Popular topics for upper-body resistance training involve the differences between hand positions, open versus closed chain exercises, and movement variations for the novice to the advanced. It was hypothesized that there will be no difference between closed (push-up) versus open (bench press) chain exercises for the primary muscle group activity nor would there be a difference between push-ups on the toes versus knees with respect to the percent contribution of each muscle. Surface muscle activity was measured for 8 upper-body and core muscles during a sequence of push-up and bench press variations with a normalized weight for 12 active men. Each participant completed push-ups and bench press exercises at each of 3 hand positions. The results demonstrated that there were few differences between closed versus open chain exercises for the primary muscle groups with the exception of core activation. In addition, in general, narrow hand positions yielded greater activation, and there were no significant differences between push-ups on the toes versus knees with respect to the percent contribution for the primary muscle groups. In conclusion, closed chain exercises may be preferred for functional training, and knee push-ups may be ideal as a novice push-up variation.
Keywords: electromyography; pectoralis major; rectus abdominis; strength training.