Core muscle activity during suspension exercises

J Sci Med Sport. 2015 Mar;18(2):189-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


Objectives: Suspension exercise has been advocated as an effective means to improve core stability among healthy individuals and those with musculoskeletal complaints. However, the activity of core muscles during suspension exercises has not been reported. In this study, we investigated the level of activation of core muscles during suspension exercises within young and healthy adults.

Design: The study was conducted in a controlled laboratory setting.

Methods: Surface electromyographic (sEMG) activity of core muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique/transversus abdominis, and superficial lumbar multifidus) during four suspension workouts (hip abduction in plank, hamstring curl, chest press, and 45° row) was investigated. Muscle activity during a 5-s hold period of the workouts was measured by sEMG and normalized to the individual's maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC).

Results: Different levels of muscle activation were observed during the hip abduction in plank, hamstring curl, and chest press. Hip abduction in plank generated the highest activation of most abdominal muscles. The 45° row exercise generated the lowest muscle activation.

Conclusions: Among the four workouts investigated, the hip abduction in plank with suspension was found to have the strongest potential strengthening effect on core muscles. Also, suspension training was found to generate relatively high levels of core muscle activation when compared with that among previous studies of core exercises on stable and unstable support surfaces.

Keywords: Core muscles; EMG; Strengthening; Suspension training.

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Young Adult