Electromyographic activity of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles during three upper-body lifts

J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):449-52. doi: 10.1519/14513.1.


The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in activation levels and times of activation for the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid when performing the concentric phase of 3 upper-body lifts. Twelve college-age men and women with various degrees of lifting experience performed 3 repetitions using the 6 repetition maximum in a barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, and dumbbell fly while being monitored for electromyographic activity in both muscles. Motor unit activation of both muscles was not significantly different during all 3 lifts. However, dumbbell flys had significantly less relative time of activation than did barbell or dumbbell bench presses. Therefore, dumbbell flys may be better suited as an auxiliary lift, whereas barbell and dumbbell bench presses may be used interchangeably in training programs. The compatibility of the barbell and dumbbell bench presses may aid lifters in overcoming training plateaus by alternating exercises for the same muscle groups.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Pectoralis Muscles / physiology
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological / physiology
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*