No Difference in 1RM Strength and Muscle Activation During the Barbell Chest Press on a Stable and Unstable Surface Academic Article uri icon


  • Exercise or Swiss balls are increasingly being used with conventional resistance exercises. There is little evidence supporting the efficacy of this approach compared to traditional resistance training on a stable surface. Previous studies have shown that force output may be reduced with no change in muscle electromyography (EMG) activity while others have shown increased muscle EMG activity when performing resistance exercises on an unstable surface. This study compared 1RM strength, and upper body and trunk muscle EMG activity during the barbell chest press exercise on a stable (flat bench) and unstable surface (exercise ball). After familiarization, 13 subjects underwent testing for 1RM strength for the barbell chest press on both a stable bench and an exercise ball, each separated by at least 7 days. Surface EMG was recorded for 5 upper body muscles and one trunk muscle from which average root mean square of the muscle activity was calculated for the whole 1RM lift and the concentric and eccentric phases. Elbow angle during each lift was recorded to examine any range-of-motion differences between the two surfaces. The results show that there was no difference in 1RM strength or muscle EMG activity for the stable and unstable surfaces. In addition, there was no difference in elbow range-of-motion between the two surfaces. Taken together, these results indicate that there is no reduction in 1RM strength or any differences in muscle EMG activity for the barbell chest press exercise on an unstable exercise ball when compared to a stable flat surface. Moreover, these results do not support the notion that resistance exercises performed on an exercise ball are more efficacious than traditional stable exercises.


  • Goodman, Craig A
  • Pearce, Alan J
  • Nicholes, Caleb J
  • Gatt, Brad M
  • Fairweather, Ian H

publication date

  • January 2008