Pushups - The Ultimate Chest Workout
Many professional athletes choose to work out there chests primarily by doing pushups. The U.S. military also trains their personnel with calisthenics exercises such as pushups and pull-ups. When so many people choose to work out with free-weights, why do so many people that need functional strength, choose to work out with their own bodyweight instead of traditional weight-lifting with free-weights?
The reason is simple: pushups are a far superior chest workout to free-weights. In competitive environments, where speed and explosive power are essential, there is no substitute for pushups. They build stamina, speed, and useful strength. Think about professional boxers. If they were to max out on a bench press that may equate to one really powerful punch, then they may be done for the day. However by training with pushups, and doing large sets of repetitions, their can throw punches for an entire twelve rounds of boxing. Plus, there are very few real-life scenarios where an individual needs to press more than their own bodyweight.
Many people argue that you cannot build substantial muscle mass by working out with your own bodyweight. While this is true for workouts with small quantities of pushups, if you build up to there you can do a workout of 500 or more pushups, you will gain significant size and definition. You will not build balloon muscles like you would with free-weights, but rather, you will build tight and toned muscle.
A standard bench press works out the chest, triceps, and some shoulder muscles. A pushup works out the chest, shoulders, legs, lower back, abdominals, and triceps- all at the same time- you will not have to do so many extra workout stations to supplement the bench press. Additionally, the pushup position requires the use of many stabilizer muscles, for movement and balance. By training with pushups, your stabilizer muscles will be sufficiently trained to support the larger muscle groups.
Pushups are a great beginner exercise for people who wish to eventually perform other body-weight exercises, such as pullups. This is because pushups can help shed substantial amounts of body-fat relatively quickly. When I first started doing pushups, I lost a lot of weight fairly quickly, and then I began doing pullups as well. If you cannot perform standard pushups, then try doing them on your knees or leaning against a sturdy surface (couch/wall). This will allow you to prepare your "pushups muscles" to eventually perform them properly.