Electromyographic amplitude ratio of serratus anterior and upper trapezius muscles during modified push-ups and bench press exercises

J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Mar;22(2):477-84. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181660748.


Imbalance and weakness of the serratus anterior and upper trapezius force couple have been described in patients with shoulder dysfunction. There is interest in identifying exercises that selectively activate these muscles and including it in rehabilitation protocols. This study aims to verify the UT/SA electromyographic (EMG) amplitude ratio, performed in different upper limb exercises and on two bases of support. Twelve healthy men were tested (average age = 22.8 +/- 3.1 years), and surface EMG was recorded from the upper trapezius and serratus anterior using single differential surface electrodes. Volunteers performed isometric contractions over a stable base of support and on a Swiss ball during the wall push-up (WP), bench press (BP), and push-up (PU) exercises. All SEMG data are reported as a percentage of root mean square or integral of linear envelope from the maximal value obtained in one of three maximal voluntary contractions for each muscle studied. A linear mixed-effect model was performed to compare UT/SA ratio values. The WP, BP, and PU exercises showed UT/SA ratio mean +/- SD values of 0.69 +/- 0.72, 0.14 +/- 0.12, and 0.39 +/- 0.37 for stable surfaces, respectively, whereas for unstable surfaces, the values were 0.73 +/- 0.67, 0.43 +/- 0.39, and 0.32 +/- 0.30. The results demonstrate that UT/SA ratio was influenced by the exercises and by the upper limb base of support. The practical application is to show that BP on a stable surface is the exercise preferred over WP and PU on either surfaces for serratus anterior muscle training in patients with imbalance between the UT/SA force couple or serratus anterior weakness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Shoulder / physiology*