Press Ups to Maintain Bench Strength
At home, with no equipment, bench press strength should be fairly straight forward to maintain (as opposed to squat and deadlift strength, which will be for another post/video).
The bench press is an example of an upper body push movement. The main muscles involved in this are the triceps, the pectorals and the anterior deltoids. The bodyweight equivalent of this will be the press up, which can go from a fairly easy movement, all the way to a very difficult, explosive movement. I’ve given a few examples that are some of my favourites. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of variants. But, if any of these take your fancy, they should help to maintain your strength and musculature for your bench press.
Unfortunately, without equipment, to emulate the bar path and movement of a bench press is not doable, as far as I’m concerned. What you might find is, when we eventually get back to the gym, the motor pattern is a little rusty. However, you may not have lost much strength, and after a couple weeks (depending on how long we are not allowed back in gyms for of course!), your bench press strength may be back to where it was.
1. Knees down press ups. Press ups are hard. This is an easier version for those that find full press ups too hard. Perfect these first. I put my feet up as I find being more on my thighs, than my knees more comfortable. Once these get comfortable for 10, you can try moving on to full press ups. If you really struggle, try negative full press ups. Lower yourself down slowly, then drop your knees and either push yourself back up, or push back into child’s pose and reset.
2. Full press ups. Don’t go too wide with your hands. Equally, don’t go too narrow, find the middle ground. Angle elbows in slightly.
3. One arm press ups. For the advanced. These are tough. Honestly, for me, I’d be keeping low reps in this exercise, as I don’t think I could hit double figures, with good quality. Be honest with yourself, and try to maintain good quality, and full range. This should be a great tool for the advanced to keep strong.
4. KB close grip press up. I love this one for pec engagement. Even the lockout hits the triceps hard. This is probably my favourite example here. Personally, I’d go for the pump on this version; high reps, or AMRAP. Use a football/volleyball/ball of some sort if you don’t have a KB. A well blown up ball will offer a huge stability challenge. Deflate to lessen the stability requirements.
5. Offset KB press up. Another one that I really like. One side gets a big pec stretch, and has to work hard to get you back up. Use a stack of books if you don’t have a KB. Or, again, a ball.
6. Alternating KB press up. For a more explosive take on the press up. Utilise low rep ranges here, and maintain quality. Be careful of pushing hips back to initiate the push. A ball instead works, but bear in mind it’ll be harder with a ball!
7. Tempo press ups. My example was 5 sec down, 2 sec paused, then explode up. I added a jump on my 2nd rep. This is a great way to challenge all aspects of the pressing muscles. One that I would certainly favour for emulating bench strength, and a pause on the chest. You can do what you fancy with the tempo, really. I would typically programme higher durations for the descent, slightly lower for the pause, then lower still for the ascent. But find what you enjoy and feel works!
8. Decline press up. Working a different angle will emphasise slightly different parts of muscles, and get other muscles involved that aren’t typically involved in the normal press up. For example, your core will certainly have to be more engaged. The position you go into for this places more bodyweight towards your arms, so it means you’ll be working harder.
In your route in, add in a couple, 3 tops I would say! Don’t add in too many or you’ll overdo it. Just like in the gym, no rules have changed!!
If you’re new to press ups and simply want to improve, start with the more basic ones. I hope this has all made sense!
Thanks for reading!