Lower-limb and trunk muscle activation with back squats and weighted sled apparatus

J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Dec;28(12):3346-53. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000697.


The back squat is a traditional resistance training exercise, whereas the resisted sled exercise is a relatively new resistance exercise. However, as there are no studies comparing muscle activation between the exercises, the objective of this study was to examine activity of leg and trunk muscles for both exercises. Ten healthy resistance-trained men participated in a randomized crossover design study consisting of 2 preparation sessions and 2 testing sessions. Electromyographic (EMG) activity of the rectus femoris, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius, lower erector spinae, and the transversus abdominis/internal obliques (TrA/IO) were monitored during a 20-step maximum push with the weighted sled apparatus and a 10 repetition maximum with a bilateral back squat. There were nonsignificant trends for the rectus femoris (p = 0.092: 8.6-16.7%) and biceps femoris (p = 0.09: 10.5-32.8%) to demonstrate higher activity with the sled and squat exercises, respectively. There were main effects for condition with 61.2% greater gastrocnemius EMG with the sled exercise (p = 0.01) and 74.5% greater erector spinae EMG activity with the squat (p = 0.002). There were no significant differences between the exercises for the TrA/IO. In summary, the sled and squat exercises provided similar EMG activity for the quadriceps, hamstrings, and TrA/IO. The squat provided higher lower erector spinae activation, whereas the sled had superior gastrocnemius activation. Depending on the movement-training specificity of the sport, either exercise may be used in a training program while acknowledging the differences in gastrocnemius and erector spinae activity.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Back Muscles / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Resistance Training / instrumentation
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Young Adult