Gluteal muscle activation during the isometric phase of squatting exercises with and without a Swiss ball

Phys Ther Sport. 2014 Feb;15(1):39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2013.02.006. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Objectives: Growing evidence supports hip muscle activation and strengthening exercise prescription to prevent and treat various lower limb injuries. Common prescriptions include single-legged and double-legged squatting, with and without a Swiss ball. We aimed to establish the effect of varying forms of squatting exercises on gluteal muscle activation.

Design and setting: Observational laboratory study.

Participants: Nineteen (11 male) healthy participants (28.4 +/- 2.7 years old) were compared using one-way repeated measures analysis of variance.

Main outcome measures: Surface electromyography (EMG) measures of gluteus medius (GMed) and gluteus maximus (GMax) during the isometric phase of single-legged and double-legged squatting, with and without a Swiss ball.

Results: A greater percentage of maximal voluntary contraction (%MVC) during single-legged squatting was found compared to double-legged squatting for GMed (42 versus 9%MVC, p < 0.001) and GMax (35 versus 14%MVC, p < 0.001). Additionally, the Swiss ball increased GMax activity (42 versus 35%MVC, p = 0.026) and demonstrated a trend toward increased GMed activity (46 versus 42%MVC, p = 0.075) during the single-legged squat.

Conclusions: These results indicate single-legged squatting may be more appropriate than double-legged squatting to facilitate strength gains of GMed and GMax. Additionally, the Swiss ball may be a useful adjunct to target gluteal muscle strengthening during single-legged squatting.

Keywords: Electromyography; Gluteal; Hip; Squat; Swiss ball.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buttocks / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Equipment Design
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Young Adult