The comparison of muscle activation levels between a bench press and push-up of compatible loads
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Introduction. The bench press and push-up are compatible multi-joint exercises for the upper body used to analyse muscular strength, power and muscular endurance. The biomechanical similarities between these exercises have been previously identified. Exercises with similar biomechanical properties that produce similar muscular activation levels can be considered sufficient alternatives. Methods. Fourteen experienced subjects (age, 31 ± 14 years; mass, 91.1kg ± 9.4kg; height, 1.79m ± 0.05m) were recruited for this study. Each participant required a minimum of one year’s experience in the bench press exercise and that 90% of their one repetition maximum [1RM] was ≥ subject bodyweight. The average bench press experience of the group was 10.8 years ± 8.1. All subjects were required to perform 90% 1RM bench press and then the push-up with the same load (subject bodyweight plus additional weight plates) for one repetition only. Each subject required 24 hours recovery between each exercise. All muscles were investigated using surface electromyography [EMG]. All signals were normalised via peak activation and integrated averages from the processed channel in Microsoft Excel (Microsoft, USA) using a 25ms rolling average. All data was imported into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS version 17 for windows, SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) for analysis. The level of significance was set at p<0.05. Results. All muscles presented similar temporal profiles in both modes of exercise but mixed differences in magnitude. The peak activation levels were statistically significant for the anterior deltoid and pectoralis major. The anterior deltoid was superior in the push-up (1680.7mV ± 160.6) and the pectoralis major in the bench press (2805.2mV ± 295.7). Only the pectoralis major was statistically significant when analysed using integrated averages. The pectorlais major was statistically significant in the ascent phase generating superior results in the bench press (2527.47mV/s ± 308.12). Discussion. The anterior deltoid and triceps brachii can maintain muscle activation levels through stabilization demands irrelevant of load. The pectoralis major plays less of a role in stabilization and is only concerned with its primary movement. The pectoralis major is dependent on load for magnitude of muscle activation. Conclusion. The bench press and push-up are feasible alternative exercises to each other but additional load needs to be added to the push-up to activate the pectoralis major similar to that in the bench press.
- Masters Degrees (Sport) 
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