That’s a bit of an odd title, I know, but I’m not sure how else to word it. Given the recent fascination with pushups, I got to wondering about how much weight you’re actually moving when you do a pushup.
Asked another way:
What’s the bench press equivalent of a pushup?
Of course, these are rather different exercises, and the weight distribution changes as you move through the pushup motion, so it’s not possible to directly compare the two in a particularly meaningful way. Nonetheless, I’m curious about how much weight you’re moving up and down when you do a pushup.
Armed with nothing more than my curiosity and a scale, I set out to answer this question.
I started by weight myself — 236.6 pounds. I then dropped into a fully-extended pushup position with my hands on the scale (albeit with my hands closer together than normal). The reading on the scale? 154 pounds. I then moved to the ‘bottom’ position of the pushup (again, with my hands close enough together to get them on the scale) and took another reading — 178 pounds.
The bottom line
Based on the numbers above, it appears that you’re moving approximately 65% of your body weight at full extension, whereas this number goes up to roughly 75% when you drop to the bottom position.
Of course, these numbers depend on a variety of factors — for example, arm placement, how far you drop during the pushup motion, and the distribution of weight over your body (if you’re “top heavy,” you’ll be pushing proportionally more weight). Nonetheless, it appears that you are moving roughly 70% of your body weight when doing pushups.
What about knee pushups?
A common way for people to start out when doing pushups is to do “knee pushups.” How much easier are these than regular pushups? I explored that, too, though only for the fully extended position. In this case, I was at roughly 116 pounds in the fully extended position, which is roughly 50% of my body weight or 75% of the “regular” pushup load.
So there you have it… When doing “normal” pushups, you’re moving somewhere in the ballpark of 70% of your body weight, whereas this decreases to just over 50% of your body weight with knee pushups.