What’s the Ideal Bench Press to Push Up Ratio? (Explained!)

Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 12:59 pm

So, you want to know the ideal bench press to push up ratio?

I totally get where you’re coming from, and in truth, I often find myself comparing various exercises.

I find that this helps me to know whether I’m on track with my training or if there is a potential issue I should be concerned about.

So, is there an ideal weight that you should be benching if you can perform a certain number of push ups?

Or are the two exercises so far apart that it’s impossible to compare the two?

Allow me to reveal all.

Bench Press to Push Up Ratio

There is no actual “ideal” bench press to push up ratio. However, it is estimated that you are pushing approximately 64% of your body weight when performing regular push ups. Therefore, if a 180lbs person can perform 15 regular push ups in one set, they should theoretically be able to perform the same number of reps when bench pressing approximately 115lbs.

How Much Can I Bench if I Can Do Push Ups?

It is estimated that you are pushing approximately 64% of your body weight when performing regular push ups

I will say that there isn’t actually any direct correlation between your ability to do push ups and how much you can bench press.

In fact, I’m sure there are many people who can easily crank out 50 push ups in a row, but can barely bench press half their body weight.

Then again, there are also lifters who are able to bench press twice their body weight, but still struggle to hit 10 reps of push ups.

So, in truth, you really can’t compare the two exercises, and I will explain why in more detail in just a moment.

That being said, it is estimated that a regular push up will see you “pressing” approximately 64% of your body weight.

This figure will obviously change depending on the type of push you’re performing.

As an example, if you’re performing modified push ups, whereby both your hands and knees are on the floor, you are “pressing” approximately 49% of your body weight.

This increases to 75% if you’re performing decline push ups, i.e. hands on floor, feet elevated.

However, as I say, when it comes to regular push ups, you are “pressing” approximately 64% of your body weight.

So, if we roughly translate this to bench press, a 180lbs person should be able to bench press 115lbs for the same number of reps as they can perform push ups.

That being said, as I’ve explained, there is actually far more to the “bench press to push up ratio” than this, and they’re two very different exercises.

So, let’s look at that now.

Bench Press and Push Ups are VERY Different Exercises

Okay, I’ve mentioned a few times now that the bench press and push ups are very different exercises.

Granted, both exercises work many of the same muscles.

Plus, both bench press and push ups are viewed as the main “horizontal torso pushing exercises” when lifting weights or using bodyweight respectively.

However, in truth this is where the similarities end.

And this is also why I don’t think that the two exercises should ever be compared to each other.

Plus, I also don’t believe that calculating an “ideal” bench press to push up ratio really provides any tangible information.

Closed-Chain vs. Open-Chain

Firstly, push ups are what are known as a closed-chain exercise.

What this means is that the segment the furthest away from the body, typically the hands or feet, also known as the distal aspect, is fixed or stationary.

So, in the case of push ups, the hands (and feet) are the distal aspect, as they basically have nowhere to go.

However, when it comes to the bench press, this is an open-chain exercise, as the distal point (the hands again) are able to move freely and not fixed in place.

This immediately means that you may require more stabilization when performing an open-chained exercise, i.e. there is nothing to support the distal aspect.

This also means that your shoulder and core stabilizers will generally need to work slightly harder during bench press.

This in turn will provide you with a more stable base from which you can bench press.

If you think about it, see how relaxed you feel when getting into a plank in the push up position.

Now, compare this to how it feels when you’re lying on a bench, holding a barbell that is approximately 64% of your own body weight.

Very different, right?

The Bench Press isn’t “Athletic”

Furthermore, the bench press is not an exercise that I would typically describe as athletic.

I mean, you’re lying flat on your back for a start.

So, this simple fact means that push ups will always be better from an athletic and conditioning perspective, and it’s likely that you’ll activate many more muscles.

Finally, the “weight” you are “pressing” when performing push ups will vary, depending on where you are in the push up.

As an example, you are definitely pressing more of a percentage of your body weight in the bottom of a push up (isometric contraction of the muscles) than you are at the top, while your arms are fully extended.

Don’t believe me, try holding a push up in the top position, basically a push plank, and then compare this to holding the bottom position.

It is due to these various factors that I’m wary of providing an exact bench press to push ups ratio.

Okay, so performing regular push ups involves “pushing” 64% of your body weight.

Therefore, bench pressing a barbell with 64% of your body weight, you should in effect be able to perform the same number of reps.

However, this is rarely the case.

And this is mainly due to the numerous differences I’ve mentioned here between the exercises.

The final thing to consider is also how often you perform the two exercises.

Now, I’m know that there are those of you who perform both exercises with the same regularity.

But, in truth, I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of people always perform one of the exercises far more frequently than the other.

This, of course, will have an impact on YOUR ideal bench press to push up ratio.

3 Reasons Why Push Ups Are Better Than Bench Pressing

Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that there is no “ideal” bench press to push up ratio.

Granted, you will be “pressing” 64% of your body weight when performing push ups.

So, in effect, if you’re able to perform 25 reps of regular push ups, you should be able to perform 25 reps of bench press with a barbell holding 64% of your weight.

However, this is rarely the case, and this is simply because they are two very different exercises from each other.

Push ups are a closed-chain exercise, whereas bench press is an open-chain exercise.

The weight “pressed” on the bench press remains constant throughout every single rep.

However, the weight “pressed” during push ups will vary depending on where you are during the push up, e.g. you are “pushing” more weight at the bottom than at the top.

Furthermore, the push up is a far more athletic exercise than the bench press, which obviously involves you lying on your back (not very athletic).

Therefore, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to compare exercises in order to determine a perfect ratio between the two.

In fact, a better comparison would be how much you can bench press versus how much you can dumbbell chest press.

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