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Bench Press vs Clapping Pushups?

4 days ago, I tried benching for the first time in over a year (had to take a break from swimming-induced shoulder issues). I did 8 reps of 155lbs (I figured it was too light for me to possibly injure myself). The weight was pretty easy but my acromioclavicular joints got really inflamed the next day. Definitely beyond the point of normal post-workout soreness.

I’ve never had problems with clapping pushups before so I’ve thought about skipping the bench press altogether and just focusing on those. When I do clapping pushups, I actually try to get as much air as possible instead of just focusing on the clapping motion. Would this be able to fully substitute the bench press?

Some people say that bench press is for cosmetic fitness whereas plyos are more for functional fitness. But at the end of the day, I have a hard time imagining that bodyweight could be more advanced than free weights.

I’m sorry but you can’t even begin to TRY to compare a bench press to a pushup. I have a friend that can smoke me in pushups, doing about 100+ of them, and he barely got 165x2 bench press,which I had to help him spot the 2nd rep because he was that absurdly weak.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do 100 pushups and I have successfully benched near 300 at this point, and ironically I am 5x his size, and perform better than him in every single other movement, including more multi-joint ones like Squats. His conditioning is also extremely poor and he can not last through 30-45 minutes of my 2-3 hour workouts, leaving the gym saying he thinks he’s overtraining.

Be realistic when asking these kind of questions. Replacing the Bench Press with pushups?

Come on now, give me a break

Iffy joints after benching…I think it sounds like a case of form issues.

Does the place you bench in allow cameras? If so, a video might help a bit more in helping people pinpoint the issue on hand, because as the person before me said, bench press and pushups are not interchangeable exercises. I personally use the former for strength and the latter for conditioning.

Ethan7X, I definitely agree with you that standard pushups are purely for endurance and close to useless for developing strength. But I’m talking about clapping pushups, not standard pushups.

Lisztening, cameras are allowed but I haven’t tried recording my technique yet. I explicitly told my spotter to watch my form though and he said it looked clean. Granted, he’s just a fitness enthusiast, not a CSCS-certified trainer or something like that.

Apples and oranges.

Do what doesn’t hurt.

Band work, iso-metrics, floor bench, lots of stretching and foam/ball work.

Your goal when you have an injury is to get better.

[quote]JFG wrote:
Apples and oranges.

Do what doesn’t hurt.

Band work, iso-metrics, floor bench, lots of stretching and foam/ball work.

Your goal when you have an injury is to get better.[/quote]

This

There’s no injury right now (according to an ortho who works for the White Sox). I just have easily inflamed AC joints thanks to years of swimming butterfly competitively.

Heroic - the important question that nobody has yet asked is, “What is your goal?”

If your goal is to look good, then there are a million different ways to work around not doing the barbell press, including doing dumbbell benches, flies, pushups, and the multitude of other chest exercises out there.

If your goal is powerlifting, you’re going to have to find a way to bench.

If you’re training for a sport, benching may be beneficial depending on the sport, but also easily replaced with other things that will give you the same bang without the pain.

The bench press is far from a necessity. My shoulders are destroyed, and I haven’t benched in years because of it. It hasn’t affected my athletic performance in the least.

JFG is right in his post as well. Take care of it as best as possible.

[quote]Heroic Wolf wrote:
4 days ago, I tried benching for the first time in over a year (had to take a break from swimming-induced shoulder issues). I did 8 reps of 155lbs (I figured it was too light for me to possibly injure myself). The weight was pretty easy but my acromioclavicular joints got really inflamed the next day. Definitely beyond the point of normal post-workout soreness.

I’ve never had problems with clapping pushups before so I’ve thought about skipping the bench press altogether and just focusing on those. When I do clapping pushups, I actually try to get as much air as possible instead of just focusing on the clapping motion. Would this be able to fully substitute the bench press?

Some people say that bench press is for cosmetic fitness whereas plyos are more for functional fitness. But at the end of the day, I have a hard time imagining that bodyweight could be more advanced than free weights.[/quote]

People who say benching only leads to “cosmetic fitness” whereas plyos are “functional” are people you should not be listening to, because they clearly have a piss poor understanding of both strength and “fitness”. People who say shit like that are both weak mentally and physically, and are just looking for a way to justify that weakness as acceptable. It is not. (injury/inflammation aside, as those are health issues and should be taken care of).

Good points from others in the thread. There are things bench pressing is not useful for, aka certain sports or goals, or health issues and injury issues that mean the bench press (or at least variations of it) needs to be avoided. This is understood as self-evident for most people who are familiar with sports training and strength.

You should ask if they think the squat is only for “cosmetic fitness”. If they say yes, then you know that person is full of shit. If they say no, ask why the bench is “cosmetic only” because it is the upper body pushing movement equivalent of the squat (along with push press). They won’t have a coherent answer.

If you get AC joint issues, then the first thing I would look at is technique error because that often easily leads to unnecessary shoulder problems. The second thing I would look at is whether dumbbell bench press, neutral grip dumbbell bench, or push press, decline bench exercises hurt your AC joint. If the answer is no, then for the moment stick with the ones that don’t hurt.

The third thing I would look at is your history as a butterfly swimmer. This will have a direct and strong correlation to your current AC issues. Repeated motion, significant shortening of the lats, pecs, internal rotators, and T-spine issues will probably be what solves your problem long term–you spent years internally rotating the shoulders and shortening the muscles around the shoulder girdle that typically lead to impingement or AC issues. The fact that benching inflames your shoulder does not surprise me at all. Fix the underlying issues while staying with pain free exercises, then go back to bench pressing.

strengthen: shoulder external rotators, serratus anterior, low traps, rhomboids, thoracic spine (look at T-spine extensions as a starting point, then look at fixing postural problems that lead you towards a kyphotic upper back posture). Lots of upper back strength and T-spine extension work.

lengthen through foam rolling, soft tissue work and stretching (stretching after soft tissue work): lats, pec minor, pec major, biceps, anterior delt.

Then get strong.

[quote]Heroic Wolf wrote:
There’s no injury right now (according to an ortho who works for the White Sox). I just have easily inflamed AC joints thanks to years of swimming butterfly competitively.[/quote]

Inflammation IS an injury. What Aragorn said. Get better, THEN work on your cosmetic look or whatever.

Hi Irish, I guess there’s no super-specific goal in mind. I just missed bench pressing, gave it a try, ,found that my shoulders didn’t handle it well, and decided to ask T-Nation’s opinion on how to work around it. You said that you avoid bench from shoulder issues as well. What exercises did you substitute in place of benching?

Aragorn, yea I’ve been to physical therapy and tried all the various strengthening things before. Didn’t noticeably help. I’ve basically accepted that my shoulders defy medical analysis and try to avoid pissing them off :P.

[quote]Heroic Wolf wrote:
Hi Irish, I guess there’s no super-specific goal in mind. I just missed bench pressing, gave it a try, ,found that my shoulders didn’t handle it well, and decided to ask T-Nation’s opinion on how to work around it. You said that you avoid bench from shoulder issues as well. What exercises did you substitute in place of benching?
[/quote]

Well… punching I guess you could say. I don’t do much horizontal push work being as three to four days of the week are boxing days for me. Therefore most of my time in the weight room is spent on upper back, lat, and rear delt work to unfuck what I am fucking up on those days.

I do pushups though, elevated pushups, pushup/row combos, and sometimes dumbbell bench as well. It’s more than enough for me. Again, I’m not a bodybuilder, so my chest size doesn’t really matter to me. But the barbell bench press is just not for me, so I do anything but.

I was watching a YouTube video with Scott Harmon. He says that your arms shouldn’t be bent much more than 90 degrees for a bench press (apparently after that the weight gets transferred onto your shoulders more so than your chest). I have a relatively small chest (I’m not a bodybuilder) so touching the bar to my chest went much further than 90 degrees. That might be why I didn’t feel good.

Since I’m afraid of being judged if I don’t touch the bar to my chest, I guess I’ll make the switch over to dumbbell press :slight_smile:

By the way, Harmon basically says that your elbows should be below your shoulders when dumbbell bench pressing? I just found that strange because having your elbows aligned with your shoulders feels the most natural to me? Any thoughts?

[quote]Heroic Wolf wrote:
I was watching a YouTube video with Scott Harmon. He says that your arms shouldn’t be bent much more than 90 degrees for a bench press (apparently after that the weight gets transferred onto your shoulders more so than your chest). I have a relatively small chest (I’m not a bodybuilder) so touching the bar to my chest went much further than 90 degrees. That might be why I didn’t feel good.

Since I’m afraid of being judged if I don’t touch the bar to my chest, I guess I’ll make the switch over to dumbbell press :slight_smile:

By the way, Harmon basically says that your elbows should be below your shoulders when dumbbell bench pressing? I just found that strange because having your elbows aligned with your shoulders feels the most natural to me? Any thoughts?[/quote]

Who is Scott Harmon and why are you listening to him?
Seriously, this advice is terrible. But first I want to address your OP. Comparing a bench press to a push up of any kind (I don’t see why you think clapping makes it like a bench press, that just makes it more plyometrically focused. It’s not adding a load.) is going to be apples to oranges. They serve different purposes.
Since you posted this in the conditioning forum (probably actually belongs in the beginner forum), It sounds like your goal is… conditioning. You’re obviously going to be able to get more reps out of the push ups, so I suppose that sounds like a plus. But if you want to be stronger, push ups are not an adequate substitute for bench press.
As for the Scott Harmon advice: Why are you getting your bench pressing advice from a fighter? Seriously, does that make sense to you?
It sounds like you need more shoulder strength/development. I’ve had problems in the past with my shoulders (tears and stuff). I significantly improved my shoulder health by doing standing overhead presses on a regular basis. Strong shoulders = healthier bench pressing.
If you’re actually afraid of being judged for something you do in the gym, you need to get over that asap.
If you do decide to switch completely to dumbbells (which I assume you plan to do with limited range, which would also be a bad idea) use whatever shoulder position is comfortable for you. I don’t know what ‘elbows aligned with shoulders’ means.

Good luck, let me know if any clarification is needed.

“Functional” is training that translates directly to your goals. There’s nothing wrong with using dumbbells instead of a barbell as a lot of guys with shoulder problems will do that. Have you tried incline presses with a barbell or dumbbells? I had a lot less shoulder issues with incline presses than I did with flat bench. The upper arm is not forced back as far during an incline as compared to flat and the weight used is typically lighter.

Also, as Fightin Irish mentioned, make sure you are doing an equal/greater ammount of horizontal rowing/rear delt work as it could be a balance issue. Just throwing some ideas out there. Good luck.

i just looked at a few of your other posts, I think I get where you’re going with the questions and why you’d pay attention to a fighter’s advice on bench pressing. That being said, I’ll stand by most of what I said. No push up variation is a substitute for bench press. Overhead pressing will help your shoulders. I still don’t think there’s a good reason to listen to a fighter’s explanation of how to bench press, as I wouldn’t ask a bodybuilder about punching.
The dumbbell pressing may be better suited to your needs, but I’d still do it through a full range of motion, using whatever shoulder position feels best.

[quote]flipcollar wrote:

The dumbbell pressing may be better suited to your needs, but I’d still do it through a full range of motion, using whatever shoulder position feels best.[/quote]

I was advocating a full ROM in my post, but I wasn’t sure if it came off that way. I dropped flat barbell presses a long time ago because of my right shoulder. I switched to heavy incline and originally flat db bench. My shoulder issue cleared up, but I eventually ditched the flat DB for Incline DB only because it was a bitch getting into position. (I train by myself in my garage).

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:
I’m sorry but you can’t even begin to TRY to compare a bench press to a pushup. I have a friend that can smoke me in pushups, doing about 100+ of them, and he barely got 165x2 bench press,which I had to help him spot the 2nd rep because he was that absurdly weak.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do 100 pushups and I have successfully benched near 300 at this point, and ironically I am 5x his size, and perform better than him in every single other movement, including more multi-joint ones like Squats. His conditioning is also extremely poor and he can not last through 30-45 minutes of my 2-3 hour workouts, leaving the gym saying he thinks he’s overtraining.

Be realistic when asking these kind of questions. Replacing the Bench Press with pushups?

Come on now, give me a break[/quote]

While you cannot compare the two exercises very easily, you do understand that this is in the conditioning section and not the bodybuilding or powerlifting sections right?

OP, if you feel that the pushups will get you closer to your goals, then do that. If your goals can be met better with the bench press, then do that. It all depends on your goals.

Hi flipcollar, I actually meant Scott Herman and not Scott Harmon, whoops. Also, when I do clapping pushups I actually try to push as hard as I can in one burst and get as much air as possible. Most people just move their hands under their body to go through the clapping motion. The way I do it is actually very explosive. It always seemed more effective than bench for improving my swimming and boxing performance.

I don’t ever do military press because I know that even incline press (with weights I used as a 16 yr old kid) leaves my AC joints inflamed badly (was a competitive butterfly swimmer for a long time). Shoulder strength could be an issue but it’s unlikely. I do physical therapy-style stability work regularly and make sure to do plenty of pullups.

Hi ryno76, I actually do a lot of horizontal rowing. I actually have a more balanced workout than anyone I know so that shouldn’t be the problem.

[quote]flipcollar wrote:
i just looked at a few of your other posts, I think I get where you’re going with the questions and why you’d pay attention to a fighter’s advice on bench pressing. That being said, I’ll stand by most of what I said. No push up variation is a substitute for bench press. Overhead pressing will help your shoulders. I still don’t think there’s a good reason to listen to a fighter’s explanation of how to bench press, as I wouldn’t ask a bodybuilder about punching.
The dumbbell pressing may be better suited to your needs, but I’d still do it through a full range of motion, using whatever shoulder position feels best.[/quote]

Well… bench pressing doesn’t help you punch at all, neither do pushups. So it doesn’t really matter in that regard. If anything, clapping pushups would be the most beneficial if you’re looking for a carryover into punching because of the explosive nature of the movement.

But I do not like this philosophy of “OH YOUR SHOULDERS HURT WHEN YOU BENCH!!??? THATS CAUSE YOUR’RE DOING IT WRONG DUMB NOOOB!”

It’s just false. Some are just not meant to bench because of preexisting injuries, and there’s just next to no way to do it safely - and it ain’t worth fucking around with.

Not that you have this attitude, mind you, I’ve just seen it a lot on this site and I think it’s incorrect and a bad way to act.

And if you’re a fighter, benching don’t matter for shit. But I think Heroic was talking more just as a general strength question.