Zo heb je de bekende push up voor de hele borst, maar vooral de buitenkant.
Als je de push up doet met je handen dicht bij elkaar dan train je de binnenkant borst.
Dat binnenkant/buitenkant niet te accentueren valt is al naar voren gekomen en smal is gewoon beter voor de gehele borst
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Vol.
19, No. 3, pp. 628–633.Comparison of Muscle Activation Using Various
Hand Positions During the Push-Up Exercise
Robert M. Cogley, Teasha
A. Archambault, Jon F. Fibeger, Mandy M. Koverman, James W. Youdas, and John H.
Program in Physical Therapy, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine,
Rochester, Minnesota 55905ABSTRACT
Cogley, R.M., T.A.
Archambault, J.F. Fibeger, M.M. Koverman, J.W. Youdas, and J.H. Hollman.
Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up
exercise. J. Strength Cond. Res. 19(3):628–633. 2005.—Popular fitness literature
suggests that varied hand placements during push-ups may isolate different
muscles. Scientific literature, however, offers scant evidence that varied hand
placements elicit different muscle responses. This study examined whether
different levels of electromyographic (EMG) activity in the pectoralis major and
triceps brachii muscles are required to perform push-ups from each of 3
different hand positions: shoulder width base, wide base, and narrow base hand
placements. Forty subjects, 11 men and 29 women, performed 1 repetition of each
push-up. The EMG activity for subjects' dominant arm pectoralis major and
triceps brachii was recorded using surface electrodes. The EMG activity was
greater in both muscle groups during push-ups performed from the narrow base
hand position compared with the wide base position (p < 0.05). This study suggests that, if a goal is to induce greater muscle activation during exercise, then push-ups should be performed with hands in a narrow base position compared with a wide base position.Introduction
standard push-up can be used either in the assessment of muscle performance or
as an exercise to increase chest, shoulder, and arm strength. The push-up
maneuver requires a combined movement of horizontal adduction across the
shoulder and extension at the elbow. As a form of exercise, therefore, its
primary purpose is to develop increased strength in the pectoralis major and
triceps brachii muscles. As a tool for assessing muscle performance, the push-up
is incorporated in a battery of tests designed to assess individuals' fitness
levels, such as in the Army Physical Fitness Test (12). Performance on the
push-up therefore measures strength and endurance of several upper-extremity and
trunk muscles. Whether used as an assessment tool or a strengthening exercise,
it is important to understand activation patterns of the muscles that perform
the movement so that maximal benefits can be realized.
literature has asserted that performing push-ups from different hand positions
may better isolate either the pectoralis major or the triceps brachii. For
example, Weede and Kraemer (22) and others (11, 17, 21) suggest that performing
push-ups from a narrow base (NB) hand position will better isolate the triceps
brachii. Geiger (5) suggests that widening one's grip during a bench press, a
movement similar to that required of a push-up, will reduce triceps involvement
and therefore produce more isolated work of the pectoralis major. Other sources
advocate the wide base (WB) push-up for isolating the pectoralis major as well
(7, 11). Little scientific evidence, however, can support these claims.
Nevertheless, the validity of these sources may have implications regarding the
performance of exercises aimed at recruiting specific muscle groups.
studies have examined muscle activation responses in a variety of shoulder
strengthening programs (1, 13, 16, 18–20). For example, Signorile et al. (18)
compared muscle activation patterns during the lateral pull-down exercise
performed from varying hand placement positions. They reported that changes in
handgrip position affect electromyographic (EMG) activation levels in certain
muscle groups. Most notably, more EMG activity occurs in the latissimus dorsi
muscle when the lateral pull-down is performed from a wide grip position.
Anderson et al. (1) examined muscle activation patterns during seated push-ups
but did not examine the muscle recruitment response of the standard push-up
Donkers et al. (4) examined mechanical demands at the elbow
during standard push-ups performed from the shoulder width (SW), WB, and NB hand
positions. They found that the flexion torque at the elbow during push-ups is
greatest when the exercise is performed from a NB, hands-together position. The
study did not examine force requirements at the shoulder or muscle activation
patterns. Nevertheless, the study points out that biomechanical and kinesiologic
differences may occur during push-ups performed from the SW, WB, and NB hand
positions. Few controlled studies have used kinesiologic methods to examine the
demands of the standard push-up exercise. No study, to our knowledge, has
examined the effect of hand position on muscle recruitment during the exercise,
specifically recruitment in the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscles.
Therefore, the claims in popular literature (5, 7, 11, 17, 22) that hand
position changes may elicit different muscular recruitment responses appear to
be unsubstantiated empirically.
The purpose of this study was to examine
muscle activation of the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscle groups
during push-ups performed from each of 3 selected hand positions: SW base, WB,
and NB. Based on the suggestions of Weede and Kraemer (22) and Geiger (5) and
the empiric evidence of Donkers et al. (4), we hypothesize that greater muscle
activation will be elicited in the triceps brachii from the NB hand position and
in the pectoralis major from the WB hand
position.MethodsExperimental Approach to the
Performing push-ups with the hands in a SW base position is the
typical position from which the exercise is performed. Two variations of the
common push-up include performing the exercise from a WB hand position and
performing the exercise from a NB hand position (6, 7, 11, 17, 21). In this
study we examined which hand position elicited the greatest EMG response from
the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscles. The EMG signals were collected
with surface electrodes, processed with the root mean square algorithm, and
normalized to a maximal voluntary isometric contraction.
We used a
within-subjects, repeated-measures design to test the null hypothesis that EMG
activation in the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscles is equivalent
when push-ups are performed from each of the 3 hand placement positions. Testing
order was randomized to reduce potential order threats to the study's internal
validity. These procedures were designed to assess the muscle activation
required of the pectoralis major and triceps brachii to perform push-ups from
each of 3 hand positions. Specifically, the study design attempts to answer the
following research question: “Does the magnitude of pectoralis major and triceps
brachii EMG activation required to perform a push-up differ within individuals
across SW, WB, and NB hand positions?” Subjects
volunteers between the ages of 22 and 39 years, 11 men (mean * SD age, 24.3 *
6.4 years; mean * SD height, 180.3 * 7.9 cm; and mean * SD body mass, 88.0 *
16.6 kg) and 29 women (mean * SD age, 24.3 * 15.8 years; mean * SD height, 166.6
* 7.7 cm; and mean * SD body mass, 61.4 * 7.1 kg), participated in this study.
Subjects were recruited from the faculty and student populations through
postings at the Mayo School of Health Sciences in Rochester, MN. Subjects
reported an average of 1–5 hours of recreational activity per week, and greater
than half were involved in strength training programs, which included triceps
brachii and pectoralis major exercises. Subjects who had a history of shoulder,
elbow, or wrist injury were excluded from this study. The study procedures were
approved by the Mayo Institutional Review Board, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. All
subjects read and signed an approved informed consent form before their
participation in the study. Instrumentation
Raw EMG signals
were collected with D-100 bipolar surface electrodes (Therapeutics Unlimited,
Inc., Iowa City, IA). The active Ag-AgCl electrodes had an interelectrode
distance of 22 mm and were cased within preamplifier assemblies that measured 35
× 17 × 10 mm. The preamplifiers had a gain of 35. Electrode leads from the
preamplifiers were connected to a main amplifier system GCS 67 (Therapeutics
Unlimited, Inc.). The combined preamplifier and main amplifier permitted a gain
of 100– 10,000 with a bandwidth of 40 Hz to 6 kHz. The common mode rejection
ratio was 87 dB at 60 Hz, and input impedance was greater than 15 MO at 100 Hz.
Data were collected at a sampling frequency of 1,000 Hz. Raw EMG signals were
processed with WinDaq data acquisition software (DATAQ Instruments, Inc., Akron,
Each subject's skin was prepared by vigorously
rubbing the electrode attachment site area with an alcohol wipe. After preparing
the subject's skin, the electrode preamplifier assemblies were attached with
double-sided, padded adhesive tape. The tape had wells that were aligned with
the electrodes, in which conductive gel (Signa Crème electrode cream; Parker
Laboratories, Fairfield, NJ) was used to conduct the myoelectric signal to the
electrode. The electrodes were placed parallel to the line of action of the
triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscles on each subject's dominant arm. The
triceps brachii electrode was placed at the midpoint between the posterior
aspect of the acromion and the olecranon process. The pectoralis major electrode
was placed at a point one third of the distance between the anterior aspect of
the acromion and the xiphoid process. The ground electrode was placed over the
wrist flexor muscle group of the subject's forearm.
Once the electrodes
were applied, maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) were obtained
using traditional manual muscle test techniques described by Hislop and
Montgomery (8). Subjects performed one 5-second isometric contraction against
manual resistance provided by a researcher. The subject was asked to perform
each manual muscle test with maximal effort.
Each subject randomly drew
the order of push-up performance to reduce threats to the study's internal
validity. All push-ups were performed with the subject's forearms pronated,
wrists and fingers extended, and palms on the floor. The SW hand position was
determined by hanging a plumb line along the edge of the deltoid muscle with the
subject in a prone position. The subject's third digit was placed where the
weight of the plumb line was positioned (Figure 1A ). The WB push-up was
performed with the hands placed 20 cm laterally from the SW position (Figure 1B
). In the NB hand position, subjects were instructed to place their hands
together in the shape of a diamond directly under the center of the sternum
(Figure 1C ). Subjects were instructed to perform the designated push-up
starting from the floor and rising in a 3-second cadence. The standard cadence
minimized influence of varying velocities of contraction on muscle performance
(6). Subjects were each given a single practice trial to become familiar with
the mechanical demands of the desired movement. Subjects were allowed a 2- to
3-minute rest period between tests to minimize potential effects of fatigue.
Following completion of the testing, the electrodes were removed and skin wiped
The EMG signals were processed with the
root mean square algorithm at a time constant of 55 milliseconds. The EMG
signals recorded during the test conditions were normalized to the muscles'
respective peak activity levels in the MVIC trials and therefore were expressed
as a percentage of MVIC. We analyzed specifically the half-second mean
surrounding the peak normalized EMG activity level during the concentric phase
of the push-up.Statistical Analyses
Data were analyzed with
mixed-model analyses of variance (ANOVA), having 1 between-subjects factor (sex)
and 1 repeated measure (hand position) to examine differences in normalized EMG
activity between men and women and among the 3 hand positions. Two mixed-model
ANOVAs were conducted, one test for each muscle. Keppel's (10) modified
Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc comparisons were used to determine which hand
positions differed. Statistical significance was established at p 0.05 for all
tests. Statistical procedures were performed with the SPSS 10.0 for Windows
(SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) statistical package. Results
the women tended to perform the push-ups with greater magnitudes of EMG
activation than the men (Table 1 ), greater variability occurred among the
women, particularly in the triceps brachii, and the apparent differences in
activation between men and women were not statistically significant (pectoralis
major F1,38 = 3.536, p = 0.068, and triceps brachii F1,38 = 1.942, p = 0.172).
In light of the nonsignificant differences between men and women, the remaining
results are presented across sexes.
Sample EMG plots from a
representative subject are presented in Figures 2 and 3 for the pectoralis major
and triceps brachii, respectively. In the triceps brachii, mean * SE normalized
EMG activity was 101.3 * 13.5% MVIC in the SW hand position, 98.7 * 15.4% MVIC
in the WB hand position, and 109.1 * 14.1% MVIC in the NB position (Figure 4 ).
The effect of hand position was significant (F2,78 = 3.417, p = 0.038). The EMG
activity was significantly greater in the NB hand position than in the WB hand
position (mean difference = 10.4% MVIC, p = 0.026). Differences between the SW
and WB hand positions and the SW and NB hand positions were not statistically
significant (p = 0.490 and p = 0.072, respectively).
Similar results were
noted in the pectoralis major muscle. Mean normalized EMG activity was 94.4 *
8.4% MVIC in the SW hand position, 83.1 * 6.9% MVIC in the WB hand position, and
100.8 * 7.8% MVIC in the NB hand position (Figure 4 ). The effect of hand
position was statistically significant (F2,78 = 4.990, p = 0.009).
Pectoralis major EMG activity was significantly greater in the NB hand
position than in the WB hand position (mean difference = 17.7% MVIC, p = 0.005).
Differences between the SW and WB hand positions and the SW and NB hand
positions were not statistically significant (p = 0.077 and p = 0.195,
In this study, we examined the EMG
activity in the pectoralis major and triceps brachii required to perform a
push-up. The pectoralis major is generally acknowledged to be a horizontal
adductor of the humerus, although it also assists in adducting the humerus from
an abducted position and medially rotating the humerus (15). Acting alone, the
clavicular head of the pectoralis major can flex the humerus and the
sternocostal head can extend the humerus from a flexed position.
triceps brachii is generally acknowledged to be an extensor of the forearm
across the elbow joint (15), although the long head of the triceps brachii also
extends the humerus across the glenohumeral joint.
Since the push-up
maneuver requires a combined movement of horizontal adduction across the
shoulder and extension at the elbow, its primary purpose is to develop increased
strength in the pectoralis major and triceps brachii muscles. It is generally
thought that the specific movement that elicits the greatest activity from a
muscle during an exercise will most efficiently produce a strengthening effect.
Various sources in popular fitness literature (6, 7, 11, 17, 21, 22) suggest
that different hand positions during performance of the push-up can better
isolate either the pectoralis major or the triceps brachii, although the claims
are unsubstantiated in scientific literature. We therefore set out to examine
the claims with EMG analysis.
Interpreting the results of this study
requires that the reader comprehend an elementary knowledge of muscle mechanics
and the relationship to EMG activity. Briefly, surface EMG monitors the motor
unit recruitment of muscle. Myoelectric activity from a “window” of muscle
fibers under the active electrodes is measured as the muscle fibers contract. As
tension demand increases within a muscle, more motor units are recruited and
therefore EMG levels increase. Since EMG provides insight into muscle activity,
it can be a good tool for determining the movements or positions that place
higher demand on a muscle's performance capability. The EMG activity levels,
however, can be influenced by numerous factors, and therefore one's
interpretation of EMG studies can be difficult. For example, for any given
external loading condition on a muscle, EMG amplitudes will be greater for a
concentric contraction than an eccentric contraction (2).
To control for
the contraction-related influence on EMG activity, we therefore analyzed only
the concentric phase of the push-up in this study. Similarly, contraction
velocity during concentric contractions also affects the tension that is
developed within a muscle, such that less tension is developed at higher
contraction velocities and greater tension is developed at lower contraction
velocities. The EMG changes reflect those differences inversely. For a given
external loading condition, EMG amplitude will be greater for a high-velocity
contraction than a low-velocity contraction, reflecting the motor unit
requirements for completing a movement at the various velocities (2). Therefore,
we attempted to minimize this effect by standardizing the cadence over which the
subjects in this study performed their push-up movements. Numerous other factors
can influence EMG amplitude but are beyond the scope of this
Results of the study reveal that push-ups performed from the NB
hand position elicit the greatest EMG activity in both the pectoralis major and
triceps brachii muscles. The difference between the NB and WB hand positions was
statistically significant in both muscles. These data suggest that push-ups
performed from the NB hand position recruit more motor units and therefore
require more contractile demand from the pectoralis major and triceps brachii
muscles than push-ups performed from the WB hand position. Push-ups performed
from the NB hand position may therefore be more efficient as a strengthening
exercise for both muscle groups than are push-ups performed from the WB
The results, particularly for the triceps brachii, seem to be
consistent with other literature. In popular fitness literature, Weede and
Kraemer (22) suggest that push-ups performed from the NB position better isolate
the triceps brachii. Our results support that claim. Additionally, in an
empirical study of push-up mechanics, Donkers et al. (4) report that the peak
external flexion torque across the elbow is greatest when push-ups are performed
from the NB hand position. The flexion torques across the elbow are 71% of the
maximal isometric torque in the NB hand position, 56% of the maximal torque in
the SW hand position, and 29% of the maximal torque in the WB position. Most of
the internal moment required during a push-up to overcome the external flexion
torque is generated by the triceps brachii contraction. The EMG results from our
study, indicating that triceps brachii muscle activity is highest in the NB hand
position, are consistent with the results of Donkers et al. (4).
other hand, our results contrast with the apparent recommendation of Geiger (5)
that if one wishes to better isolate the pectoralis major demand during
push-ups, the WB hand position should be used. The results also contradict our
hypothesis that EMG activity would have its greatest amplitude in the pectoralis
major during push-ups performed from the WB hand position. Pectoralis major EMG
activity was significantly greater in the NB hand position than in the WB hand
position. This finding may be a function of the range of motion through which
humeral adduction occurs during the push-up maneuver. Although we did not
examine the range of joint motion required to perform the push-ups from the
various hand positions in this study, it is apparent that the push-ups are
performed in different ranges of shoulder horizontal abduction and adduction
range of motion.
In the WB hand position, the arms are in a relatively
horizontally abducted position, even at the termination of the push-up movement.
In contrast, in the NB hand position, the arms are in a neutral to slightly
horizontally adducted position at the termination of the movement, meaning the
pectoralis major is in a shorter position throughout the push-up. The
length-tension relationship of muscle mechanics suggests that muscles generate
less tension at shorter muscle lengths than at longer muscle lengths. Therefore,
for a given loading condition, a muscle in a shortened position must recruit a
greater number of motor units to develop the tension necessary to meet the
loading condition. We believe the EMG results of our study reflect this issue of
muscle mechanics. The relatively shortened muscle length of the pectoralis major
in the NB hand position requires greater motor unit activation.
primary limitation of this study is the assumption that greater EMG activation
is desired to improve the efficiency of muscle strengthening during exercise.
The reader must understand that EMG, however, is not a direct reflection of the
force produced by a muscle. It merely provides insight into the motor unit
activity necessary to perform the movement and the number of motor units
represented beneath the active electrodes. Nevertheless, the results provide
empirical evidence that push-ups performed from different hand positions elicit
different amplitudes of EMG activation. Additionally, other than hand position
and cadence, we did little to standardize the performance of the push-ups among
individual subjects. For example, we did not test subjects' maximum performance
The load used to measure muscle activation responses in
other studies, such as that of Signorile et al. (18), was normalized to a
percentage of each subject's 10-repetition maximum. One advantage of using a
normalized loading condition is that it allows an investigator to compare EMG
activity levels among individuals from equivalent loading conditions. The fact
that we neither tested subjects' maximum performance capability nor used a
normalized loading condition likely had an influence on the sex comparison in
the present study. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the present study was to
examine EMG activation responses within individuals. The within-subjects
analysis would not have benefited from either a normalized loading condition or
knowing subjects' maximum performance capability. Another potential limitation
of the study is that each subject was only instructed to perform the push-up to
the best of his or her ability regardless of change in posture. While most
subjects were able to perform each push-up with a rigid spinal posture, some
were unable to maintain the correct posture throughout the push-up. We are
unsure whether a subject's change in posture during push-up performance affected
As long as push-ups continue to be advocated as a
strengthening exercise for the pectoralis major and triceps brachii, we believe
that several remaining questions should be addressed empirically. For example,
our hypothesis that the pectoralis major would be activated at a higher
amplitude in the WB hand position came from suggestions in popular literature
that a wide hand position be used during the bench press to better isolate the
muscle (5). It is not clear, however, whether the bench press and push-up are
equivalent exercises from a biomechanical standpoint. Studies by Mayhew et al.
(14) and Invergo et al. (9), in fact, show that push-up performance is only
moderately predictive of performance in the bench press. In contrast, Blackard
et al. (3) analyzed EMG activation in the pectoralis major and triceps brachii
during equivalently loaded push-ups and bench presses and reported that EMG
activity did not significantly differ between the
Nevertheless, they did not examine EMG responses from
different hand placements, and one would have to be careful about extrapolating
the results we obtained with push-ups to the bench press exercise. An additional
question is whether hand placement position may affect performance on the
push-up. An interpretation of our results is that the increased EMG activation
observed in push-ups performed from the NB hand position is a response to
greater contractile demands on the muscle. One might extrapolate this to mean
that performance, e.g., maximal number of repetitions, would be reduced in the
NB hand position compared with the WB hand position. We did not examine whether
performance differs, but the question merits investigation.Practical
The primary purpose of the push-up as a strengthening
exercise is to develop increased strength in the pectoralis major and triceps
brachii muscle groups. Therefore, it is important to understand which hand
position elicits greatest activity from these muscles during the exercise.
Results of our study indicate that most EMG activity is elicited when push-ups
are performed from a NB hand position. If an individual uses the push-up as a
form of upper-extremity exercise to strengthen the pectoralis major and triceps
brachii, we recommend using the NB hand position.References
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