Muscle activity in upper and lower rectus abdominus during abdominal exercises

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1996 Dec;77(12):1293-7. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(96)90195-1.


Objective: To compare the intensity of the upper versus lower rectus abdominis (RA) muscle activity provoked by each of two different abdominal exercises and to contrast the intensity of contraction elicited by two different abdominal exercises on each RA muscle portion.

Design: Nonrandomized control trial.

Setting: Kinesiology laboratory in a university medicine faculty.

Participants: Convenience sample of 33 healthy volunteers. Subjects who had practiced endurance or strength training activities (1.5 hours 3 days a week for 3 years) and those who had not accomplished that criterion comprised a high and a low physical activity group, respectively. Each of these two groups was divided by the ability to perform the exercises into two subgroups: correct and incorrect performers (cp, ic).

Main outcome measure: Average surface iEMG was compared between upper and lower RA and on each muscle portion performing curl-up (CU) and posterior pelvic tilt (PT) exercises. The coefficient of variation, a two-way analysis of variance, and the t test were calculated.

Results: The upper RA showed significantly greater activity during performance of CU exercise by the cp subgroups of both high (t = 2.14302, 95%) and low (t = 2.35875, 95%) activity groups. Only the cp subgroup of the high activity group showed that PT was significantly more strenuous than CU exercise on lower RA (t = -2.06467, 95%).

Conclusions: Among correct performers, CU produces greater activity on upper RA. For persons who have a high level of activity, PT is more strenuous than CU on lower RA. Among incorrect performers, either exercise indistinctly activates the muscle portions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Sampling Studies