This study examined anterior chain whole body linkage exercises, namely the body saw, hanging leg raise and walkout from a push-up. Investigation of these exercises focused on which particular muscles were challenged and the magnitude of the resulting spine load. Fourteen males performed the exercises while muscle activity, external force and 3D body segment motion were recorded. A sophisticated and anatomically detailed 3D model used muscle activity and body segment kinematics to estimate muscle force, and thus sensitivity to each individual's choice of motor control for each task. Gradations of muscle activity and spine load characteristics were observed across tasks. On average, the hanging straight leg raise created approximately 3000 N of spine compression while the body saw created less than 2500 N. The hanging straight leg raise created the highest challenge to the abdominal wall (>130% MVC in rectus abdominis, 88% MVC in external oblique). The body saw resulted in almost 140% MVC activation of the serratus anterior. All other exercises produced substantial abdominal challenge, although the body saw did so in the most spine conserving way. These findings, along with consideration of an individual's injury history, training goals and current fitness level, should assist in exercise choice and programme design.
Keywords: anterior chain exercises; labile contact surfaces; suspension strap training.