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Muscular Contribution to Low-Back Loading and Stiffness

During Standard and Suspended Push-Ups


Tyson A.C. Beach, Samuel J. Howarth, Jack P. Callaghan

INTRODUCTION
Why are push-up exercises performed? Increase strength or
endurance of muscles that span the upper extremity joints
Trunk muscle activation: labile vs. stable surfaces
Muscle stiness and joint stiness
Why this study?

To examine whether dierences exist in trunk muscle activation levels &


contributions to lumbar IVJ loading and rotational stiness when standard
push-ups were compared to suspended push-ups

METHODS
11 trained male volunteers
1 set suspended & 1 set standard
push-ups (8-10 repetitions)

89.4kg

IREDs and EMG recording


electrodes used to assess
muscle activation
Contribution of all spanning
muscles about each axis of each
IVJ were summed and averaged
Standard Push-Up

Suspended Push-Up

1.83m

AGE: 27.4

RESULTS
Muscles of the abdominal wall and latissimus dorsi had increased
mean and peak muscle activation during suspended push-ups
As a direct result of increased muscle activation levels, lumbar
L4/L5 compressive forces and lumbar intervertebral joint
rotational stiness were also significantly greater

% of MVIC

60
50
40
30
20
10
0

No significant dierences in linked-segment model outputs or lumbar spine posture

STANDARD

RECTUS
ABDOMINIS

EXTERNAL
OBLIQUES

SUSPENDED

INTERNAL
OBLIQUES

LATISSIMUS
DORSI
Copyright 2009 Pearson Education Inc.

DISCUSSION
Due to the instability of a labile surface, the abdominal muscles illicit
hoop stresses to increase stability in the lower spine
Abdominal activation during push-up can approach or exceed
magnitudes recorded during more conventional abdominal
exercises

Prescribe push-ups as a form of abdominal exercise

Lower back compression with no deviation from neutral

No participant experienced L4/L5 IVJ shear loads in excess of 1 kN


Suspended push-ups may increase the risk of low-back injury for
some individuals

Compressive loads exceeded 3.4 kN limit set by NIOSH

Study is based on outputs of a biomechanical model

Sensitive to dierences in anatomical parameters

This model was constructed based on male-based data set

CONCLUSION
Push-up exercise presents an abdominal muscle challenge

More pronounced when the hands were interfaced with a labile support
surface

Compared to standard push-ups, suspended push-ups provide a


superior abdominal muscle challenge based on measured
activation levels and lumbar IVJ rotational stiness
For individuals unable to tolerate large magnitude low-back
compressive loads, benefits gained by incorporating suspended
push-ups may be outweighed by the potential risk of overloading
low-back tissues
Future studies examining upper extremity biomechanics while
performing push-ups on labile support surfaces to provide a more
complete justification for their use in resistance training programs