Electromyographic analysis of core trunk, hip, and thigh muscles during 9 rehabilitation exercises

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007 Dec;37(12):754-62. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2007.2471. Epub 2007 Aug 29.


Study design: Prospective, single-group, repeated-measures design.

Objective: To identify exercises that could be used for strength development and the exercises that would be more appropriate for endurance or stabilization training.

Background: The exercises analyzed are often used in rehabilitation programs for the spine, hip, and knee. They are active exercises using body weight for resistance; thus a clinician is unable to determine the amount of resistance being applied to a muscle group. Electromyographic (EMG) analysis can provide a measure of muscle activation so that the clinician can have a better idea about the effect the exercise may have on the muscle for strength, endurance, or stabilization.

Methods and measures: Surface EMG analysis was carried out in 19 males and 11 females while performing the following 9 exercises: active hip abduction, bridge, unilateral-bridge, side-bridge, prone-bridge on the elbows and toes, quadruped arm/lower extremity lift, lateral step-up, standing lunge, and using the Dynamic Edge. The rectus abdominis, external oblique abdominis, longissimus thoracis, lumbar multifidus, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, vastus medialis obliquus, and hamstring muscles were studied.

Results: In healthy subjects, the lateral step-up and the lunge exercises produced EMG levels greater than 45% maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) in the vastus medialis obliquus, which suggests that they may be beneficial for strengthening that muscle. The side-bridge exercise could be used for strengthening the gluteus medius and the external oblique abdominis muscles, and the quadruped arm/lower extremity lift exercise may help strengthen the gluteus maximus muscle. All the other exercises produced EMG levels less than 45% MVIC, so they may be more beneficial for training endurance or stabilization in healthy subjects.

Conclusion: Our results suggest these exercises could be used for a core rehabilitation or performance enhancement program. Depending on the individual needs of a patient or athlete, some of the exercises may be more beneficial than others for achieving strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thigh / physiology*
  • Thorax / physiology*