Muscle Activation in Traditional and Experimental Barbell Bench Press Exercise: A Potential New Tool for Fitness Maintenance
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BACKGROUND: The bench press exercise (BP) is commonly practiced in both recreational and professional training. The weight is lowered from a position where the elbows are at a 90° angle at the start and <90° at the end of eccentric phase, and then returned to the elbows extended position. In order to focus the exercise more on the triceps brachii (TB) rather than the pectoralis major (PM), the inter-handle distance (IHD) is decreased diminishing the involvement of the PM in favor of the TB. PURPOSE: To improve performance of the exercise by reducing force dissociation and transmitting 100% of the external load to the muscle tissue we propose a prototype of the barbell with a bar on which two sleeves are capable of sliding. The dynamic modifications of the IHD keep the elbow flexion angle constant at 90°. RESULTS: Analysis of the inter-handle distance (IHD) signals of the upper body muscles showed a marked increase in muscle activity using the experimental barbell for the PM (19.5%) and for the biceps brachii (173%). CONCLUSIONS: The experimental barbell increased the muscle activity typical of the bench press exercise, obtaining the same training induction with a lower load and consequently preventing articular stress.
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