Investigation of Hand Forces, Shoulder and Trunk Muscle Activation Patterns and EMG/force Ratios in Push and Pull Exertions
When designing work tasks, one goal should be to enable postures that maximize the force capabilities of the workers while minimizing the overall muscular demands; however, little is known regarding specific shoulder tissue loads during pushing and pulling. This study quantitatively evaluated the effects of direction (anterior-posterior pushing and pulling), handle height (100 cm and 150 cm), handle orientation (vertical and horizontal), included elbow angle (extended and flexed) as well as personal factors (gender, mass and stature) on hand force magnitudes, shoulder and L5/S1 joint moments, normalized mean muscle activation and electromyography (EMG)/force ratios during two-handed maximal push and pull exertions. Twelve female and twelve male volunteers performed maximal voluntary isometric contractions under 10 push and pull experimental conditions that emulated industrial tasks. Hand force magnitudes, kinematic data and bilateral EMG of seven superficial shoulder and trunk muscles were collected. Results showed that direction had the greatest influence on dependent measures. Push exertions produced the greatest forces while also reducing L5/S1 extensor moments, shoulder moments with the 150 cm height and overall muscular demands (p < 0.0001). The 100 cm handle height generated the greatest forces (p < 0.0001) and reduced muscular demands (p < 0.05), but were associated with greater sagittal plane moments (p < 0.05). Females generated, on average, 67% of male forces in addition to incurring greater muscular demands (p < 0.05). The flexed elbows condition in conjunction with pushing produced greater forces with reduced overall muscular demands (p < 0.0001). Furthermore, horizontal handle orientation caused greater resultant moments at all joints (p <. 0.05) The results have important ergonomics implications for evaluating, designing or modifying workstations, tasks or equipment towards improved task performance and the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries and associated health care costs.