Study design: Controlled laboratory study, repeated-measures design.
Objectives: To compare hip abductor muscle activity during selected exercises using fine-wire electromyography, and to determine which exercises are best for activating the gluteus medius and the superior portion of the gluteus maximus, while minimizing activity of the tensor fascia lata (TFL).
Background: Abnormal hip kinematics (ie, excessive hip adduction and internal rotation) has been linked to certain musculoskeletal disorders. The TFL is a hip abductor, but it also internally rotates the hip. As such, it may be important to select exercises that activate the gluteal hip abductors while minimizing activation of the TFL.
Methods: Twenty healthy persons participated. Electromyographic signals were obtained from the gluteus medius, superior gluteus maximus, and TFL muscles using fine-wire electrodes as subjects performed 11 different exercises. Normalized electromyographic signal amplitude was compared among muscles for each exercise, using multiple 1-way repeated-measures analyses of variance. A descriptive gluteal-to-TFL muscle activation index was used to identify preferred exercises for recruiting the gluteal muscles while minimizing TFL activity.
Results: Both gluteal muscles were significantly (P<.05) more active than the TFL in unilateral and bilateral bridging, quadruped hip extension (knee flexed and extending), the clam, sidestepping, and squatting. The gluteal-to-TFL muscle activation index ranged from 18 to 115 and was highest for the clam (115), sidestep (64), unilateral bridge (59), and both quadruped exercises (50).
Conclusion: If the goal of rehabilitation is to preferentially activate the gluteal muscles while minimizing TFL activation, then the clam, sidestep, unilateral bridge, and both quadruped hip extension exercises would appear to be the most appropriate.