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Flexions: Differences between narrow, medium and wide positions

The push-ups and their different variants are common exercises in the training routines for the strengthening of the muscles of the trunk and shoulders. This exercise does not require the use of devices for its execution, being able to be carried out practically anywhere, being safe and effective if they are carried out correctly.

Although the push-ups are mainly used to improve the strength and muscular endurance of the trunk, this exercise is frequently used in exercise programs for dynamic stability of the joints and the maintenance of vertical posture.

This exercise causes the co-contraction of several muscles, in addition to providing more proprioception by stimulating afferent receptors around the joints, often used in rehabilitation programs for patients with shoulder damage.

Importance of palmar width in the push-ups

In the push-ups, because muscle activity varies depending on the position of the hands (narrow, medium or wide positions), the palmar width is a key factor in the exercise.

In particular, when we provide training programs to strengthen the shoulder and trunk muscles or rehabilitation programs for patients with shoulder problems, it is expected that the palmar width in the push-ups plays an important role in the rehabilitation period and in the performance.

What is and how do we define the palmar width?

The palmar width is defined as the distance between the acromion of each shoulder. The acromion is a bone that extends over the shoulder joint, being a continuation of the spine of the scapula and articulating with the clavicle to form the acromioclavicular joint.

Regarding the differences positions, we consider them as narrow, medium and wide in the following way:

  • Narrow : half the palmar width of the subject (50%).
  • Average : palmar width of the subject (100%).
  • Wide : 1.5 times the palmar width of the subject (150%).

What muscles do we activate to a greater or lesser extent with one or the other position?

In the flexions involved different muscle groups among which are the middle deltoid, the pectoralis major, the pectoralis minor, the serratus anterior, the biceps brachii, the triceps brachii, the latissimus dorsi and the infraspinatus.

If we measure the muscular activity of these muscles we find that the activities of the pectoralis minor muscle, triceps brachii and infraspinatus are greater during the flexions performed in narrow position, in comparison with the other positions.

The muscular activity of the pectoralis major is greater during the flexions performed in narrow and medium position compared to the wide position. However, the activity of the serratus anterior, which is a key muscle to increase the stability of the scapula, is greater during the flexions performed in wide position compared to the other positions.

As for the middle deltoids, the brachial biceps and the latissimus dorsi, it has not yet been shown that there are significant differences between performing the flexions in one or the other position, although there is a tendency for greater muscular activity of the biceps brachii and the latissimus dorsi. wide positions.

Practical applications of the knowledge of the muscular activity in the push-ups

In short, the activity of the trunk muscles in the flexions varies according to the palm width we use (narrow, medium or wide). The knowledge of the muscular activity of different muscles in this exercise can serve as a reference material for their applications in training programs for the strengthening of the trunk muscles or for scapular rehabilitation programs.

For example, when there is an imbalance in the stabilizing muscles of the scapula, the flexions performed in a wide position, more centered in the serratus anterior, will be more beneficial and the relative contribution of said muscle will also be higher than that of other muscles.

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