Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

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Griffin
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Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Griffin » Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:53 am UTC

I do them (presses, anyways), but they are always, in my own mind, the least important of the exercises and the most likely to be skipped in the case of a limited schedule (as I can't help but feel doing the others right is more important).

But obviously, there's got to be a reason for them beyond "getting better at pushups/presses), or they wouldn't be such a central part of every workout I've come across.

So, why do you do them? What's do you ultimately hope to gain from it?
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:10 am UTC

Griffin wrote:I do them (presses, anyways), but they are always, in my own mind, the least important of the exercises and the most likely to be skipped in the case of a limited schedule (as I can't help but feel doing the others right is more important).

But obviously, there's got to be a reason for them beyond "getting better at pushups/presses), or they wouldn't be such a central part of every workout I've come across.

So, why do you do them? What's do you ultimately hope to gain from it?

I actually don't, since I prefer overhead presses and weighted dips, which between them do a similar job. But the bench press is a good way to build raw upper body strength. This is useful in any sport or physical activity I can think of. Throwing, punching, pushing, swinging, you get the idea. Many people do tend to overestimate the importance of the arms and chest relative to the legs and trunk, but the resulting backlash against upper body exercises has gone too far in the other direction.

High rep regular push-ups are not all that useful, I think. More interesting push-up versions (one-arm, clapping etc.) serve various other useful purposes, though.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Griffin » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:04 am UTC

I managed to think of one since my original post, actually - handstands! (and handsprings)

Not terribly... useful, of course, but an enjoyable skill you need strong arms for.

Does bench press stuff help in climbing activities much?

(and what type of swinging do you mean and how does it help?)
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:29 am UTC

Yeah, if you're going to be pushing against handholds and raising yourself onto ledges, your triceps, shoulders and chest are going to be heavily involved.

And I meant swinging a bat, club, staff, racket, sling, axe, cat, sledgehammer, or whatever else you might want to swing. It helps by allowing you to generate more force, thus swinging harder, which is usually useful if you're doing the sort of thing where you've got to swing stuff.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby psyck0 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:01 pm UTC

I can't think of a terribly useful reason to do them, just like I can't think of a functional reason to do squats in our society. There are health benefits to being strong and exercising, but unless you're an athlete or a labourer, they rarely provide a functional benefit.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:44 pm UTC

Yeah! Who needs stronger bones and joints, better posture, the ability to pick up heavy things, improved resistance to various unpleasant age-related conditions, or improved mental health? Those aren't functional, right?

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby psyck0 » Sun Feb 28, 2010 6:28 am UTC

Hey, look. I said health benefits. I think EVERYONE should strength-train, but there isn't much of a functional benefit.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Sun Feb 28, 2010 7:53 am UTC

What do you consider functional? Going by the dictionary definition, the benefits I listed seem pretty functional to me.

EDIT: (pardon the snark.)

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby psyck0 » Sun Feb 28, 2010 3:23 pm UTC

Functional as in directly makes life easier. If you're a labourer, being strong makes your job easier because you can lift heavier stuff and you don't tire. Most people aren't labourers, though, so the ability to lift heavy stuff or run a long way doesn't directly impact their life, which is why most people don't do it. The health benefits are still very noticeable and important, though.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby folkhero » Sun Feb 28, 2010 5:38 pm UTC

What are these health benefits of big muscles? A study suggests that more muscular men have worse immune systems. If by health benefits, you mean getting laid more often, then I suppose you're right.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby bbq » Sun Feb 28, 2010 7:49 pm UTC

Not that bothered about functional strength, I do bench press to make my chest bigger..
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Watcher Of The Skies » Sun Feb 28, 2010 8:12 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:What are these health benefits of big muscles? A study suggests that more muscular men have worse immune systems. If by health benefits, you mean getting laid more often, then I suppose you're right.

that article also calls "increased appetite" a "great disadvantage" of being muscular. and the thing about weakened immune system was taken from other studies (not cited) which found a correlation between higher testosterone levels and a weakened immune system. this article just assumed that muscular men, having higher levels of testosterone, would have weaker immune systems, the author of the study (which they didn't really cite and I couldn't find on medline) didn't actually do any research relating to the immune systems of muscular men it seems. It's kind of hard to tell, but that's the way it reads.

In response to the OP- while bench press (and weightlifting generally) has little bearing on my day to day survival, living's about much more than surviving. I like being fit, and upper body strength is an important component of fitness. I also swim competitively, and being stronger helps me swim faster

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Victoria Maddison » Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:45 pm UTC

The stronger a person is the less likely they are to die from all causes.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby folkhero » Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:49 pm UTC

Yeah, that was a crappy link. Here is the original article. I can't read anything more than the abstract because it's behind a paywall, but according to the abstract the actual amount of muscle is what correlates strongly to low C-reactive proteins and white blood cell count. It's true that it doesn't prove causation, and it would be nice to read the full article.

That big muscles require a lot of food to maintain, isn't particularly surprising or interesting. In today's world where food is cheep and eating is enjoyable a big apatite isn't a disadvantage at all.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:22 pm UTC

psyck0 wrote:Functional as in directly makes life easier. If you're a labourer, being strong makes your job easier because you can lift heavier stuff and you don't tire. Most people aren't labourers, though, so the ability to lift heavy stuff or run a long way doesn't directly impact their life, which is why most people don't do it. The health benefits are still very noticeable and important, though.

Having stronger bones and joints makes life easier, because broken bones and joint injuries are inconvenient. Better posture leads to fewer back problems etc., which probably counts as making life easier. And so on. I think we basically agree about what the benefits are, but I'm just a little confused by your definition of 'functional'.

folkhero wrote:What are these health benefits of big muscles?

I listed some of them a few posts ago.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Watcher Of The Skies » Sun Feb 28, 2010 11:40 pm UTC

folkhero wrote: Here is the original article.

Thanks, that's a lot clearer. In any case, I feel that the health benefits of lifting outweigh the negatives - in my case anyways, fitness is a priority.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby folkhero » Mon Mar 01, 2010 12:50 am UTC

Well, it's disingenuous for me to act like there are no health benefits of strength. There's probably a sweet spot of muscle mass where you can have good posture, enough strength to lift most things you would have to lift without hurting you back and so on without getting huge. The truth is that I'm working on adding a bit of muscle and I'm pretty happy with the modest results (the article says more muscular men have sex more, which I wouldn't mind getting in on). At some point though, building muscle over a certain level is really about the aesthetics. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but let's be honest about it and not pretend that getting massively ripped is all about health.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby psyck0 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:17 am UTC

No, but it takes YEARS and a ridiculous amount of work to actually get ripped. It's damn hard to build muscle, and every time people insinuate that you can get ripped by accident if you just go into the gym and look at the weights funny, it really insults me and everyone else who is trying to build muscle and absolutely busting our asses to do it.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Griffin » Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:13 pm UTC

I just want to say, for most exercises I DO see the functional benefits - I'm an active person, I climb, I swim, I snowboard, etc. etc.

The majority of the exercises I do have clear carryover, where being stronger in various ways is an obvious help.

It was just specifically the pushups/benches I was having trouble seeing the carryover for, and I know a couple now.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby sikyon » Mon Mar 01, 2010 4:31 pm UTC

Consider that if you used that time spent training your body to train your mind, you might be able to get a higher paying job and purchase superior health care and food which would increase your lifespan more than having a muscular body.

Everything has a benifit - the question is whether the benifits provided by action A outweight those provided by action B.

Of course, you are limited by how much you can stare at books, etc in your application of other options.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby TheNegotiator » Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

Very good point. But if you're one of those lucky people who takes pleasure from physical activity and training, then you can "work" on the book-learning, and while you relax you can simultaneously get the benefits of exercising/muscles/what-have-you.

Which in a way reminds me of http://www.xkcd.com/189/. It's a very RPG way of looking at things.


(I think I win a cookie or something for connecting this back to the comic. Somehow.)

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Griffin » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Plus, science says exercise means more efficient learning, mild exercises WHILE learning greatly increases memory. And the whole learning does not necessarily equal financial success means its still not exactly a clear cut situation.

And most of the learning that will make you more money (learning things like dedication, carry through, confidence, social stuff) aren't learned any better from books than from working out...
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby BlackSails » Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:14 pm UTC

There is a neural science professor at NYU who does research on exercise and learning.

Her last class was preceded every day by an hour of intense yoga.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby TGM » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:22 am UTC

sikyon wrote:Consider that if you used that time spent training your body to train your mind, you might be able to get a higher paying job and purchase superior health care and food which would increase your lifespan more than having a muscular body.

Everything has a benifit - the question is whether the benifits provided by action A outweight those provided by action B.

Of course, you are limited by how much you can stare at books, etc in your application of other options.


The problem with that logic is that superior health care won't give you a good quality of life when you're older, it will just keep you alive. I'd rather be the 70 year old guy that is still mobile, independant, and hopefully still strong.

And anyway you can have both, balancing training with study isn't too hard. When I graduate I'll find out if balancing it with work will happen, though many people seem to be able to do so.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby sgt york » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:38 pm UTC

I do pushups as part of my routine, partly for the same reason I do the rest of my workout (I enjoy it and it makes me feel good), but there are health benefits. If you do pushups correctly they are an excellent core workout. And good core workouts do wonders for your back; I started doing pushups & core workouts again about 3 years ago when my back started acting up. It's probably a combination of factors that made the back problems go away, but I do think the core workouts had something to do with it.

Do them in sets and subsets. 30 in a set, 10 in a subset. Do 10, hold yourself in a leaning rest position (arms & back straight) for a 10 count, do 10 more, etc. If you don't feel it in your abdomen, you aren't doing it right.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Tomo » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:58 pm UTC

amy12white wrote:Arm muscle endurance.


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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Jonasty » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:02 pm UTC

Pushups are an awesome excercise. It uses most of your muscles, so from a fitness perspective, it pays very high dividends. Yea, you're not going to win a body building contest with the push up. But it's an excellent choice for overall health. That and the army makes me do them. That's why I do push ups.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Solt » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:53 am UTC

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that there are many angles from which the biceps are not visible, but it is virtually impossible to hide your triceps.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Kurtimus_Prime » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:02 pm UTC

Bench presses, along with squats and deadlifts, make up the fundamentals of strength training. If you do no other lifts, do those three, imo. "Strong Enough" by Mark Rippetoe is a great book on barbell training, and makes up the majority of my own sort of 'fitness bible'. I would link it but, well, I'm newly registered and haven't made 5 posts yet.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby bbq » Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:35 pm UTC

Kurtimus_Prime wrote:Bench presses, along with squats and deadlifts, make up the fundamentals of strength training. If you do no other lifts, do those three, imo. "Strong Enough" by Mark Rippetoe is a great book on barbell training, and makes up the majority of my own sort of 'fitness bible'. I would link it but, well, I'm newly registered and haven't made 5 posts yet.


Why bench press though? Surely rows, powercleans, press/push press are a much more effective way of building your overall strength. Bench press strikes me as a bit pointless, mainly due to the fact they are not the best exercise for building strength in the chest (dips), or triceps (some type of extension, or close grip bench). I enjoy close grip bench though.
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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Nath » Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:15 pm UTC

Like I said, I prefer dips to bench presses as well, but there are pros and cons of each. Adding a significant amount of weight to dips can be unwieldy. And some people just don't seem built right for heavy dips. I don't see why the bench is inherently pointless; it's a scalable compound exercise. There are alternatives, but every exercise has alternatives.

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Re: Why do you do pushups/bench presses?

Postby Dave_Wise » Thu Jun 10, 2010 12:57 am UTC

Functional as in directly makes life easier. If you're a labourer, being strong makes your job easier because you can lift heavier stuff and you don't tire. Most people aren't labourers, though, so the ability to lift heavy stuff or run a long way doesn't directly impact their life, which is why most people don't do it. The health benefits are still very noticeable and important, though.

Not only that, in my 'career in manual labour' (read: succession of shitty jobs, not that I'm bitter or anything), I've had to lift heavy objects off of my upper body region a fair number of times. The ability to do so has saved my life on one occasion already and may very well do so again. It's also a hell of a lot more functional than pushups- when do you ever push yourself up off the ground like that? You don't- you stand up in base.
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