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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2001 Aug;11(4):247-54.

Trunk muscle coactivation in preparation for sudden load.

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Motion Analysis and Motor Performance Laboratory, Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center, University of Virginia, 2270 Ivy Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903, USA.


Biomechanical stability of the lumbar spine is an important factor in the etiology and control of low-back disorders. A principle component of biomechanical stability is the musculoskeletal stiffening generated by preparatory muscle coactivation. The goal of this investigation was to quantify preparatory behavior, evaluating trunk muscle activity immediately prior to sudden trunk flexion loading during static extension tasks compared to activity observed when subjects were informed no sudden load would occur. Coactive excitation was also examined as a function of fatigue and gender. Results demonstrated increased extensor muscle and flexor muscle coactivation following static fatiguing exertions, potentially compensating for reduced trunk stiffness. Female subjects produced greater flexor antagonism than in the males. No difference in the preparatory coactive muscle recruitment patterns were observed when subjects were expecting a sudden flexion load compared to recruitment patterns observed in similar static postures when subjects were informed no sudden load would be applied. This indicates the neuromuscular system relies greatly on response characteristics for the maintenance of stability in dynamic loading conditions.

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