Well, I’ve been there as well – this fairly trivial question does not have easy answers. With that said, I have a few tips and some wisdom to share with you today.
If you want to develop your chest and triceps through push-ups, then you should progress by adding weight. Below, we will have a look at a few ways to add weight to push-ups. Since not every method is equal, I’ll talk about their pros and cons in detail too.
Best Way To Do Weighted Push Ups – Using A Dip Belt
First up, I’d like to introduce you to arguably the best way of adding weight to your push-ups – using a dip belt.
To perform this variation of weighted push-ups, you will need:
- A dip belt.
- Weight plates.
- Bench (preferably adjustable) or a box.
- A power rack.
- A barbell.
Now, this is a lot of stuff for just a weight bench, and for most people, the only way to access this kind of equipment is to attend a gym. But if you do have access to these pieces of athletic equipment, you’ll be able to perform weighted push-ups comfortably and progress easily.
Here’s how you should perform this variation:
- Place the barbell in the power rack roughly at the level of your bench. If your bench is height-adjustable, then you should be able to achieve perfect levelling. The bar and the bench should also be high enough to allow you to go all the way down without the weight plate hitting the floor.
- Without any weight, do a few push-ups to determine whether the spacing between the bar and the bench is enough. The correct spacing would allow you to perform push-ups with the same foot and hand placement as in floored push-ups.
- Once you figure out the bench placement, put the dip belt on and hang the desired weight on it.
- Grab onto the barbell with both hands.
- Extend one of your legs all the way back and place it on the bench. Make sure that your foot placement is solid.
- Bring your other leg onto the bench.
- Here, I’d suggest that you have someone pull the belt toward your mid-back. Higher up your back, the belt will not slide around.
- Perform your reps.
- Once you are done, bring your feet down onto the floor one by one.
By the way, instead of a power rack and barbell, you may just get yourself a second bench.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to perform dip belt push-ups:
The best thing about this variation of weighted push-ups is comfort. I’ll explain the downsides of other variations below so that you know why exactly dip belt push-ups are great.
Another good reason to use a dip belt is that you can easily add hundreds of pounds to your push-ups. Needless to say, this will bring a lot of gains in the long run.
You may also adjust the height of the bench or the bar to simulate inclined push-ups.
On the other hand, this style of push-ups requires plenty of equipment. If you are attending a gym, then you probably will have access to the tools listed earlier.
However, those who want to progress in push-ups are most likely training at home. At home, you probably don’t have the necessary arsenal for dip belt push-ups.
Alternative Ways To Add Weight To Your Push-Ups
Because dip belt push-ups are so demanding on equipment, I would totally understand if many people preferred other methods of adding weight to build muscle on their upper body.
For those of you who don’t have the equipment or those who are skeptical of the belt push-ups, let’s now talk about a few other ways to do weighted push-ups. I personally think that many of these variations are inferior to the hip belt method, but they’re still worth covering.
You may try these variations anyway to just confirm for yourself that the dip method is better. Or if you figure out that something works better for you, then by all means, stick to it!
Most people increase weight by just placing weight plates onto their backs. This method may work for some people, but I see a few big downsides to it:
- If the weight plate is placed on your upper back, then it may restrict the movement of your scapulas and elbows (if your arm placement is narrow). This is an especially big issue with larger plates.
- You need to have a buddy place the plates on your back and take them off after you are done.
- If you want to progress, then you will have to add more plates onto your back, which will make this variation of weighted push-ups really inconvenient.
- If placed badly, the weight plates may slide off, possibly injuring you.
I think that you should avoid this variation if you can. But if your home or commercial gym setup only allows to increase weight via plates, follow these tips to make plate push-ups more convenient:
- Place the weight plates on your mid or lower back, if possible. If you have a strong core – which you should have if you want to do weighted push-ups – placing the plates lower on your back should not lead to injury.
- If you have to stack several weight plates on each other, then have your buddy keep an eye on the plates to make sure that they don’t fall off.
- Avoid Olympic plates – these are great for deadlifts but are really uncomfortable for push-ups.
#2 Loaded backpack
The second common way of adding weight to push-ups is using a loaded backpack. This is a fairly decent way of doing weighted push-ups, but I don’t like it for two reasons:
- Large backpacks may move around your back, making the exercise really uncomfortable. You could tighten the straps to keep the backpack in place, but this would make putting the backpack on more difficult.
- Your backpack may rip under the weight unless it’s super-strong.
I’d say that the backpack variation would work the best for lighter weights. However, as you start needing more weight, you should switch to another method – preferably, dip belt push-ups.
#3 Weight vests
Weight vests basically are a more convenient alternative to backpacks. They are easy to put on, are fairly sturdy, and don’t slide around.
With that said, a weight vest has a few issues too:
- Although some vests do allow you to swap out the weights for heavier ones, there is only so much weight you can add to them.
- They are expensive.
I myself wouldn’t purchase a weight vest for home use. But for gym owners, it might be a good tool to have – thanks to their easiness of use, weight vests particularly appeal to newbies.
#4 A gym buddy
Some people also like to have their gym buddies on their back as added weight.
I personally think that this is a really impractical way of increasing weight. For having fun or taking a few amusing photos, it’s fine, but it has one big issue.
You cannot easily progress if you use a partner as a weight. This is because you cannot adjust the weight of your training buddy.
If you are just starting out with weighted push-ups, then you probably will not be able to jump straight to the body weight of your partner. And if you are really strong, then a gym buddy may not weigh enough to make push-ups challenging for you.
#5 Chains & bands
Next, we have chains & bands. Although chains are completely different from bands, I’ve placed them under the same point because they both exert varying loads.
As you descend in your push-up rep, the amount of load is reduced because:
- With a band, the tension gets lower.
- With chains, the chain links gather on the floor.
This means that the load is the heaviest at the top point of your push-ups, with your arms extended.
With that in mind, bands or chains are a pretty nice way of making your push-ups more challenging. Especially with chains, you may use much heavier loads than with plates because the weight gets lower as you descend toward the floor!
#6 One-arm push-ups
One-arm push-ups are another great way of making your exercise heavier. Although you technically aren’t really adding any more weight to the exercise, all your body weight is shifted onto one hand.
One-arm push-ups are really tough because they require not only immense strength but also balance. To be able to perform these, you should place out one of your legs – the leg that is opposite to the hand that is on the floor.
Initially, one-arm push-ups can be a great way of building strength. However, progressing with these is really difficult.
You can’t increase weight here – the only thing that you could reasonably do is paused push-ups, but you are going to grow out of these too sooner or later.
Aside from that, one-arm push-ups are really difficult to start since they require plenty of strength.
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How Do Weighted Dips Compare To Weighted Push-Ups?
Some of you may be confused between weighted dips and push-ups. Why do weighted push-ups when you can do weighted dips?
Well, the answer to this question is that dips are a very different kind of exercise.
Although dips and push-ups both train your chest, triceps, and shoulders, they distribute the load differently. Dips are more focused on your triceps and lower chest, while push-ups (without an incline or decline) shift the load toward your mid-chest and shoulders.
With that, I do not think that you should replace dips with push-ups and vice versa. Both are essential exercises that should be incorporated into your upper body routine.
What About Bench Press?
I love bench press, and for me, it’s a way better upper body workout.
Why? Progressing in the bench press is much easier than in push-ups. You just have to add plates to the bar when you are ready to push yourself further. No need to make any contraptions, like in the dip belt push-ups.
HOWEVER, I do think that the bench press is the most deceptive exercise out there. It looks fairly simple, but it’s perhaps the most dangerous barbell exercise anyone could do at the gym or home.
The thing is that bailing out of a bench press is very difficult if you:
- Do not have a spotter. This is an especially big issue if you like to lock your weights on the bar. With locks, you won’t be able to tilt the bar to the side to let the weights slide off.
- Are not benching in a power rack.
You’ve likely seen videos of people failing to do a rep and getting stuck under the weight. Without a spotter and outside of a power rack, it’s very difficult to get the bar off of you.
The bench press is relatively safe if you have a good spotter or/and are doing the exercise in a power rack. But it’s extremely dangerous if performed improperly.
Aside from that, if you are training at home alone and don’t have the proper equipment, you should not try heavy bench press.
Some people may also argue that push-ups are more natural and load your entire body. But here, I could argue that a powerlifting-style bench press (where you arch your back and drive your feet into the ground) also loads your whole body. It’s fairly natural for our bodies too.
Anyway, I personally think that progressing with the bench press is much easier than with push-ups. But that’s just my opinion, and your mileage may vary depending on your preferences and what you have.
This was quite the journey! Now, you know the proper ways to do weighted push-ups safely and efficiently.
To recap – I think that the best way to add some weight to push-ups is to use a dip belt, like described at the beginning of the post.
It would perhaps be even better to just switch to the bench press, but not everybody may agree with me and not everybody may have the equipment for it.
In the end, I do hope that I’ve been able to teach you new tricks. Try out the variations I listed and determine which one is the best for you.
Good luck and work out safely!