The Perfect Push-up: Is It Really Better?

Blog Post

The Cooper Institute
The Cooper Team
Fit Tips
February 7, 2011

Every year there are a number of new fitness products and ideas introduced. Many of them claim they will elicit significantly improved results versus conventional strength training methods and equipment.

But do these new products and ideas really work?

The push-up exercise has been around for decades. This exercise has been proven time after time as an effective means of strengthening and assessing muscular endurance of the upper body. Specifically, the push-up has been shown to activate muscles of the triceps brachii, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, anterior deltoid, and trunk muscles.

So how can the push-up be improved? The Perfect Push-upTM claims to do just that. It claims that the device engages more muscular recruitment and helps reduce joint strain.

It has been seen that performing conventional push-ups with a narrow hand placement compared to shoulder width or wide hand placement can alter activation of muscles in a push-up. Research by Cogley et al.1 found that an increased number of muscles were activated in a push-up with a narrow hand placement compared to wide hand placement. But do these different hand positions cause additional mechanical demands and torque of joints. Research by Donkers2 found that elbow flexion torque is greatest when the conventional push-up is performed with the hands in a narrow hand position. Thus the Perfect Push-upTM may alleviate this by allowing the hand to swivel, although no current available publications have been published on this topic.

So what about the claim of enhanced muscle recruitment by using The Perfect Push-upTM?

An article by Youdas et al.3 investigated the muscle activation of the triceps brachii, pectoralis major, serratus anterior and the posterior deltoid muscles during push-ups. The study looked at push-ups performed in three different hand positions. It compared these using the conventional push-up and the Perfect Push-upTM.

In the study of 20 subjects, they used electromyography (EMG) activity to measure differences in muscle activity between exercise conditions. Based on EMG activity, the Perfect Push-upTM did not elicit any significant statistical difference that was higher than the conventional push-up in the muscles tested. As a result, the claim that the Perfect Push-upTM elicits more muscles may not be 100% supported by this study. However, the study only analyzed the muscles listed above and did not analyze any of the internal rotators that allow the wrist to swivel in and out. Since they were not analyzed, it is unknown, but there could be more activation in those muscles.

Thus, scientific studies have not looked at all aspects of the Perfect Push-upTM nor have they investigated all of the possible comparisons to the conventional push-up. But if it offers an extra device for your collection of exercises and encourages additional exercises, then it might be effective in just that. In the study by Youdas, it did show that both the conventional push-up and Perfect Push-upTM generated EMG activation ratios that exceeded the 60% maximum voluntary isometric contraction threshold value for promoting strength gains.

So keep doing those push-ups, regardless of how you are doing them, as both types will help to develop muscular strength and endurance.  

1Cogley, R.M., Archambault, T.A., Fibeger, J.F., Koverman, M.M., Youdas, J.W., Hollman, J.H.; Comparison of Muscle Activation Using various Hand Positions During the Push-up Exercise. J Strength Cond Res 19: 628-633, 2005.  

2Donkers, M.J., An, K.N., Charo, E.Y., Morrey, B.F.; Hand Position Affects Elbow Joint Load During Push-up Exercise. J Biomechanics 26: 625-632, 1993.

3Youdas, J.W., Budach, B.D., Ellerbursch, J.V., Stucky, C.M., Wait, K.R., et al.; Comparison of Muscle Activation Patterns During the Conventional Push-up and Perfect Pushup Exercises. J Strength Cond Res 24: 3352-3362, 2010.


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