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Pneumatic vs. Free Weight Resistance Training: Kinematics, Kinetics, and Muscle Activity Insights

Link to Original Research

David Michael Frost · John Barry Cronin · Robert Usher Newton


This study aimed to compare the effects of pneumatic resistance training against traditional free weight resistance on human performance. Specifically, it focused on examining the kinematics (movement patterns), kinetics (forces involved), and muscle activity during upper body exercises, utilizing a one-repetition maximum (1RM) approach across various intensities.


  • Velocity and Power: Pneumatic resistance led to significantly higher mean and peak velocities (up to 36.5% and 28.3% higher, respectively) compared to free weights.
  • Force Production: Despite lower peak forces with pneumatic resistance, the force, power, and muscle activity were higher in the final stages of the concentric movement.
  • Muscle Activity: For higher resistance loads (45–90% 1RM), pneumatic resistance resulted in greater muscle activation towards the end of the movement.
  • Power Output: Optimal power output varied by resistance type, with pneumatic resistance showing advantages at higher loads.


The study demonstrates that pneumatic resistance offers specific benefits over traditional mass-based resistance in terms of movement velocity and muscle activity, especially at higher loads. While free weights allow for higher peak force production, pneumatic resistance may provide a more consistent force application throughout the movement. These findings suggest that pneumatic resistance could be particularly beneficial for athletes seeking performance gains in sports requiring high-velocity and high-power actions.


  • Kinematics: The study of movement in terms of the pattern and speed, without considering the forces involved.
  • Kinetics: The study of the forces associated with motion, including forces produced by muscles and gravity.
  • Muscle Activity: The level of activation or engagement of a muscle during a movement, typically measured by electromyography (EMG).
  • 1RM (One Repetition Maximum): The maximum amount of weight that a person can possibly lift for one repetition.
  • Concentric Movement: The phase of a lift where the muscle shortens as it contracts, typically the lifting phase.

Keiser Equipment Used

Half Rack

Published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, (2008) 104:937–956

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