resistance is only really applied at the top of the range of motion. So it still may not be challenging enough for some people.

6. Power / Clap Press-Up

The power push-up or clap push-up is another advanced variation. It involves using explosive pushing force to momentarily elevate your body and hands off the floor at the top of the movement.

As you progress, you may be able to clap your hands before they return to the floor. The main benefit of this variation is developing the fast twitch muscle fibers used in sports and powerlifting.

7. Diamond Press-Up

Lastly, the diamond push-up places your hands closer so your fingers and thumbs touch and make a diamond or triangle shape. One benefit of this variation is that it makes your triceps work harder, like a close grip bench press.

Reducing chest involvement makes the exercise harder since your triceps are a smaller muscle group. Moreover, this push-up variation could also be used as part of an arm workout.

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5 Press-Up Alternatives

Push-ups are great, but they will only get you so far on your journey to building a bigger, more muscular upper body. So here are the best push-up alternatives to take your workouts to the next level.

1. Barbell Bench Press

The classic barbell bench press is the closest exercise to the push-up. As such, it uses all the same major muscle groups.

However, the main advantage the bench press has over push-ups is resistance. The barbell and weight plates allow you quickly change the resistance to work in a specific load and rep range for hypertrophy or strength training.

In addition, the barbell bench press allows you to lift much heavier weights compared to the bodyweight push-up. And that’s what will result in significantly greater size and strength gains.

2. Smith Machine Bench Press

If you’re not ready to tackle the free weight bar, you could start with the Smith machine bench press. The Smith machine bar is fixed on vertical guide rails, making it easier to balance.

For this reason, the Smith machine bench press is more like a push-up because your hands are fixed in the horizontal plane. In addition, this fixed movement path can put more load directly on the chest muscles, so it’s suitable even for advanced lifters.

3. Incline Bench Press

The incline bench changes the angle of your body, so your arms must move up and out during the exercise. Furthermore, this arm angle helps you target the upper chest like a decline push-up.

As with the flat bench press, you can perform the incline variation with a free-weight barbell or on the Smith machine. The video below shows how to do the incline Smith machine press.

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4. Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbells are a common piece of exercise equipment found in home gyms. So the dumbbell bench press might be a good alternative to push-ups if you work out at home.

One advantage of using dumbbells is that each arm must stabilize the weight independently. And that makes the exercise more challenging for all the muscles involved.

Also, you can adjust the angle of the bench and do an incline dumbbell press to target your upper chest.

5. Dumbbell Flys

Unlike push-ups, the dumbbell fly is a single joint movement. In other words, only the shoulder joint moves while the elbows remain relatively still.

As a result, dumbbell flys isolate the chest more than push-ups. So they are an excellent alternative if you want to focus on pectoral activation while lessening deltoid and tricep involvement.

More Exercises for Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps

Now you know the difference between a press-up vs push-up. And you have several exercise variations and alternatives you can use during your workouts.

But you’ll need more exercises to hit your chest, shoulders, and triceps from every angle and induce maximum strength and muscle gains. So I’ve hand selected these relevant exercise for you.

Dumbbell Hex Press for Inner Chest

Decline Bench Press for Lower Chest

Compound Shoulder Exercises

Cable Shoulder Exercises

Long Head Tricep Exercises

Medial Head Tricep Exercises

Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

And if you don’t find any of those exercises interesting, check out the additional articles below. You’ll find detailed information on nutrition, workouts, and supplements to transform your body.

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