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J Hum Kinet. 2013 Dec 31;39:75-83. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2013-0070. eCollection 2013 Dec 18.

Electromyographic comparison of traditional and suspension push-ups.

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School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ.
Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science, Auburn University at Montgomery, Montgomery, AL.


There is very limited scientific data concerning suspension training. The purpose of this investigation was to compare the electromyographic activity of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii between a suspension push-up and traditional push-up. Twenty-one apparently healthy men (n = 15, age = 25.93 ± 3.67 years) and women (n = 6, age = 23.5 ± 1.97 years) volunteered to participate in this study. All subjects performed four repetitions of a suspension push-up and a traditional push-up where the order of the exercises was randomized. The mean peak and normalized electromyography of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii were compared across the two exercises. Suspension push-ups elicited the following electromyographic values: pectoralis major (3.08 ± 1.13 mV, 69.54 ± 27.6 %MVC), anterior deltoid (5.08 ± 1.55 mV, 81.13 ± 17.77 %MVC), and triceps brachii (5.11 ± 1.97 mV, 105.83 ± 18.54 %MVC). The electromyographic activities during the traditional push-up were as follows: pectoralis major (2.66 ± 1.05 mV, 63.62 ± 16.4 %MVC), anterior deltoid (4.01 ± 1.27 mV, 58.91 ± 20.3 %MVC), and triceps brachii (3.91 ± 1.36 mV, 74.32 ± 16.9 %MVC). The mean peak and normalized electromyographic values were significantly higher for all 3 muscles during the suspension push-up compared to the traditional push-up (p < 0.05). This study suggests that the suspension push-up elicited a greater activation of pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii when compared to a traditional push-up. Therefore, suspension push-ups may be considered an advanced variation of a traditional push-up when a greater challenge is warranted.


EMG; TRX; instability devices; resistance training

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