Electromyographic effect of mat Pilates exercise on the back muscle activity of healthy adult females

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010 Nov-Dec;33(9):672-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2010.08.012. Epub 2010 Oct 14.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine back muscle activity during 3 traditional mat Pilates exercises.

Methods: Eleven healthy female volunteers, aged between 18 and 30 years, participated in this cross-sectional study. Surface electromyography (sEMG) of lumbar extensor muscles was recorded simultaneously with kinematics data to identify the phases of movement. Three mat Pilates back exercises were compared: (1) swimming, (2) single leg kick with static prone back extension, and (3) double leg kick. Root mean square values of each muscle were recorded with 2 pairs of surface electrodes placed bilaterally on one lumbar extensor muscle (at L5). During phases of each exercise, sEMG signals were identified by video analysis. Electrical muscle activation was normalized by the maximal voluntary isometric contraction and used to compare back muscle activity among exercises. A 2-way repeated measures analysis of variance was performed to assess the differences in activation level during the exercises.

Results: The value of electrical muscle activity in the lumbar extensors ranged between 15% and 61% of MIVC for the 3 types of Pilates mat work exercise. The swimming exercise increased lumbar extensor activity (29% on average) in comparison to the other 2 Pilates conditions. Interestingly, the double leg kick exercise generated significantly more lumbar extensor activity (26% on average) than the single leg kick.

Conclusions: For this group of participants, the swimming exercise increased muscle activation relative to the other 2 exercise modes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electromyography*
  • Exercise Movement Techniques*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*