Isometric squat force output and muscle activity in stable and unstable conditions

J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov;20(4):915-8. doi: 10.1519/R-19305.1.


The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of stable vs. unstable conditions on force output and muscle activity during an isometric squat. Nine men involved in recreational resistance training participated in the investigation by completing a single testing session. Within this session subjects performed isometric squats either while standing directly on the force plate (stable condition, S) or while standing on inflatable balls placed on top of the force plate (unstable condition, U). Electromyography (EMG) was recorded during both conditions from the vastus lateralis (VL), vastus medialis (VM), biceps femoris (BF), and medial gastrocnemius (G) muscles. Results indicated peak force (PF) and rate of force development (RFD) were significantly lower, 45.6% and 40.5% respectively, in the U vs. S condition (p < or = 0.05). Average integrated EMG values for the VL and VM were significantly higher in the S vs. U condition. VL and VM muscle activity was 37.3% and 34.4% less in U in comparison to S. No significant differences were observed in muscle activity of the BF or G between U and S. The primary finding in this investigation is that isometric squatting in an unstable condition significantly reduces peak force, rate of force development, and agonist muscle activity with no change in antagonist or synergist muscle activity. In terms of providing a stimulus for strength gain no discernable benefit of performing a resistance exercise in an unstable condition was observed in the current study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*