Here’s the comparison between the bench press and weighted vest pushups.

One of my personal-training clients some years ago asked me which was better: bench press or weighted vest pushups.

What are your goals? Do you want to tone your arms, shoulders and chest? Weighted vest pushups will do the trick, but so will bench pressing.

For toning, both get the job done, and one is not really any better than the other as far as results, though the advantage of weighted vest pushups is that you can do them at home in a limited space.

If you want to build impressive chest muscle, I recommend the bench press. It’s straightforward and allows you to work towards significant weight loads.

One argument against the weighted vest pushup is that it limits the progressive component.

weighted vest pushup

However, weighted vests are now sold that can hold up to 200 pounds. Furthermore, for beginners, it will be quite some time before they get up in weight load anyways.

Nevertheless, fussing around with loading up a vest could be a turn-off to many people, whereas loading a bar for the bench press is fast and easy.

If you want to gain a lot of strength in your upper body, again, the bench press is the better choice.

Ultimately, for those gunning for getting as strong as possible, the bench press offers no limits in how much you can load up the barbell.

You might be thinking that pushups can be progressed by doing them one-handed, by propping the feet on a stool, by clapping in between, etc.

But the moment you begin doing things like this, you change the dynamics of the movement.

For instance, a one-handed pushup is no longer primarily a force production movement; it’s now more of a balance and core movement mixed into the force component (though a textbook military pushup indeed involves core recruitment, but not as much as the one-handed version).

Clapping in between adds a jarring element to the shoulder tendons that many people may not take well to, whereas the bench press does not involve this kind of jarring impact to the shoulder tendons.

Elevating the feet makes a pushup more difficult, but that’s because elevating the feet diverts more of the recruitment to the shoulder muscles (meaning less of it to the stronger chest muscles), hence making the movement harder.

But while you’ve just made it harder, you’ve subtracted workload from your chest. Is that what you want if you want a bigger and/or stronger chest?

By the way, don’t think for a moment that performing pushups with a heavy weighted vest will help you a lot with your bench press. It will do squat (no pun intended). And vice versa.

Though the pushup appears to be an inverted bench press, it does not carry over to the bench press. And again, vice versa.

One more element that can’t be overlooked: The bench press allows you to work with a spotter.

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about getting pinned by a too-heavy barbell when doing pushups.

So why not have both exercises in your program? Who says you must choose?

Start with the bench press, then maybe do the weighted vest pushups as your second chest routine of the session.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.