Muscle Activation during Push-Ups with Different Suspension Training Systems


The purpose of this study was to analyze upper extremity and core muscle activation when performing push-ups with different suspension devices. Young fit male university students (n = 29) performed 3 push-ups each with 4 different suspension systems. Push-up speed was controlled using a metronome and testing order was randomized. Average amplitude of the electromyographic root mean square of Triceps Brachii, Upper Trapezius, Anterior Deltoid, Clavicular Pectoralis, Rectus Abdominis, Rectus Femoris, and Lumbar Erector Spinae was recorded. Electromyographic signals were normalized to the maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC). Electromyographic data were analyzed with repeated-measures analysis of variance with a Bonferroni post hoc. Based upon global arithmetic mean of all muscles analyzed, the suspended push-up with a pulley system provided the greatest activity (37.76% of MVIC; p < 0.001). Individually, the suspended push-up with a pulley system also provided the greatest triceps brachii, upper trapezius, rectus femoris and erector lumbar spinae muscle activation. In contrast, more stable conditions seem more appropriate for pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles. Independent of the type of design, all suspension systems were especially effective training tools for reaching high levels of rectus abdominis activation.

Key Points

  • Compared with standard push-ups on the floor, suspended push-ups increase core muscle activation.
  • A one-anchor system with a pulley is the best option to increase TRICEP, TRAPS, LUMB and FEM muscle activity.
  • More stable conditions such as the standard push-up or a parallel band system provide greater increases in DELT and PEC muscle activation.
  • A suspended push-up is an effective method to achieve high muscle activity levels in the ABS.

Coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can use the present information to select the optimal suspension training device and to establish an intensity push-up progression based on the reported extent of muscle activation. It should be noted that greater activation of the TRICEP, TRAPS, LUMB and FEM can be achieved with more unstable suspension devices as a one-anchor system with a pulley. However, if greater activation is sought for the DELT and PEC, it can be achieved with more stable conditions. In fact, a parallel band system with two anchors is the best option to increase PEC muscle activation whereas the suspended push-ups do not suppose an additional advantage to increase DELT muscle activity. All the tested push-up suspension systems effectively enhance ABS activation.