Traditional Versus Suspended Push-up Muscle Activation in Athletes and Sedentary Women

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Syed-Abdul, MM, Soni, DS, Miller, WM, Johnson, RJ, Barnes, JT, Pujol, TJ, and Wagganer, JD. Traditional versus suspended push-up muscle activation in athletes and sedentary women. J Strength Cond Res 32(7): 1816–1820, 2018—Many strength training programs incorporate push-up exercises, which primarily activate upper-body muscles. Past data support the fact that shoulder girdle muscles (i.e., triceps (T) and anterior deltoids [AD]) exhibit greater electromyography (EMG) activity when a push-up is performed on an unstable (i.e., suspended [SP]) vs. stable (i.e., traditional [TD]) surface (2). Sixty-nine healthy female volunteers (soccer players [SO], n = 24; gymnasts [GY], n = 21; sedentary [SE], n = 24) performed three TD and three SP push-ups. Muscle activation, expressed as absolute integral (mV), was measured using EMG analysis. Significant increases in muscle activation were exhibited by GY (TD: p < 0.01 and SP: p < 0.001) and SO (TD: p < 0.05 and SP: p < 0.05) compared to SE for the T muscle. Only SO (p < 0.05) exhibited significantly higher muscle activation during the SP versus TD. For the AD, values were significantly higher for SO (TD: p < 0.001 and SP: p < 0.001) and GY (TD: p < 0.01 and SP: p < 0.01) compared to the SE group. In addition, significantly higher values were exhibited by SO compared with GY during TD push-ups (p < 0.01). Both the SO (p < 0.05) and GY (p < 0.05) group exhibited significantly higher values during SP versus TD push-ups. Finally, values were significantly higher for the AD compared to the T muscle only in the SO group during TD (p < 0.01) and SP (p < 0.05) push-ups. Data from this study for trained women (i.e., SO) are consistent with previous studies, whereas for untrained women (i.e., SE) the findings differed during TD and SP push-ups for both muscles. Differences were also observed between female SO and GY are unexplainable and therefore need further investigation.

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