Hip-muscle activation during the lunge, single-leg squat, and step-up-and-over exercises

J Sport Rehabil. 2009 Feb;18(1):91-103. doi: 10.1123/jsr.18.1.91.


Context: Functional exercises are often used in strengthening programs after lower extremity injury. Activation levels of the stabilizing hip muscles have not been documented.

Objective: To document the progression of hip-muscle activation levels during 3 lower extremity functional exercises.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Laboratory.

Participants: 44 healthy individuals, 22 women and 22 men.

Intervention: Subjects, in 1 testing session, completed 3 trials each of the lunge (LUN), single-leg squat (SLSQ), and step-up-and-over (SUO) exercise.

Main outcome measures: Root-mean-square muscle amplitude (% reference voluntary muscle contraction) was measured for 5 muscles during the 3 exercises: rectus femoris (RF), dominant and nondominant gluteus medius (GMed_D and GMed_ND), adductor longus (ADD), and gluteus maximus (GMX).

Results: The RF, GMAX, and GMed_D were activated in a progression from least to greatest during the SUO, LUN, and SLSQ. The progression for the GMed_ND activation was from least to greatest during the SLSQ, SUO, and then LUN. Activation levels of the ADD showed no progression.

Conclusion: Progressive activation levels were documented for muscles acting on the hip joint during 3 functional lower extremity exercises. The authors recommend using this exercise progression when targeting the hip muscles during lower extremity strengthening.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Kentucky
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength Dynamometer
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*