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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jun;29(6):804-11.

Low back loads over a variety of abdominal exercises: searching for the safest abdominal challenge.

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Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


Abdominal exercises are prescribed for both the prevention and treatment of low back injury. However, these exercises sometimes appear to have hazardous effects on the lumbar spine. The purpose of this study was to identify quantitatively abdominal exercises that optimize the challenge to the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique) but impose minimal load penalty to the lumbar spine. Nine volunteers performed 12 different abdominal exercises. For a given task the maximum abdominal muscle EMG value was divided by the maximum compression value, resulting in an abdominal challenge versus spinal compression cost index. In general, the partial curl-ups generated the highest muscle challenge-to-spine cost indices. However, those exercises that generated the best challenge-to-cost indices did not necessarily record the lowest compression levels along with the highest EMG activations. No single exercise was found that optimally trained all of the abdominal muscles while at the same time incurring minimal intervertebral joint loads. It was concluded that a variety of selected abdominal exercises are required to sufficiently challenge all of the abdominal muscles and that these exercises will-differ to best meet the different training objectives of individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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