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Location of Instability During a Bench Press Alters Movement Patterns and Electromyographical Activity

Nairn, Brian C.1; Sutherland, Chad A.2; Drake, Janessa D.M.1

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3162–3170
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000973
Original Research

Abstract: Nairn, BC, Sutherland, CA, and Drake, JDM. Location of instability during a bench press alters movement patterns and electromyographical activity. J Strength Cond Res 29(11): 3162–3170, 2015—Instability training devices with the bench press exercise are becoming increasingly popular. Typically, the instability device is placed at the trunk/upper body (e.g., lying on a Swiss ball); however, a recent product called the Attitube has been developed, which places the location of instability at the hands by users lifting a water-filled tube. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze the effects of different instability devices (location of instability) on kinematic and electromyographical patterns during the bench press exercise. Ten healthy males were recruited and performed 1 set of 3 repetitions for 3 different bench press conditions: Olympic bar on a stable bench (BENCH), Olympic bar on a stability ball (BALL), and Attitube on a stable bench (TUBE). The eccentric and concentric phases were analyzed in 10% intervals while electromyography was recorded from 24 electrode sites, and motion capture was used to track elbow flexion angle and 3-dimensional movement trajectories and vertical velocity of the Bar/Attitube. The prime movers tended to show a reduction in muscle activity during the TUBE trials; however, pectoralis major initially showed increased activation during the eccentric phase of the TUBE condition. The trunk muscle activations were greatest during the TUBE and smallest during the BAR. In addition, the TUBE showed decreased range of elbow flexion and increased medial-lateral movement of the Attitube itself. The results further support the notion that instability devices may be more beneficial for trunk muscles rather than prime movers.

1Faculty of Health, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and

2Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Human Kinetics, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Address correspondence to Dr. Janessa D.M. Drake, jdrake@yorku.ca.

Copyright © 2015 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.