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J Sports Sci Med. 2013 Sep 1;12(3):467-74. eCollection 2013.

Trunk muscle activities during abdominal bracing: comparison among muscles and exercises.

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National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya , Kagoshima, Japan ; Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science , Tokyo, Japan.


Abdominal bracing is often adopted in fitness and sports conditioning programs. However, there is little information on how muscular activities during the task differ among the muscle groups located in the trunk and from those during other trunk exercises. The present study aimed to quantify muscular activity levels during abdominal bracing with respect to muscle- and exercise-related differences. Ten healthy young adult men performed five static (abdominal bracing, abdominal hollowing, prone, side, and supine plank) and five dynamic (V- sits, curl-ups, sit-ups, and back extensions on the floor and on a bench) exercises. Surface electromyogram (EMG) activities of the rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO), internal oblique (IO), and erector spinae (ES) muscles were recorded in each of the exercises. The EMG data were normalized to those obtained during maximal voluntary contraction of each muscle (% EMGmax). The % EMGmax value during abdominal bracing was significantly higher in IO (60%) than in the other muscles (RA: 18%, EO: 27%, ES: 19%). The % EMGmax values for RA, EO, and ES were significantly lower in the abdominal bracing than in some of the other exercises such as V-sits and sit-ups for RA and EO and back extensions for ES muscle. However, the % EMGmax value for IO during the abdominal bracing was significantly higher than those in most of the other exercises including dynamic ones such as curl-ups and sit-ups. These results suggest that abdominal bracing is one of the most effective techniques for inducing a higher activation in deep abdominal muscles, such as IO muscle, even compared to dynamic exercises involving trunk flexion/extension movements. Key PointsTrunk muscle activities during abdominal bracing was examined with regard to muscle- and exercise-related differences.Abdominal bracing preferentially activates internal oblique muscles even compared to dynamic exercises involving trunk flexion/extension movements.Abdominal bracing should be included in exercise programs when the goal is to improve spine stability.


Static and dynamic exercises; electromyogram; muscle- and exercise-related differences; voluntary co-contraction


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