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Int J Sports Med. 2015 Nov;36(11):900-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1398646. Epub 2015 Jul 2.

The Effect of Performing Bi- and Unilateral Row Exercises on Core Muscle Activation.

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Faculty of Teacher Education and Sport, Sogn og Fjordane University College, Sogndal, Norway.
Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.


The purpose of the study was to compare core muscle activation in 3 different row exercises (free-weight bent-over row, seated cable row and machine row) performed unilaterally and bilaterally, at matched effort levels. 15 resistance-trained men (26.0±4.4 years, 81.0±9.5 kg, 1.81±0.07 m) performed the exercises in randomized order. For erector spinae and multifidus, EMG activities in unilateral machine- and cable row were 60-63% and 74-78% of the bilateral performance (P≤0.036). For external oblique, the EMG activities recorded during bilateral exercises were 37-41% of the unilateral performance (P≤0.010). In unilateral cable- and machine rows, the EMG activities in external oblique and multifidus were 50-57% and 70-73% of the free-weight row (P≤0.002). In bilateral free-weight row, EMG activity in erector spinae was greater than bilateral machine- (+34%, P=0.004) and unilateral free-weight rows (+12%, P=0.016). For rectus abdominis there were no significant differences between conditions. In conclusion, 1) free-weight row provided greater EMG activity in erector spinae (bilaterally and unilaterally) and multifidus (unilaterally) than machine row; 2) unilateral performance of exercises activated the external oblique more than bilateral performance, regardless of exercise; and 3) generally bilateral performance of exercises provided higher erector spinae and multifidus EMG activity compared to unilateral performance.

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