An electromyographic study of unresisted trunk rotation with normal velocity among healthy subjects

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1996 Jul 1;21(13):1500-12. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199607010-00003.


Study design: An axial rotation tester was designed and fabricated for the study. This allowed stabilization of seated subjects (hip down) and coupling of shoulders, permitting axial rotation and coupled lateral flexion. Using this device, a "flexion-extension free" axial rotation was executed for studying its characteristics.

Objectives: To determine the mechanism of initiation, sustenance, and execution of axial rotation. This was planned to be done by determining the phasic relationship of various torso muscles in the initiation, execution, and termination of axial rotation. Another objective was to determine the total and relative contribution of torso muscles in axial rotation and the small segments of these activities.

Summary of background data: There only are a few studies conducted on axial rotation. Generally, these have investigated isometric maximal voluntary contraction in neutral or prerotated postures. The two studies that have reported isokinetic axial rotation have investigated maximal efforts. No study in literature has reported initiation, termination, and execution of unresisted normal velocity axial rotation.

Methods: Fifty healthy young subjects executed a full cycle of axial rotation, starting from neutral position to their extreme left, continuing to their extreme right, and finally moving to the neutral posture in one smooth motion without stopping anywhere. The electromyographic results of external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis, pectoralis major, erectores spinae at T10 and L3, and latissimus dorsi were measured bilaterally simultaneously during this trunk rotation. The timing and relative magnitude analyses were done to determine the global and individual muscle contributions in axial rotation. The correlation between electromyographic and angular displacement, and nonlinear curve fitting regression analyses were performed to decipher individual muscles behavior.

Results: The pattern of muscle activation was variable. However, contralateral external obliques, ipsilateral erector spinae, and latissimus dorsi became active before other muscles. These were agonists and the others were antagonists or stabilizers. The agonists contributed 65% of the total electromyographic output, whereas antagonists and stabilizers contributed 35%. The muscle activities during onset and offset periods were biphasic with significantly different slopes.

Conclusions: It was concluded that the axial rotation is achieved through the activities of agonists, and return to neutral position is because of elastic recoil controlled by agonistic muscles. A range of approximately 10-15 degrees on either side of the anatomical midsagittal plane involves little muscle effort, but beyond this region, the osteoligamentous structures become stiff and require increasing effort to execute axial rotation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Sex Factors
  • Spine / physiology