Muscle activity levels in upper-body push exercises with different loads and stability conditions
Calatayud, Joaquin; Borreani, Sebastien; Carlos Colado, Juan; Martin, Fernando; Rogers, Michael E. 2014. Muscle activity levels in upper-body push exercises with different loads and stability conditions. Physician and Sports Medicine, vol. 42:no. 4:pp 106-119
Background: Exercises that aim to stimulate muscular hypertrophy and increase neural drive to the muscle fibers should be used during rehabilitation. Thus, it is of interest to identify optimal exercises that efficiently achieve high muscle activation levels. Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the muscle activation levels during push-up variations (ie, suspended push-ups with/without visual input on different suspension systems, and push-ups on the floor with/without additional elastic resistance) with the bench press exercise and the standing cable press exercise both performed at 50%, 70%, and 85% of the 1-repetition maximum. Methods: Young fit male university students (N = 29) performed 3 repetitions in all conditions under the same standardized procedures. Average amplitude of the electromyogram (EMG) root mean square for the rectus abdominis, external oblique, sternocostal head of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, long head of the triceps brachii, upper trapezius, anterior serratus, and posterior deltoid was recorded. The EMG signals were normalized to the maximum voluntary isometric contraction. The EMG data were analyzed with repeated-measures analysis of variance with a Bonferroni post hoc. Results and Conclusions: Elastic-resisted push-ups induce similar EMG stimulus in the prime movers as the bench press at high loads while also providing a greater core challenge. Suspended push-ups are a highly effective way to stimulate abdominal muscles. Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and anterior serratus are highly elicited during more stable pushing conditions, whereas abdominal muscles, triceps brachii, posterior deltoid, and upper trapezius are affected in the opposite manner.