Forgotten Exercises for Big Pecs
If you are looking to make the most gains in muscle mass, it’s a good idea to hit the muscle from various angles. So for example, if you’re going chest, it’s smart to do incline, decline, and flat bench presses to hit the chest muscle fibers from different angles. One study found that using TRX instability push up vs. a standard push up on the floor on the muscle activity of the pectoralis major, triceps brachii and anterior deltoid. The study found that during TRX push-ups recruited the chest muscle better than the standard push-up that recruited more of the anterior deltoid.
Another trial compared the EMG activity of the chest in two push-up positions: standard push- ups and push-ups with 30 degrees of trunk flexion or floor push-up. It was reported that the EMG activity of the sternocostal part of the pectoralis major was significantly greater in the standard push-up position than in the trunk flexed position, but the reverse was the case for the clavicular portion (Upper Pecs). Thus, different push-up variations were able to place a different amount of stress on various heads of the pectoralis major. Another study examined the muscle activation of the triceps brachii and pectoralis major in the push-up, showing that the narrow-base hand position elicited greater activation of both muscles compared with the wide-base
Push-Up Position and Chest Activation
Researchers examined how different hand positioning doing the floor push up affected muscle activation of the chest. Subjects performed a set of 10 repetitions for five push-up variations:
wide hand placement,
narrow hand placement,
forward hand placement (20cm in front of the acromion), and
backward hand position (20cm behind the acromion)
The triceps brachii and pectoralis major exhibited greater activation during the narrow-base variant. The highest activation of abdomen and back muscles was recorded for the forward hand placement and backward hand position variants. Based on these findings, the researcher suggests the narrow-base variant that emphasizes triceps and pectoralis activity and the backward hand position modification for total upper body strength conditioning.
So if you are looking for a great finishing move after you do chest, make sure you finish off your workout with a few sets of narrow grip push-ups.
Selective activation of shoulder, trunk, and arm muscles: a comparative analysis of different push-up variants, by Marcolin, Petrone, Moro, Battaglia, Bianco & Paoli, in Journal of Athletic Training (2015)
Cogley RM, Archambault TA, Fibeger JF, Koverman MM, Youdas JW, Hollman JH. Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise. J Strength Cond Res.2005;19(3):628–633
Youdas JW, Budach BD, Ellerbusch JV, Stucky CM, Wait KR, Hollman JH. Comparison of muscle-activation patterns during the conventional push-up and perfect pushup exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(12):3352–3362.