Recruitment of Shoulder Prime Movers and Torso Stabilizers During Push-Up Exercises Using a Suspension Training System

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Suspension training devices use body weight resistance and unstable support surfaces that may facilitate muscle recruitment during push-up exercises. Objective: The authors examined muscle recruitment with surface electromyography on 4 shoulder and 4 torso muscles during (1) standard push-ups, (2) feet-suspended push-ups, (3) hands-suspended push-ups, and (4) dual-instability push-ups in which feet were suspended and hands were on unstable surfaces. Design: Cross-sectional design with repeated measures. Setting: Biomechanics laboratory. Participants: Thirty-two healthy men and women (mean age, 24.3 y; mean body mass index, 24.6 kg·m−2) participated. Intervention: Participants were tested while performing 2 repetitions each of 4 variations of push-ups. Main Outcome Measures: Muscle recruitment, normalized to maximum voluntary isometric contraction, was measured in 4 prime movers (anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and triceps brachii) and 4 torso stabilizers (external oblique, internal oblique, rectus abdominis, and upper erector spinae). Results: Muscle recruitment in the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, and serratus anterior during suspended exercises was no greater than during standard push-ups. In contrast, torso stabilizer recruitment was significantly greater in the external oblique, internal oblique, and rectus abdominis during all 3 suspended exercises compared with standard push-ups. Suspended exercises under a dual-instability condition did not generate greater levels of muscle activation compared with conditions of single instability. Conclusions: Push-ups performed with suspension training systems may provide benefit if one’s goal is to enhance torso muscle training. One unstable surface may be sufficiently challenging for the client or athlete when performing push-up exercises with a suspension training device.

All authors are with the Program in Physical Therapy, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Rochester, MN; and the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Hollman (hollman.john@mayo.edu) is corresponding author.
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