This study looked at the effect on the body of standard pushups compared to pushups on a labile (unstable) surface. Suspended pushups worked the abdominals and upper back (lats) a lot more. However, the researchers caution that this extra work could potentially overload the lower back. Maybe - if you already have a dodgy back - we are back to caution....do no harm
Great video too!
Muscular contribution to low-back loading and stiffness during standard and suspended push-ups.
Push-up exercises are normally performed to challenge muscles that span upper extremity joints. However, it is also recognized that push-ups provide an effective abdominal muscle challenge, especially when the hands are in contact with a labile support surface. The purpose of this study was to compare trunk muscle activation levels and resultant intervertebral joint (IVJ) loading when standard and suspended push-ups were performed, and to quantify and compare the contribution of trunk muscles to IVJ rotational stiffness in both exercises. Eleven recreationally trained male volunteers performed sets of standard and suspended push-ups. Upper body kinematic, kinetic, and EMG data were collected and input into a 3D biomechanical model of the lumbar torso to quantify lumbar IVJ loading and the contributions of trunk muscles to IVJ rotational stiffness. When performing suspended push-ups, muscles of the abdominal wall and the latissimus dorsi were activated to levels that were significantly greater than those elicited when performing standard push-ups (p<.05). As a direct result of these increased activation levels, model-predicted muscle forces increased and consequently led to significantly greater mean (p=.0008) and peak (p=.0012) lumbar IVJ compressive forces when performing suspended push-ups. Also directly resulting from the increased activation levels of the abdominal muscles and the latissimus dorsi during suspended push-ups was increased muscular contribution to lumbar IVJ rotational stiffness (p<.05). In comparison to the standard version of the exercise, suspended push-ups appear to provide a superior abdominal muscle challenge. However, for individuals unable to tolerate high lumbar IVJ compressive loads, potential benefits gained by incorporating suspended push-ups into their resistance training regimen may be outweighed by the risk of overloading low-back tissues.