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Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 2004 Jan-Feb;44(1):57-64.

Electromyographic activity of selected trunk muscles during stabilization exercises using a gym ball.

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Department of Rehabilitation, Hyogo Medical College Hospital.


Trunk stabilization is very important for the injured lower back. The use of a gym ball, the surface of which is labile, is becoming more popular for strengthening the trunk muscles and challenging the motor control system in trunk stabilization exercises. However, little is known about the activity of the trunk muscles during such exercises. The purpose of this study was to compare the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the trunk muscles during seven stabilization exercises using a gym ball. Eleven healthy men (19.9 +/- 1.8 years old) without low back pain volunteered to participate in the study. Bipolar surface electrodes were attached to the right side of the upper and lower rectus abdominis, the obliquus externus abdominis and the upper and lower back extensor muscles. EMG signals were recorded during seven types of stabilization exercises using a gym ball and normalized to maximal voluntary contraction (% MVC). A two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on % MVC from each task for each of the five trunk muscle sites (p < 0.05). Push-up exercise, supporting with both hands on the gym ball and toes on the floor in prone position, resulted in the highest activity of all abdominal muscles, and an exercise of the lifting the gym ball up, holding it actively between both legs with both knees flexed in supine position resulted in the lowest. Lifting up of the pelvis in a bridged position exercise, supporting the head with the gym ball and with the feet on the floor in supine position, resulted in higher muscle activity of the back extensor muscles than another exercise. It is very important for physical therapists to make clear the purpose of the trunk stabilization exercises, because different kinds of exercises with the gym ball demand various levels of muscular activity and use of various parts of the trunk muscles.

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