Effect of Loading Devices on Muscle Activation in Squat and Lunge

J Sport Rehabil. 2020 Feb 1;29(2):200-205. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2018-0182.


Context: Squats and lunges are common exercises frequently applied in muscle-strengthening and therapeutic exercises. The loading devices are often used to increase the training intensity.

Objective: To determine the effect of loading devices on muscle activation in squat and lunge and to compare the differences in muscle activation between squat and lunge.

Design: Cross-sectional cohort.

Participants: Nineteen healthy, male, recreationally active individuals without a history of lower limb injury.

Interventions: Each participant performed 10 repetitions of a squat under 5 conditions: unloaded, barbell, dumbbell, loaded vest, and kettlebell, and 10 repetitions of a lunge under 4 conditions: unloaded, barbell, dumbbell, and loaded vest.

Main outcome measures: The electromyography signals of quadriceps, hamstrings, tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius lateralis and medialis were measured. One-way repeated-measure analysis of variance was used to compare the difference among different loading conditions. Paired t test was used to compare the difference between squat and lunge.

Results: The muscle activation in the loaded conditions was significantly higher than that in nonloaded conditions in squat and lunge. Compared with the barbell, dumbbell, and loaded vest conditions, the semitendinosus showed significantly higher activation, and the tibialis anterior showed significantly lower activation in kettlebell condition in squat. No significant difference in muscle activation was found among barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell conditions in lunge. In addition, quadriceps and hamstring activities were significantly higher in lunge than in squat.

Conclusions: Muscle activation was affected by the loading devices in squat but not affected in lunge. Kettlebell squat could be suggested for targeting in strengthening medial hamstring. Progressive strengthening exercise could be recommended from squat to lunge based on sequential activation level.

Keywords: barbell; dumbbell; kettlebell; loaded vest.

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / instrumentation*
  • Sports Equipment*
  • Young Adult