A Comparison of Muscle Activation Between a Smith Machine and Free Weight Bench Press

Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Fullerton, California, USA.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Impact Factor: 2.08). 03/2010; 24(3):779-84. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cc2237
Source: PubMed


The bench press exercise exists in multiple forms including the machine and free weight bench press. It is not clear though how each mode differs in its effect on muscle activation. The purpose of this study was to compare muscle activation of the anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, and pectoralis major during a Smith machine and free weight bench press at lower (70% 1 repetition maximum [1RM]) and higher (90% 1RM) intensities. Normalized electromyography amplitude values were used during the concentric phase of the bench press to compare muscle activity between a free weight and Smith machine bench press. Participants were classified as either experienced or inexperienced bench pressers. Two testing sessions were used, each of which entailed either all free weight or all Smith machine testing. In each testing session, each participant's 1RM was established followed by 2 repetitions at 70% of 1RM and 2 repetitions at 90% of 1RM. Results indicated greater activation of the medial deltoid on the free weight bench press than on the Smith machine bench press. Also, there was greater muscle activation at the 90% 1RM load than at the 70% 1RM load. The results of this study suggest that strength coaches should consider choosing the free weight bench press over the Smith machine bench press because of its potential for greater upper-body muscular development.

Download full-text


Available from: Lee E Brown
  • Source
    • "The results of this study confirm that the SM squat offers lifters the opportunity to overcome heavier loads . However , there is a potential problem with regard to the transfer of this force to more dynamic sporting / exercise situations . Schick et al . ( 2010 ) consider the barbell squat to be a superior exercise compared to the SM squat , as the muscles contract in a more natural fashion , ensuring balance in three planes of motion . Barbell actions cause a higher demand on the lifter to stabilize the load and control the movement while overcoming the chosen resistance ( Langford et al . , "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to identify how changes in the stability conditions of a back squat affect maximal loads lifted and erector spinae muscle activity. Fourteen male participants performed a Smith Machine (SM) squat, the most stable condition, a barbell back (BB) squat, and Tendo-destabilizing bar (TBB) squat, the least stable condition. A one repetition max (1-RM) was established in each squat condition, before electromyography (EMG) activity of the erector spinae was measured at 85% of 1-RM. Results indicated that the SM squat 1-RM load was significantly (p = 0.006) greater (10.9%) than the BB squat, but not greater than the TBB squat. EMG results indicated significantly greater (p < 0.05) muscle activation in the TBB condition compared to other conditions. The BB squat produced significantly greater (p = 0.036) EMG activity compared to the SM squat. A greater stability challenge applied to the torso seems to increase muscle activation. The maximum loads lifted in the most stable and unstable squats were similar. However, the lift with greater stability challenge required greatest muscle activation. The implications of this study may be important for training programmes; if coaches wish to challenge trunk stability, while their athletes lift maximal loads designed to increase strength.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Sports Biomechanics
  • Source
    • "We recognize that this study has limitations as we did not use other variations of bench press with different bench angles, dumbells, machines and other exercises in order to compare with the barbell pullover. However , other studies (Cachio et al., 2008; Sadri et al., 2011; Schick et al., 2010; Trebs, Brandenburg, & Pitney, 2010; Welsch, Bird, & Mayhew, 2005 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The aim of the study was to compare the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the following muscles: clavicular portion of pectoralis major, sternal portion of pectoralis major, long portion of triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, posterior deltoid and latissimus dorsi during dynamic contractions between flat horizontal bench press and barbell pullover exercises. The sample comprised 12 males individuals experienced in resistance training. The volunteers made three visits to the laboratory. The first one consisted of 12 repetitions of the exercises for the electromyographic data collection. The results showed a higher EMG activation of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles in the flat horizontal bench press in comparison with the barbell pullover. The triceps brachii and latissimus dorsi muscles were more activated in the barbell pullover. © 2014, Universidade Estadual Paulista - UNESP. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Motriz. Revista de Educação Física
  • Source
    • "The EMG was measured from seven muscles: pectoralis major (approximately 4 cm medial to the axillary fold (Schick et al., 2010), anterior deltoid (1.5cm distal and anterior to the acromion), triceps brachii (long head, approximately 3 cm medial and on 50% on the line between acromion and olecranon), biceps brachii (1/3 from the fossa cubit), rectus abdominis (3 cm lateral to the umbilicus), oblique external (approximately 15 cm to the umbilicus) and erector spinae (L1, 6 cm lateral to the spinous process) according to the recommendations of SENIAM (Hermens et al., 2000) and as used in similar studies (Anderson and Behm, 2004; Behm et al., 2005). Before placement of the gel coated self-adhesive electrodes (Dri-Stick Silver circular sEMG Electrodes AE-131, NeuroDyne Medical, USA) the skin was shaved, washed with alcohol and abraded before the placement. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to examine the effect of fatigue during one set of 6-RM bench pressing upon the muscle patterning and performance. Fourteen resistance-trained males (age 22.5±2.0 years, stature 1.82±0.07 m, body mass 82.0±7.8 kg) conducted a 6-RM bench press protocol. Barbell kinematics and EMG activity of pectoralis major, deltoid anterior, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, rectus abdominis, oblique external and erector spinae were measured ineach repetition during the 6-RM bench press. Total lifting time increased and the velocity in the ascending movement decreased (p≤0.001). However, the kinematics in the descending phase deferred: the time decreased and velocity increased during the 6-RM (p≤0.001). Generally, muscles increased their EMG amplitude during the six repetitions in the ascending movement, while only three of the seven measured muscles showed an increase over the six repetitions in the descending part in 6-RM bench pressing. It was concluded that the bench pressing performance decreased (lower barbell velocities and longer lifting times) with increasing fatigue in the 6-RM execution. Furthermore EMG increased in the prime movers and the trunk stabilizers (abdominal and spine), while the antagonist muscle (biceps) activity was not affected by fatigue during the lifting phase in a single set of 6-RM bench pressing
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Journal of Human Kinetics
Show more