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Differences in Muscle Activity During Cable Resistance Training Are Influenced by Variations in Handle Types

Rendos, Nicole K.; Heredia Vargas, Héctor M.; Alipio, Taislaine C.; Regis, Rebeca C.; Romero, Matthew A.; Signorile, Joseph F.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 7 - p 2001–2009
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001293
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Rendos, NK, Heredia Vargas, HM, Alipio, TC, Regis, RC, Romero, MA, and Signorile, JF. Differences in muscle activity during cable resistance training are influenced by variations in handle types. J Strength Cond Res 30(7): 2001–2009, 2016—There has been a recent resurgence in the use of cable machines for resistance training allowing movements that more effectively simulate daily activities and sports-specific movements. By necessity, these devices require a machine/human interface through some type of handle. Considerable data from material handling, industrial engineering, and exercise training studies indicate that handle qualities, especially size and shape, can significantly influence force production and muscular activity, particularly of the forearm muscles, which affect the critical link in activities that require object manipulation. The purpose for this study was to examine the influence of three different handle conditions: standard handle (StandH), ball handle with the cable between the index and middle fingers (BallIM), and ball handle with the cable between the middle and ring fingers (BallMR), on activity levels (rmsEMG) of the triceps brachii lateral and long heads (TriHLat, TriHLong), brachioradialis (BR), flexor carpi radialis (FCR), extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum (ED) during eight repetitions of standing triceps pushdown performed from 90° to 0° elbow flexion at 1.5 s per contractile stage. Handle order was randomized. No significant differences were seen for triceps or BR rmsEMG across handle conditions; however, relative patterns of activation did vary for the forearm muscles by handle condition, with more coordinated activation levels for the FCR and ED during the ball handle conditions. In addition, the rmsEMG for the ED was significantly higher during the BallIM than any other condition and during the BallMR than the StandH. These results indicate that the use of ball handles with the cable passing between different fingers can vary the utilization patterns of selected forearm muscles and may therefore be advantageous for coaches, personal trainers, therapists, or bodybuilders for targeted training or rehabilitation of these muscles.

1Department of Kinesiology and Sports Sciences, University of Miami, Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, Coral Gables, Florida; and

2Miller School of Medicine, Center on Aging, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

Address correspondence to Joseph F. Signorile, jsignorile@miami.edu.

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.