Pushups Versus a Dumbbell Press

The muscles of the chest include the pectoralis major and minor, which connect the sternum to the shoulder blade and upper arm bone. Pushups and dumbbell presses are two exercises, among many, that work these muscles. The pushup is a body-weight exercise, and the dumbbell press requires some basic equipment. Both exercises have advantages; choose one or the other or both, depending on your goals.


Pushup Technique

To perform a basic pushup, begin on the floor, face down. Place your hands in line with your upper chest, just wider than your shoulders. With your feet together, tuck your toes under so the balls of your feet are on the ground. Press up, off the ground, to full arm extension. Keep your core tight and body straight. Slowly bend your arms to lower yourself back toward the ground. Stop a few inches above the ground and repeat. To push up with more force, the American Council on Exercise suggests pushing through the heel and outer portion of your hand.

Dumbbell Press Technique

The dumbbell press for the chest requires a flat bench. Place a dumbbell in each hand and lie on your back on the bench, with your feet on the ground. Bend your arms to 90 degrees at mid-chest level. Press the dumbbells up and toward each other over your chest. Focus on squeezing your pectoral muscles. Slowly lower the weights back out to the sides of your chest and repeat.

Muscle Recruitment

The pushup and dumbbell press work the same primary muscles: pectorals, anterior and medial deltoids and triceps. Additionally, all of the secondary muscles worked during the dumbbell press are worked in the pushup. However, the pushup also works the abdominals, back, glutes and quadriceps in addition to the rhomboids, rotator cuff muscles, serratus anterior and posterior deltoids.

Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to each exercise. The pros of the pushup are that it is an exercise that can be performed anywhere, since it requires no equipment, and it works the majority of the body, from the legs to the arms. Cons to the pushup include working in a limited range of motion and not being able to continuously develop your strength and muscle size. The dumbbell press, on the other hand, is beneficial because you do work through a larger range of motion, and you can continuously increase the weight as you get stronger, which allows you to grow your muscles. Cons of the dumbbell press include needing access to equipment and often requiring a spotter for safety.


You do not have to choose one exercise over the other. The pushups are useful on the go, for beginners and to challenge your entire body. The dumbbell press should be included in your regular gym workouts to build strength and muscle. When performing pushups, do as many as you can with each set. When performing the dumbbell press, choose a weight that allows you to complete eight to 12 repetitions. When performing either exercise, remember to exhale during the exertion and inhale as you return to the starting position.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.