European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 1015–1025 | Cite as

Muscle activations under varying lifting speeds and intensities during bench press

  • Akihiro SakamotoEmail author
  • Peter James Sinclair
Original Article


During a set of resistance exercise performed until exhaustion, the relationship between intensity and the number of repetitions can be affected by lifting speed, with faster speeds producing higher numbers. The hypothesized mechanisms include enhanced utilization of the stretch–shortening cycle. This study investigated muscle activations under varying speeds and intensities during bench press using surface electromyography (EMG) to suggest further mechanisms for the above finding. Thirteen weight-trained men (21.7 ± 3.6-year-old) performed bench press until fatigue under five intensities (40–80% 1RM), and four speeds (slow 5.6-s/repetition, medium 2.8-s/repetition, fast 1.9-s/repetition, and ballistic maximum speed). Surface EMG was recorded from the pectoralis, deltoid, and triceps for root-mean-square amplitude and median frequency. EMG amplitudes were greater for faster and heavier conditions before fatigue. Faster conditions, however, produced a significant fall in amplitude during the final concentric phase compared to slower movements. After fatigue, EMG amplitude increased, with the speed effect being maintained. The intensity effect on amplitude either disappeared or remained similar, depending on the muscles. Median frequencies before fatigue were similar among speeds and intensities. The fall in frequency after fatigue was similar across speeds, but greater for lighter intensities. It was concluded that reduced muscle activation during the final concentric phase in faster conditions allowed a better muscle pump, explaining the increased repetition numbers. Fatigue levels are likely to have been similar across speeds, but greater for lower intensities. An incomplete rise in EMG amplitude after fatigue for lower intensities could imply an increased contribution of central fatigue or neuromuscular transmission failure.


Strength training Muscle fatigue EMG Root-mean-square amplitude Median power frequency 



There was no external financial support for this study. We would like to thank Mr. Ray Patton for his technical assistance, especially for designing the data processing programs.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health SciencesThe University of SydneyLidcombeAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Health and Sports Science and MedicineJuntendo UniversityInzaiJapan

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