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Eur Spine J. 2012 May;21 Suppl 2:S171-86. doi: 10.1007/s00586-012-2254-7. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Electromyographic analysis of trunk-muscle activity during stable, unstable and unilateral bridging exercises in healthy individuals.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.



Spinal pain can result in unilateral atrophy of spinal muscles. Understanding side-to-side muscle activity during exercises can help clinicians address these deficits. This study determined if variations of bridging exercises specifically activated side-to-side trunk-muscle activity.


Using surface electromyography on 20 healthy subjects (16 females), age 25.45 (± 3.57) years, height 166 (± 0.8) cm, weight 63.35 (± 12.70) kg, muscle activity of left and right lumbar multifidus, iliocostalis lumborum thoracis (ICLT), rectus abdominis (RA) and external oblique (EO) was recorded during eight bridging exercises with stable, unstable and unilateral (left-leg off the ground) conditions.


There were significant side-to-side differences in abdominal-muscle activity during all unstable exercises (mean difference range from 3.10 %MVC for RA to 9.86 %MVC for EO), and during all unilateral exercises (mean difference range from 3.22 %MVC for RA to 9.41 %MVC for EO), with the exception of RA in exercise-7. For the back muscles, there were significant side-to-side differences for multifidus during all unilateral exercises (mean difference range 5.35 %MVC to 11.72 %MVC), with the exception of exercise-5. None of the bilateral exercises (stable or unstable) produced side-to-side differences for multifidus. For ICLT only exercise-3 produced significant side-to-side differences with a mean difference of 5.5 %MVC. In all cases where significant differences were noted, the left side of the muscles demonstrated the higher values.


The results suggest that specific exercises (unilateral/unstable) can target specific sides of trunk muscles.

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