August Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Hi fitness folks! Do you know the answer to the August S&C research review questions? If not, you ought to subscribe to our research review service. The review costs just $10 per month and is released on the first day of each month. To subscribe, just click on the button below and follow the instructions…


Strength & Conditioning, Power and Hypertrophy

  1. Can the band-resisted push-up lead to similar strength gains as the bench press?
  2. Are periodized resistance-training training programs better than non-periodized ones?
  3. Does concurrent training interfere with strength gains in resistance-trained females?
  4. Does high or low-velocity resistance-training increase strength and sprint speed most?
  5. Can unstable-surface training improve strength as effectively as standard resistance-training?
  6. Does performing exercises as supersets reduce their performance?
  7. How does tapering affect performance in professional rugby league players?
  8. Can increases in intracellular water explain strength and power improvements?
  9. Do the effects of interval training differ when performed once daily vs. twice every second day?
  10. How does block periodization affect transfer of strength and power training to sprint running performance?
  11. What are the acceleration and sprint profiles of a professional elite football team in match play?
  12. What lunge exercises should be used to develop world-standard squash players?

Have you developed a lunge progression system?

Biomechanics & motor control

  1. How does ROM and foot position affect quadriceps EMG activity during leg extensions?
  2. Are there regional differences in EMG activity during different hamstrings exercises?
  3. Does EMG activity differ between push-ups on the floor and in suspension training systems?
  4. How does trunk flexion affect EMG activity of the shoulder and trunk muscles during push-ups?
  5. How does load affect peak power in the deadlift?
  6. How does load affect measures of central and peripheral fatigue during explosive exercise?
  7. Can plyometric exercises be ranked for intensity using joint power absorption?
  8. Do changes in muscle architecture cause the PAP effect?
  9. Does the size of the PAP effect differ depending on the muscle action in the performance contraction?
  10. How do EMG activity and spine load compare in different pulling exercises?
  11. How does force direction affect spine loads where moments are identical?
  12. Where on the length-tension curve are sarcomeres in the lumbar spine muscles in the anatomical position?
  13. What factors predict normalized power off the block in elite sprinters?
  14. Can neuromuscular electrical stimulation training change muscle stiffness?
  15. What are the main predictors of rate of force development?

What is the load that maximizes peak power in the deadlift? Hint: It’s not 30% as shown in previous research.

Anatomy, physiology & nutrition

  1. How does eating rate affect energy intake and hunger?
  2. How does beta‐hydroxyl‐beta‐methyl-butyrate free acid supplementation affect muscle mass, strength, and power in resistance‐trained individuals?
  3. Is creatine supplementation post‐exercise effective in middle-to-older aged males?
  4. How much protein should athletes consume during periods of weight loss?
  5. How does caffeine supplementation affect strength and muscle activity in resistance-training?
  6. How should we program low-carbohydrate endurance training?
  7. How does dietary glycemic index affect weight loss, satiety and inflammation?
  8. Can a single bout of exercise remove the difference in insulin resistance between physically active and sedentary overweight adults?
  9. Does ibuprofen treatment affect signaling responses in muscle post-exercise?
  10. How does calcium lactate supplementation affect exercise performance?

Does caffeine help muscles activate faster during explosive movements?

Physical therapy & rehabilitation

  1. Do structural changes explain the response to therapeutic exercises in tendinopathy?
  2. What causes rotator cuff tendinopathy?
  3. Is the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) screen reliable?
  4. Does foam rolling improve flexibility without altering force production capability?
  5. Does foam rolling help reduce muscle soreness?
  6. Does kinesiological taping reduce pain in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome?
  7. Does kinesiological taping increase muscle strength?
  8. Does joint mobilization improve the effects of an exercise program for shoulder dysfunction?
  9. Does open kinetic chain training help rehabilitate the ACL-injured knee?
  10. Are elastic resistance bands as effective as machine weights for hip abduction exercises?
  11. What are the types of non-arthritic hip pain in young and active people?
  12. How does muscle activity differ between athletes with and without hamstring strain injury?
  13. How does hip abductor muscle fatigue affect knee valgus during step landings?
SMR works at least in part via central mechanisms

Does SMR works at least in part via central mechanisms?

You can click HERE to buy this edition as a back issue. Like all our editions, it’s packed with 50 great study reviews covering a range of topics relevant to exercise and physical therapy professionals alike, and it only costs $10 for the whole thing!

Not interested in these topics? Why not check out our brand new, free hypertrophy resource instead!

August Research Round-Up: Push-Up Edition

Every month, Chris and I write the monthly Strength and Conditioning Research review service. The August edition comes out in just a few days. The overall theme is the push-up, as there was some remarkable research done on this humble exercise this month. Here is a preview of the brand-new research into the push-up that Chris has written. Enjoy!


Does a 6RM band-resisted push-up lead to similar EMG activity as a 6RM bench press?

The study: Bench press and push-up at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains, Calatayud, Borreani, Colado, Martin, Tella, and Andersen, in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Publish Ahead of Print

What did the researchers do?

In this part of their study, the researchers evaluated EMG levels during a 6RM bench press and elastic-band resisted push-up. In this trial, the researchers used surface electrodes to record EMG activity from the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major and from the anterior deltoid. They normalized these data using values obtained during maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) and expressed them as a percentage of the maximum EMG activity levels.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers reported that there was no significant difference in the EMG activity levels of either the pectoralis major or anterior deltoid muscles between the 6RM bench press and the elastic-band-resisted push-up. Indeed, the EMG activity levels in both muscles appeared almost identical.


Can a 6RM band-resisted push-up lead to similar strength gains as a 6RM bench press?

The study: Bench press and push-up at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains, Calatayud, Borreani, Colado, Martin, Tella, and Andersen, in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Publish Ahead of Print

What did the researchers do?

In this part of their study, the researchers evaluated strength gains following a 5-week period in which either the bench press or push-up were performed but in which all other training variables (i.e. relative load, volume, rest, exercise technique and speed of movement) were controlled. The subjects were 30 university students with resistance-training experience and 1RM strength gains were assessed using a Smith machine bench press test. The training involved 2 sessions per week for 25 minutes per session in which the subjects performed 5 sets of 6 repetitions with 4 minutes of inter-set rest using the previously attained 6RM.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that both the bench press group and elastic-band-resisted push-up group improved 1RM and 6RM significantly from pre- to post-testing. However, they did not detect any significant differences in the increase in strength between the two groups. Indeed, the increase in both groups was very similar, being 22% in the bench press group and 21% in the push-up group.


Which push-up variation is best for the triceps, deltoids and pectorals, respectively?

The study: Muscle activation during push-ups with different suspension training systems, by Calatayud, Borreani, Colado, Martín, Rogers, Behm and Andersen, in Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2014

What did the researchers do?

The researchers wanted to compare the EMG activity of the prime mover muscles (the pectoralis major, triceps brachii and anterior deltoid) during push-ups with and without suspension devices to create instability. They also wanted to compare the effects of different suspension devices, with one anchor, with two anchors, and with one anchor and a pulley system. The one anchor system was created using a TRX device, the one-anchor with a pulley was created using an AirFit Trainer Pro, and the two-anchor system was created using a Jungle Gym XT. For subjects, the researchers recruited 29 young male university students who performed 3 push-ups in each of the 4 different suspension systems, as well as on the floor.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that for recruiting the triceps brachii, the most effective exercise was the suspension device with one anchor. For recruiting the anterior deltoid, the floor push-up was the most effective. For the pectoralis major, the two-anchor suspension device was better than all other options. Thus, each of the prime movers can be emphasized using a different push-up variation.


How does flexing the trunk affect muscle activity during push-ups?

The study: The effects of push-ups with the trunk flexed on the shoulder and trunk muscles, by Kang, Jung, Nam, Shin, and Yoo, in Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 2014

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the EMG activity of the shoulder and trunk muscles in two push-up positions: standard push-ups and push-ups with in 30 degrees of trunk flexion. By flexing the trunk, this position alters the angle at which the prime movers must push against the ground and also has an effect on the amount of work the core muscles must do in order to stabilize the trunk. For subjects, the researchers recruited 15 young adult males. They recorded the EMG activity of the clavicular and sternocostal portions of the pectoralis major, the serratus anterior, and the rectus abdominis.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that the EMG activity of the sternocostal part of the pectoralis major was significantly greater in the standard push-up position than in the trunk flexed position but the reverse was the case for the clavicular portion. Thus, different push-up variations were able to place a different amount of stress on different heads of the pectoralis major. It seems likely that there would have been a different amount of EMG activity in the anterior deltoid as well but this was not measured.


What are the practical implications?

The push-up exercise can be loaded effectively using elastic resistance bands and, in such conditions, the movement pattern is very similar to the bench press. Thus, it likely makes a very useful assistance exercise for improving the bench press since it can probably be performed in higher volumes with lesser risk of injury.

Different variations of the push-up can be used to place greater stress on different prime movers (by using unstable surfaces of varying kinds) and also on different heads of the pectoralis major (by using trunk flexion).


To get your copy of the full edition, click HERE to buy it as a back issue. Like all our editions, it’s packed with 50 great study reviews covering a range of topics relevant to exercise and physical therapy professionals alike, and it only costs $10 for the whole thing!

Alternatively, if that topic is not of interest, then please check out our brand new, free hypertrophy resource!

The B & B Connection: Episode 9 – Recent Research

Hi Fitness Folks!

Welcome to the ninth episode of the B & B (Bret & Brad) Connection. In this episode, my colleague Brad Schoenfeld and I discuss recent research.

In case you missed them, click HERE to listen to episode 1 (hypertrophy science), HERE to listen to episode 2 (HIT vs. HVT), HERE to listen to episode 3 (periodization), HERE to listen to episode 4 (variety in training), HERE to listed to episode 5 (good versus bad exercises), HERE to listen to episode 6 (tempo training), HERE to listen to episode 7 (evidence-based fitness), and click HERE to listen to episode 8 (functional training).

Episode 9

Click HERE to download the MP3. To watch the podcast on YouTube, click below.


Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men

The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy

Regional Differences in Muscle Activation During Hamstrings Exercise

Plank article should be HERE soon.


The Overhead Shoulder Rotation Quandary

The Overhead Shoulder Rotation Quandary
by Derrick Blanton

One thing I noticed very early on in my training journey is that people move and lift stuff differently. Even the top lifters in the world rarely do it exactly the same way. I find myself constantly making mental notes on different lifting strategies.

As you might imagine, I also spend a ton of time studying the coaching techniques, rationales, and cues of the most prominent names in S&C; and then trying to tie it all together with my “in the trenches” observations and firsthand experiences.

Every now and again, I see a disconnect between the “right way” to do a lift, and effective “real world” expressions of loaded movement. Of course, then I obsessively go about trying to figure out the root of the discrepancy!

Take the shoulder, and what constitutes the safest, most congruent position as it arises overhead.

Don’t worry, we are not going to dive back into the scapular “shoulder packing” debate; enough already with that one. Rather, let’s discuss this concept of rotation at the shoulder, specifically external rotation. (FWIW, external rotation when initiated at the proximal shoulder does indeed have a close relationship with ‘shoulder packing’, as externally rotating the shoulder also fires the lower traps pretty hard as a stabilizer. But let’s stay on point here!)



Internal rotation

Internal rotation


External rotation

The Evolution of “Torque”

MobilityWOD savant Kelly Starrett is probably the most current and well-known proponent of externally rotating the shoulder to provide maximum overhead stability. As a best selling author, and de-facto leader of Crossfit movement principles, KS is one of the most influential movement teachers in the business.

Note that this external rotation technique is not a small detail riding the outskirts of the MWOD curriculum, but rather an overriding motor learning philosophy for the shoulder (and hip) joint: “creating maximal torque through the system”. This includes being able to rotate the wrists internally, while dissociating up the chain and keeping the shoulder in external rotation.


And long before there was a “Supple Leopard”, there was an “Evil Russian”, a brilliant technician by the name of Pavel Tsatsouline, who championed a similar concept in the form of “corkscrewing” the shoulder. And yes, even before Pavel, you may have heard your local meathead at the fitness center telling you to “break the bar”, “show your armpits”… you get the idea.

So without question, this is an idea that has substantial weight behind it. Pardon the pun.

Here comes that pesky real world disconnect, though, and it’s actually a little reminiscent of the prescribed “toes forward” SQ technique, (also intended to maximize ‘torque’): look around and you will see plenty of strong, well trained lifters, even elite strength athletes, not only not doing this…but in fact, often doing the exact opposite.

Granted, this gets tricky to discuss; complicating matters is whether you are using a straight bar to ‘torque’ off of, or dumbbells or rings which allow the shoulder and arm to rotate freely. Let’s give it a try, though, considering first, overhead down.

Pulling Down from Overhead

Most lifters, beginner to advanced, when performing a pull up or pull down that allows for natural freedom of motion at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder (rings, TRX, or Free Motion pulldown, etc.), will naturally adopt this rotational strategy: Internally rotate up, externally rotate down.

Here is my go-to guy for excellent form, Steven Trolio:

In other words, they start pronated ‘pull up’, and finish ‘neutral hammer grip’, or even further into a fully supinated ‘chin up’ position.

Sure, go ahead and test yourself right now.

Elbow moves from pointing out to pointing down.  Thumb moves to the outside.  External Rotation

Elbow moves from pointing out to pointing down. Thumb moves to the outside. External Rotation

Now watch the same lifter this time on a fixed bar, and they will basically try to approximate the same action, torquing off the bar, screwing the shoulder in the socket on the way down, elbows turning to face forwards. So far, so good!

(Less frequently, you will see the bodybuilder with the elbows pointed outwards, flared wide, staying in internal rotation, and performing pure adduction, rather than extension. For some reason, this guy usually has some kind of massive, hellacious back. But I digress.)

Many will point to the fixed bar forcing internal rotation as a shoulder risk, and advocate using the rings, to “let the shoulder move naturally”, i.e. supinate, or externally rotate.

Here’s the thorny question: When they are on the rings and allowed to move naturally, why then do they “re-internally rotate” on the way back overhead, into the “broken” position?

It’s internally rotate up, externally rotate down. This pattern recurs with many a lifter, both pressing and in this case, pulling.

Maybe this technique lines up the lats into a stronger extension pattern. If so, why not just stay in pure extension ‘neutral’ the whole time?

Maybe they want to use more bicep to help as the lat runs out of steam. Sure, but again, why not go back to the top in neutral, at least? Why go all the way into internal rotation as you reach the top position? You don’t have to. You’re on the rings, remember.

It seems that as the humerus elevates, it “wants” to simultaneously internally rotate, even when it doesn’t have to due to a fixed bar. With 360-degrees of motion, many just naturally allow the shoulder to unwind back on the negative into the overhead position of pronation, and thus internal rotation.

Again, are they “broken”?

Pushing Upwards from Down Below

Let’s reverse the action. Have you ever heard of the Arnold Press? It’s a modified shoulder press named after, ah heck, you know who it’s named after! Let’s see it in action:

We see that the Arnold Press starts with an externally rotated shoulder which again spirals medially in the capsule (internally); this time as the press heads to lockout. Same pattern as above, whether we are pressing or pulling, it’s externally rotate down, internally rotate up.

This is contradictory!

But hey, what the heck does Arnold know, silly bodybuilders, right? Their goals are muscle building, not joint safety, per se.

Except I don’t know about you, but when I do the Arnold Press, it feels like an incredibly safe, natural, and congruent movement.

How about just a regular, good old fashioned dumbbell press? Here’s Ben Bruno, one of the hardest training guys I’ve ever seen. Also a pretty prolific author, coach, and exercise inventor. Bruno is battle tested, and innovative. How does he go about pressing a pair of dumbbells overhead?

There it is, that same pattern again! The shoulder rolls to the inside as the press locks out, and reverses on the way down. And not to belabor the point, but once again this is within the context of a free motion, dumbbell movement. Any style of rotation is possible.

So why is he doing it this way?


The further you dive into this murky swamp, the more perplexing it gets. Let’s move on to the barbell where the grip is fixed. Olympic weightlifters go overhead all the time; it’s in their bylaws! A cursory search finds both XR and IR rotational techniques coached and performed.

The Chinese weightlifting team is currently the dominant force in the sport. These guys probably pack their shoulder blades down nice and hard, and externally rotate their humeri, and….uh…hmmm…




Internal rotation!

Internal rotation!(Thanks to “All Things Gym” for some screen grab insights as to the Chinese overhead position coaching.)


What say you, 2005 world champion Dmitry Klokov? “Show the armpits”? Or try to make the “elbows face back”?

We now officially have ourselves a legit conundrum here.

Fred and George

Finally, meet Fred Koch and his skeleton, “George”. In this video, Fred and George suggest that internal rotation provides for a stable shoulder as the arm rises. Pay special attention to 1:10 – 1:55, and watch what happens to George’s humeral head. It internally rotates.

Thank you Fred and George!

Me personally? I like the XR-up technique when I am doing an aggressive pec minor stretch, or pullover exercise. But when I press a barbell overhead, or do OHSQs, the internal rotation feels so much better as to make it a non-issue.

Trying to supinate my shoulder while driving a heavy barbell up feels like it is going to tear my infraspinatus off the bone. It also seems to force the elbow in front of the bar, compromising its direct leverage. With the elbows not aligned directly under the bar, the lift morphs into a supra-maximal standing “skull crusher” tricep exercise.


On the other hand, when I cooperate with my body, roll the shoulder internally, the elbows end up right under the bar opposing gravity directly. As a nice side effect, the OHPR turns into a fantastic lateral delt move, as internally rotating the shoulder exposing the ‘cap’ to the load. However, this is not a “muscle targeting” technique. This is a “my body wants to do it this way” technique, and my body usually wins these arguments!


To be clear, I can certainly see how others might have different shoulders and different experiences. I also see how a supination moment as part of a larger rotator cuff tug of war might better help keep the shoulder wedged in the capsule.

But this is different than an actual elbow turning, supinating action, that if you somehow don’t achieve, then you’ve allegedly compromised the efficacy of the kinetic chain!

So is this a corrective solve, a blanket prescription on how to raise the arms under load, or a try it and see how it feels kind of deal?

At any rate, forcing square pegs into round holes to match theory is probably not going to end well.

The best that I can make sense of this disconnect between theory and sometime practice is that the shoulder complex, much like the hip complex, may turn out to be more individually “complex” than previously thought.

Scientific and anecdotal feedback, please.