“We took nine of the most common chest exercises performed by men and women, and tested which one elicited the highest level of muscle activation,” said ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric Bryant, Ph.D.
The Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, conducted a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) to determine which one of the most common strength-training exercises for the chest is most effective.
“Knowing which exercises yield the highest level of muscle activation will allow individuals to make more informed exercise selections in their quest to live their most fit lives.”
In the study a test group of 14 healthy males ranging in age from 19 to 30, all of whom had prior experience in resistance training. The subjects performed five repetitions of each of the nine exercises at 80 percent of their predetermined 1RM, in random order.
During each of the exercises, electromyography (EMG) electrodes monitored muscle activation of the pectoralis major muscles. Compared to the top-performing barbell bench press, the pec deck machine had 98 percent of muscle activation and bent-forward cable crossovers had 93 percent.
All of the remaining exercises resulted in significantly lower muscle activation, with suspended push-ups, stability ball push-ups and standard push-ups rounding out the lowest three.
“According to the EMG results, three exercises (barbell bench press, the pec deck machine and cable crossovers) were far and away the winners in terms of chest muscle activation.”