Quantifying tissue loads and spine stability while performing commonly prescribed low back stabilization exercises

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2004 Oct 15;29(20):2319-29. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000142222.62203.67.


Study design: A quantitative biomechanical comparison of seven different lumbar spine "stabilization exercises."

Objectives: The purpose of this research was to quantify lumbar spine stability resulting from the muscle activation patterns measured when performing selected stabilization exercises.

Summary of background data: Many exercises are termed "stabilization exercises" for the low back; however, limited attempts have been made to quantify spine stability and the resultant tissue loading. Ranking resultant stability together with spinal load is very helpful for guiding clinical decision-making and therapeutic exercise design.

Methods: Eight stabilization exercises were quantified in this study. Spine kinematics, external forces, and 14 channels of torso EMG were recorded for each exercise. These data were input into a modified version of a lumbar spine model described by Cholewicki and McGill (1996) to quantify stability and L4-L5 compression.

Results: A rank order of the various exercises was produced based on stability, muscle activation levels, and lumbar compression.

Conclusions: Quantification of the calibrated muscle activation levels together with low back compression and resultant stability assists clinical decisions regarding the most appropriate exercise for specific patients and specific objectives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Pressure
  • Reference Values
  • Weight-Bearing