Our new client, Kate, told me that one of her goals is to be able to do a push-up. Currently, she can descend to around 10cm above the ground but unable to press herself back up. So just for fun, we tried to find out how much she needs to bench to be able to do a push-up.

We can draw a few parallels between a push-up and a bench press. It generally uses the same muscle group as its prime movers (chest, triceps, and shoulder), and the range of motion can also be similar with similar grip/hand width.

Obviously, I’m not implying that both are EXACTLY the same. So, there are bound to be some flaws in comparing them head to head. However, to keep it simple, let’s assume:

1. We have similar grip width in the bench press and the hand position in push-up to ensure a similar moment arm between the shoulders and the hands.

2. We can hold rigid extension on their knees and hips while ensuring our torso and legs are flat throughout the push-up.

3. We are not arching excessively during bench press to reduce ROM.

Now, with all this being said, I have tried two methods to estimate the amount of bench press to be able to do a solid push-up.

Mathematical model using moment analysis

I am using myself as the subject of this experiment, and these are some measurements that my wife took.

Heels-to-shoulder: 134cm

Heels-to-base of palm (at the bottom of the push up): 122cm

Heels-to-navel: 101 cm

Shoulder-to-the-base-of-palm: 59cm

Bodyweight: 69.5kg

Total height (heels-to-head): below average

Based on a quick Google search (which I always trust), humans’ center of mass (COM) is typically around 10 cm below the navel, at the top of the hip bone. So since the heels-to-navel measurement is 101cm, I will “very accurately” assume that my heels-to-COM is at 91cm.

Now, let’s analyze this at the top position of the push-up (which is not very useful, but I’ll explain why)

We will do the same analysis at the bottom of the push-up

Well, actually, I didn’t need to calculate the force at the top. LOL.

In conclusion, mathematically, I need to generate more than 74.5% of my body weight to push myself back up to the top position.

However, I am just one person; it might not represent how much force you need to generate or, in this case, how much you need to bench for you to do a push-up. So, I set up the second experiment.

Weighing Scale Method

One fine Saturday at Hygieia Strength & Conditioning, I troubled 18 clients in the gym to do me a favour. Test subject consists of 6 females and 12 males ranging from 27 to 73 years old. They performed the push-up with their hands on the weighing scale. I recorded the reading at the bottom of the push-up, their actual bodyweight (with shoes and sometimes belt on), their height, and how much they can bench.

These are the results:

The results give us the average weight at the “bottom” of the push-up to be 73.3% of their body weight.

To draw a few conclusions:

1. All people who can bench more than the weight at the “bottom” can do push-ups

2. People who can’t do a push-up yet, have a bench press lower than the “bottom” weight.

So if you can bench heavier than the “bottom” weight, I think it’s likely that you can do a push-up.

I also observed a few trends (or a lack thereof):

1. The people who can do push-ups but have lower bench press numbers versus] the “bottom” weight tend to be novice lifters. They are probably still progressing or not very efficient yet at doing the bench press.

2. I can’t see any trend in a person’s height vs. “bottom”/BW ratio. Although if we do this experiment again, we can also try to measure the heels-to-navel height. The measurement might reveal if there’s a significant difference in the ratio between people with longer torso proportion and people with longer leg proportion due to the mass distribution.

3. Gender might not play much role in determining the “bottom”/BW ratio.

Try it out! And let us know your results. I hope you had fun reading it.


My interest in fitness started when I was around 19 years old. Being overweight for most of my growing up years, I decided to do something about it. After months of not being able to achieve the desired results, I began poring through books and articles about training and nutrition. The more I read, the more interested I became in this field, and got better results when the the newly discovered knowledge was applied. After 1 year of persistence and hard work, I lost 24kg and felt fantastic. The sense of achievement motivated me to pursue a career in working with people to help them achieve their own fitness goals.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I tried a variety of training programs for a few years, looking for a new goal to train towards. After aimlessly moving around from program to program, I chanced upon a book called Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, written by renowned strength and conditioning expert, Mark Rippetoe. Little did I know that this book was about to change my life and coaching career.

At that point, I had experience training with barbells and was relatively familiar with it but never have I come across any material that gave such explicitly detailed explanations of how to perform the barbell lifts. I devoured the book and modified my lifting technique and program. In just a few months, I was pleasantly surprised by how much stronger he had become. I now had a new goal to work towards – getting strong.

With full confidence in the efficacy of the Starting Strength methodology, I began coaching my clients using this program and got them stronger than they ever thought was possible. The consistent success my clients achieved through the program cemented my confidence in Mark Rippetoe’s teachings. I then decided to pursue the credential of being a Starting Strength Coach and I’m currently the first and only certified coach in Singapore and South-East Asia

In my 9 years of experience, I have given talks and ran programs at numerous companies and worked with a diverse group clientele of all ages with a variety of goals. Today, I specialise in coaching people in their 40s, 50s and beyond because it brings me a great sense of satisfaction to be part of the process of improving this demographics’ health and quality of life by getting them stronger.