There is a notable change in muscle activation patterns when performing resistance exercises at 30–45% 1RM with the intention of moving the load with maximal contraction velocity (21). Specifically for the push-up, higher maximum force and faster rate of force development are seen when performing the traditional push-up as fast as possible as compared with fall push-ups and clap push-ups (12). It is plausible that performing the push-up in the rapid manner while adding RBR will enhance eccentric loading. Numerous studies support the benefits of RBR coupled with dynamic resistance exercise to effectively increase lower body peak force, peak power (22,24), EMG activity in the agonist muscle (6), and upper-body strength (2). Using RBR provides an increased prestretch intensity, which effectively uses the fascicle-tendinous elastic tissue properties of skeletal muscle (1,15) during stretch-shortening cycle activities. This produces a neural adaptation of simulating afferent fibers to the spinal cord, which results in an efferent impulse sent to the extrafusal fibers, thus increasing motor unit recruitment (1,20). RBR provides a large prestretch that increases the acceleration of the load during the initial phase of movement when compared with a constant externally resisted movement with an equivalent load (19). The greater acceleration during the eccentric phase may result in greater eccentric forces and potentially greater stretch-shortening cycle enhancement. Multiple studies indicate that elastic energy derived from rapid stretch-shortening cycles improves work, power, and efficiency for a variety of activities (23,25). These findings are substantiated by the fact that isokinetic exercises that provide a rapid eccentric phase also increase muscle size (8).
Practitioners have expressed opposing perspectives regarding variable resistance training with elastic bands (9). Advocates state that exercises with ascending strength curves may benefit from band training because this modality promotes peak force production where mechanical advantage is at its greatest (i.e., full extension) and elicits greater accelerations at the initial phase of eccentric contraction. However, caution should be employed when selecting RBR strength. If eccentric loading is too high, then a long amortization phase will occur and elastic energy will be released and lost as heat (25). This will lower force output in the concentric phase. Therefore, if the time between the eccentric and concentric phases is minimized, the stretch-shortening cycle will be optimized and muscular contraction will be more powerful (10,25). Optimal tension for this exercise should be a band level of greater resistance, approximately levels 4–5 out of a maximum level 6. In the figures shown here, this is a level 4 intermediate resistance band from Iron Woody, LLC (Olney, MT).
Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups may be disadvantageous because more advanced lifters consider this an elementary exercise without resistance required to provide any benefit (14). An advanced variation is performing this exercise with a weighted vest. Additional weight can also be added by attaching a dumbbell to a dip belt hook as depicted in Figure 4. This will allow higher trained individuals to use heavier loads, thus providing a more challenging stimulus to increase muscle strength.
Proper form for the elastic band and weighted vest push-up between the benches is depicted in Figures 1–4, as well as in Supplemental Digital Content 1 (see Video, http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A115).
Multiple variations of the push-up have been examined to assess differences in muscle activation and recruitment patterns of the upper body (4,5,11–13,18,26). Practitioners need to possess an adequate knowledge of the different variations to optimize the challenge on the target musculature without compromising proper form and risking injury (5). This exercise can assist those in selecting optimal progressions that involve dynamic approaches to performing the push-up. When the athlete establishes a good baseline technique for this movement, heavier elastic bands can be introduced or more weight can be added to the weight vest for progressive overload.
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