Abdominal and hip flexor muscle activation during various training exercises

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997;75(2):115-23. doi: 10.1007/s004210050135.


The purpose of this study was to provide objective information on the involvement of different abdominal and hip flexor muscles during various types of common training exercises used in rehabilitation and sport. Six healthy male subjects performed altogether 38 different static and dynamic training exercises trunk and hip flexion sit-ups, with various combinations of leg position and support, and bi- and unilateral leg lifts. Myoelectric activity was recorded with surface electrodes from the rectus abdominis, obliquus externus, obliquus internus, rectus femoris, and sartorius muscles and with indwelling fine-wire electrodes from the iliacus muscle. The mean electromyogram amplitude, normalised to the highest observed value, was compared between static and dynamic exercises separately. The hip flexors were highly activated only in exercises involving hip flexion, either lifting the whole upper body or the legs. In contrast, the abdominal muscles showed marked activation both during trunk and hip flexion sit-ups. In hip flexion sit-ups, flexed and supported legs increased hip flexor activation, whereas such modifications did not generally alter the activation level of the abdominals. Bilateral, but not unilateral, leg lifts required activation of abdominal muscles. In trunk flexion sit-ups an increased activation of the abdominal muscles was observed with increased flexion angle, whereas the opposite was true for hip flexion sit-ups. Bilateral leg lifts resulted in higher activity levels than hip flexion sit-ups for the iliacus and sartorius muscles, while the opposite was true for rectus femoris muscles. These data could serve as a basis for improving the design and specificity of test and training exercises.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Hip / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male