Muscle Activity in Single- vs. Double-Leg Squats

Int J Exerc Sci. 2014 Oct 1;7(4):302-310. eCollection 2014.


Muscular activity, vertical displacement and ground reaction forces of back squats (BS), rear-leg elevated split squats (RLESS) and split squats (SS) were examined. Nine resistance-trained men reported for two sessions. The first session consisted of the consent process, practice, and BS 1-repetition maximum testing. In the second session, participants performed the three exercises while EMG, displacment and ground reaction force data (one leg on plate) were collected. EMG data were collected from the gluteus maximus (GMX), biceps femoris (BF), semitendinosus (ST), rectus femoris (RF), vastus lateralis (VL), vastus medialis (VM), tibialis anterior (TA), and medial gastrocnemius (MGas) of the left leg (non-dominant, front leg for unilateral squats). Load for BS was 85% one repetition maximum, and RLESS and SS were performed at 50% of BS load. Repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare all variables for the three exercises, with Bonferroni adjustments for post hoc multiple comparisons, in addition to calculation of standardized mean differences (ES). Muscle activity was similar between exercises except for biceps femoris, which was significantly higher during RLESS than SS during both concentric and eccentric phases (ES = 2.11; p=0.012 and ES= 2.19; p=0.008), and significantly higher during BS than the SS during the concentric phase (ES = 1.78; p=0.029). Vertical displacement was similar between all exercises. Peak vertical force was similar between BS and RLESS and significantly greater during RLESS than SS (ES = 3.03; p=0.001). These findings may be helpful in designing resistance training programs by using RLESS if greater biceps femoris activity is desired.

Keywords: Back squat; EMG; Force; RLESS; split squat.