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Ergonomics. 2005 Sep 15-Nov 15;48(11-14):1604-12.

Electromyographic investigation of abdominal exercises and the effects of fatigue.

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Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Webster Street, Liverpool L3 2ET, UK.


Abdominal exercises are widely used to develop the anterior muscles of the trunk. These exercises can be undertaken without the aid of equipment, but increasingly manufacturers are developing equipment which purportedly enhances the training effect for abdominal muscles. As there are many different products and exercises used for abdominal muscle development, it is likely that some are more effective than others. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of five commonly performed abdominal exercises. A second aim was to investigate the effects of fatigue on these exercises. Five different types of abdominal exercise [standard crunch (sit-up) with bent knees, gym ball crunch, crunch with 5 kg weight held behind the head, legs raised crunch and a commercially manufactured roller crunch] were examined using integrated surface electromyography (IEMG). The lower rectus abdominis (LRA), upper rectus abdominis (URA) and obliquus externus abdominis (EO) of 15 healthy male participants [age (mean +/- SD) 22.2 +/- 6.8 years; height 1.77 +/- 0.06 m; mass 79.3 +/- 10.7 kg] were monitored using a four-channel special purpose EMG data logger. Three trials of each exercise were performed in random order and normalized to enable comparisons between muscles and exercises. At a later date, ten participants were then re-tested when fresh and after a 30 min whole-body fatigue protocol that specifically targeted the abdominal muscles. Two exercises were evaluated, the abdominal roller crunch and legs raised crunch, which were judged to be the least and most effective, respectively, of the five exercises previously used. The normalized IEMG showed significant (p < 0.001) differences between exercises (gym ball crunch = 86.0 +/- 7.5%; legs raised crunch = 79.9 +/- 5.1%; 5 kg weight crunch = 65.1 +/- 13.4%; standard crunch = 56.2 +/- 3.2%; and roller crunch = 45.0 +/- 11.4%). Post-fatigue, the normalized mean IEMG for both exercises increased significantly (p < 0.05) for LRA and URA muscles but not for the EO (p > 0.05). It was concluded that exercises can be constructed to provide a greater challenge to abdominal muscles, commercially available roller-type equipment appears to be little different from the standard abdominal crunch with bent knees, and fatiguing exercise results in the LRA and URA being more highly activated. These findings provide more detailed knowledge and understanding of the effects of different forms of abdominal exercise.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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