Most people brush off this exercise, either claiming it to be too easy and/or just something gym teachers use to punish pesky kids. But the push-up can be just the exercise to push you a step closer to the chest you desire.
Are you too good for the push-up?
Are you really too good for the push-up? Chances are, no.
The US Army physical fitness test is made up of sit-ups, a two-mile run and you guessed it, push-ups.
If the US Army isn't good enough for you, try Jim Wendler. For those who don't know Jim Wendler, I would just sum it up for you-he is a kickass elite powerlifter. Jim Wendler himself recommends push-ups to get stronger at the bench press here and here's a picture of the man himself doing push-ups.
But I can do plenty of push-ups and high reps are just endurance!
I know there will be plenty of you who would be screaming that with push-ups, we will end up doing in the high reps region.
First of all, you can do weighted push-ups to bring down the rep scheme.
Secondly and more importantly, don't discount high rep work The old-school 20 rep squats program, which is held in high regard, is in the region of 20 reps. What about Kroc rows? To paraphrase Wendler, you can be considered to have become stronger if you are able to do more reps of the same weight.
How about some Maths?
While being able to bench your bodyweight is nothing to brag about, it is still a fair indication that one is no longer an untrained weakling. Now, a push-up provides 50-70% of your bodyweight as resistance. Taking the midpoint of 60% and assuming your 1RM=your bodyweight, it means you would be using a 60% load. If you're a fairly discerning lifter, you would know you should be able to lift this load in the region of 10-20 reps, which is exactly how many push-ups you would probably be knocking out if you're doing this at the end of your chest workout.
Hold on a minute you say, I bench more than my bodyweight. So I do, but that's still cool, because I'm not suggesting you put the push-ups at the start of your workout. You do them at the end of your workout when fatigue is setting in and the poundages are starting to go down.
How about a real-life example?
You can read about one here.
What exactly is my point?
I'm still undecided on using push-ups as an emphasis in a routine (unless you have specific goals such as a test). However, push-ups are definitely very valuable exercises that can help you achieve the chest you want.
Note: By push-ups, I meant push-ups with a medium-width hand position, not those with your arms at the side of your body. Those do not give your chest a proper workout.