Weighted Push Ups

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Weighted push ups are a great way for you to add extra resistance and build more strength in your chest. You have access to some of the best body defining and toning exercises all without ever stepping foot into a gym.

The push-up is as old as it comes when it comes to workout out. Your ability to take advantage of your body’s weight and transform it into a chest, shoulder, back, and arm building working means you have a gym literally anywhere you are. 

However, what happens when you want to take it a step further? What if you can already churn out push-up after push-up and now you want something that doesn’t just make your upper body tired? That’s when weighted push ups becomes a viable option.

This is something that takes the classic move and elevates it to the next level. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to begin performing weighted push ups (although you may need a little help from a workout partner). 

Why Add Weight?

The push-up is great. It’s always there when you need it. It lets you get in a quick upper body workout wherever you are. Whether you’re on vacation, in a hotel room, stuck in the office, or anywhere else away from the gym.

Push-ups give you the opportunity to work out. However, it only goes so far. Eventually you no longer can build added size with the normal pushup. It’s like trying to build bigger biceps when you’re curling extremely light weight.

It will work initially, but eventually when your body has adapted to curling the light weight, all you’ll be doing is burning calories. 

Adding the additional weight gives you the added resistance that will help you build larger muscles and challenge your body. If you want to continue building muscle and defining your muscles using the push-up, you’ll need to start doing weighted push ups. 

Why Not Switch To Another Exercise?

Naturally, if you’re going to be using weight you’ll probably be in a gym or another location where you could perform a bench press, shoulder press, row, or something else to work your upper body.

So why should you perform weighted push-ups?

There are a few reasons. First, the push up hits your entire upper body. They’re only a few other lifts that can do this. The bench press is the closest lift that lets you work most of your upper body, but even then, you are not hitting the stabilizer muscles the same as when you’re performing a push-up.

Second, by simply adjusting your hand and feet position, you can easily perform a dozen different push-up variations. With a bench press you can adjust the angle you’re lifting, and fiddle with your hand grip, but you just don’t have the same kind of control over how you’re hitting your upper body. 

Now, if you have access to the bench press you should be using it. However, the weighted push-up is fantastic for hitting hard to reach muscles. Whether it is small areas in your lower traps that you’re struggling with, or perhaps you are not sculpting your delts or pecs as much as you’d like.

The weighted push-up gives you the kind of control needed for targeting exactly what you want to hit. The added weight makes it that much easier to take your workout to the next level. 

How To Perform Weighted Push Ups

We’re not going to go over the form of a push-up. If you’ve come this far you already know how to do a push up and the variations of the push up that work best for you.

The weighted method forces you to practice perfect form, otherwise the weight will fall off your back. It will also force your stabilizer muscles to engage as well.

However, as you already know how to perform a regular push-up, you’ll still need to know where to place the weight for optimal performance (while avoiding injury). 

Avoid placing the added weight too high up on your back. The shoulder region of your back will be the widest area, so when someone is placing the weight onto your back it is natural to want to place it here. 

However, positioning the weight too high up on your back will cut down on your natural movement. When you perform a push-up, your shoulders need to expand and contract. If there’s weight there, you won’t be able to perform a full push-up. 

When first going down into a weighted push-up you should have the individual placing the weight remain standing next to you so they can adjust the weight. They need to make sure the weight is not blocking the movement of your shoulders. 

Placing the weight near the lower back so it is directly opposite your core abdominal muscles is the desirable location. There is a nice pocket here that will support the weight. This spot allows for maximum movement while also engaging your lower back (which likely doesn’t receive as much attention as it should). 

Performing Weighted Push Ups

The beauty of this move, outside of the added weight, is it forces you to keep a straight back. If your back is not straight or if it rocks, the weight will fall off.

If the weight shifts initially during the first push-up that is okay. But outside of this subtle shift, you need to maintain proper form, otherwise the weight will be banging down on the floor, which also opens you up for injury. 

Perform the weighted push-up slowly. Performing it slowly will prevent any unnecessary rocking when pushing up. It will also fully engage all of your chest and arm muscles.

Slow lifts work your muscles in different ways than heavy lifting. Because you’ll be lifting both heavier and slower you’ll extract two new benefits from the push-up than what occurs while blasting through push-ups quickly. 

Weight Alternatives

Perhaps you want to take advantage of weighted push ups but you don’t have access to 45-pound weights (or other plate weights). Not a problem, there are other options out there. You can always use chain weights.

Beyond the coolness factor of tossing chains over your body and performing a push-up, this helps work your body just like plate weights. You can have the heavy chains wrapped around your lower back above your butt and perform the same kind of push-up. 

Now, if you do have access to heavy chain weights you might feel inclined to toss it around your neck. After all, that’s how all the body builders in the movies do it. While that might look great, that’s more likely to injure your body than anything else.

Adding heavy weights around your neck increases the chance of a neck strain. If you’ve ever pulled something in your neck or strained a muscle in the neck before, you know how much this hurts (and how much that pain lingers for days, if not weeks). 

Perhaps you don’t have chain weights at your disposal. Or maybe you’re traveling and you can’t really toss 50 pounds worth of chains into your carry-on without having security stop and ask you what the deal is with the heavy chains in your bag. When this is the case, your best option is to go with resistance bands. 

Resistance bands are perfect for traveling, when you don’t have access to weights, or when you just don’t want to drop a fortune on workout equipment. With resistance bands, you will be able to fully extract a similar workout as what you’d get with weights, only you’re using bands. 

A last option you may want to consider is the weighted vest. You can find weighted vests at most stores that sell workout equipment. These devices basically have individual pockets where 5-10 pounds worth of weight are inserted and a Velcro top secures everything in place. You then can remove or add the weight as you desire. 

Vests can be good if you already have one, although it isn’t always the best option. First, many vests tend to come loose around the waist. This can make it difficult to keep the vest secure. Second, the weight in front of your chest reduces the amount of room you have between your chest and the floor.  This might prevent you from performing a full push-up without the floor getting in the way. 

Similar to the weighted chains though, you don’t want to have the resistance bands curving around your arms, up over the top portion of your back. This increases the potential for upper shoulder and back injuries. Plus, the band will cause your elbows to flare out, putting unnecessary pressure on your elbows. 

Instead, you want the resistance bands to go around the upper portion of your lower back and then your hands to hold the band down (you can curve the band around your thumbs so you won’t flare out in any way.)

Combining Resistance And Weight

If you really want to take your weighted push-ups to the next level, you can combine weight and resistance bands. What is the point of this? It keeps your muscles fully engaged 100 percent of the time. 

When you perform any kind of weighted lift, the lift becomes easier the further away from your body you push the weight. For example, if you’re curling weight and your about to reach failure, the lower half of that final curl is the hardest part.

Once you get past the halfway point, you’re able to complete the curl. The same is true with the bench press. That first half of the final rep is the hardest. Once you make it past the half-way point you’re able to complete the last half of the lift. 

However, with resistance bands it is different. The further away from your body, the harder the lift becomes. That is because the band is stretching and there is less slack available for the band to stretch. When you combine both band and weight you’ll always be in the most difficult part of the push-up, which maximizes the difficulty factor while keeping your entire upper body fully engaged. 

Benefits Of Weighted Push Ups 

Ideally, you’ll be doing both if you can. But, maybe you don’t have access to both. Then do what you have access to. Beyond the convenience of push ups, you may wonder what some of the other benefits of the weighted push ups are. 

We’ve already looked at the ability to adjust your hand and leg placement to give you instant access to a dozen different lifts. Beyond this, one of the main benefits is your reduced chance of injury.

If you’ve recently had shoulder surgery, or if you have bad elbows, you’ll want to avoid placing hundreds of pounds of weight directly on these joints. With a push-up you can avoid this.

Most lifts that rely primarily on your body weight (such as the push-up or the pull-up) drastically cut down your injury potential. So, if you’re at a greater risk of injury, weighted push ups is a fantastic option. 

Conclusion

Weighted push ups are a great way for you to add extra resistance and build more strength in your chest. The added resistance will force your entire body to work harder, which is a great way to target nearly every muscle in your body. 

If you’re ready to take the push-up to the next level, it might be time to add weight to your push-up. Now, this is something you should only consider if you’re able to pump out 50 or more push-ups.

When performing weighted push ups, avoid placing the added weight too high up on your back. weight near the lower back so it is directly opposite your core abdominal muscles is the desirable location

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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    I love the weighted push-ups. By adding an extra resistance band or a weighted vest, you can basically increase the intensity of the push-ups. Besides that, the additional resistance will certainly help tremendously with strength and muscle size improvement as well.
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