The progression of paraspinal muscle recruitment intensity in localized and global strength training exercises is not based on instability alone

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2011 Nov;92(11):1875-83. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.05.015.


Objective: To evaluate electromyographic activity of several paraspinal muscles during localized stabilizing exercises and multijoint or global stabilizing exercises.

Design: Cross-sectional counterbalanced repeated measures.

Setting: Research laboratory.

Participants: Volunteers (N=25) without low-back pain.

Intervention: Subjects performed (1) localized stabilizing exercises (callisthenic exercises with only body weight as resistance): static lumbar extension, stable (on floor) and unstable static unipedal forward flexion, stable dynamic unipedal forward flexion, and unstable supine bridge; and (2) global stabilizing exercises (70% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction [MVIC]): dead lift and lunge.

Main outcome measures: Mean and maximum amplitude of the electromyographic RMS of the lumbar and thoracic multifidus spinae and erector spinae. Electromyographic signals were normalized to the MVIC achieved during a back-extension exercise.

Results: Normalizing to the MVIC, paraspinal muscles were significantly (P<.05) most active, with mean and peak amplitudes of 88.1% and 113.4% during the dynamic stable dead lift at 70% of MVIC, respectively. The supine bridge on the unstable surface obtained the significantly lowest values of 29.03% and 30.3%, respectively. The other exercises showed intermediate values that ranged from 35.4% to 61.6%.

Conclusion: Findings from this study may be helpful to strength trainers and physical therapists in their choice of exercises for strengthening paraspinal muscles. Our results suggest that in asymptomatic young experienced subjects, the dead lift at 70% of MVIC provides higher levels of mean and peak electromyographic signals than localized stabilizing exercises and other types of global stabilizing exercises.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance
  • Spine / physiology*