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STENDEC

Who Needs Leg Drive?

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The present study aimed to evaluate and compare the levels of electromyographic activation in the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps brachii, forearm, rectus abdominis, external oblique, and rectus femoris muscles during a horizontal bench press in two situations: 1) with the feet on the ground; and 2) with active hip flexion and 90° of knee flexion. Twenty young men were familiarized with the procedure and the calculation of one-rep max (1RM). In a second session, electromyographic activity values were recorded in both bench press situations (with the feet on the ground vs active hip flexion and knees at 90°) at 60% 1RM. Performing the bench press with the hips and knees flexed produced significantly greater muscle activation of all elevated muscles (p < 0.01; d > 0.5). The pectoralis major showed the greatest activation, followed by the anterior deltoid and the triceps brachii. In addition, the greater activation of the abdominal muscles occurs due to the need to stabilize the core while performing the bench press with hip and knee flexion as well as the lumbar spine due to traction of the hip flexors.

 

FFT

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8 hours ago, STENDEC said:

The present study aimed to evaluate and compare the levels of electromyographic activation in the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps brachii, forearm, rectus abdominis, external oblique, and rectus femoris muscles during a horizontal bench press in two situations: 1) with the feet on the ground; and 2) with active hip flexion and 90° of knee flexion. Twenty young men were familiarized with the procedure and the calculation of one-rep max (1RM). In a second session, electromyographic activity values were recorded in both bench press situations (with the feet on the ground vs active hip flexion and knees at 90°) at 60% 1RM. Performing the bench press with the hips and knees flexed produced significantly greater muscle activation of all elevated muscles (p < 0.01; d > 0.5). The pectoralis major showed the greatest activation, followed by the anterior deltoid and the triceps brachii. In addition, the greater activation of the abdominal muscles occurs due to the need to stabilize the core while performing the bench press with hip and knee flexion as well as the lumbar spine due to traction of the hip flexors.

 

FFT

Very interesting study.

 

To review, they had 20 volunteers for this study. Mean age 22, mean height 5'10.5", mean weight of 170lbs, and mean 1RM of 185lbs on the bench. According to a conservative set of strength standards, these volunteers would qualify as novice to intermediate level lifters. 

 

The paper mentions that regarding performance of the bench press, trainees were instructed to bench using the protocol by Padulo et al [24]. I checked the pdf, and this is more like a powerlifting fed rulebook for benching rather than an instructional (nothing about how to brace, how to set your feet, how to torque your shoulders, how to activate rear delts and lats). I think this is an important variable especially when dealing with such underdeveloped athletes. However, they normalized certain things like grip width (150% of biacromial distance), elbow angle corresponding to 45 degree shoulder abduction, and a distance of 1cm to the chest. 

 

Anyways, the results are very interesting. I think shifting of the load from the "whole body" to just the "upper body" makes sense in the context of losing the legs on the bench. However the bolded red indicates to me that these people actually probably had poor bracing mechanics and poor leg drive, which elevation of the legs helped expose, which prompted those with raised legs to correct this mistake. I think this is a serious limitation of the study at hand, and it cannot be conclusively stated that losing leg drive increases muscle activation in the upper limbs with all lifters. This may be true of novices who do not know how to brace properly, use leg drive, and potentially have poor neuromuscular coordination (I know these guys do; this is simply a reality of not being an elite lifter) relative to an elite lifter, but I think it's inappropriate to draw the conclusion it's better for all, even if the question is on muscle activation. That said, due to my own experimentations, I'd recommend people give it a shot and see how they like it, especially if you're very tall like me and leg drive is almost impossible due to bench height. 

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