Purpose: Since most previous reports of EMG activation profiles from psoas and the abdominal wall have been qualitative, the objective of this work was to document myoelectric activity from these deep muscles. This knowledge is required to assist in choosing specific training exercises and for making rehabilitation decisions that require knowledge of normalized and calibrated muscle activation levels in different tasks.
Methods: Intramuscular EMG was collected from five men and three women, in whom amplitudes were normalized to maximum contraction efforts and reported over a wide variety of clinical and rehabilitation tasks. Electrodes were inserted into vertebral portions of psoas and the three layers of the abdominal wall. Normalized signal amplitudes were reported as peak levels and time histories.
Results: All forms of sit-ups activated psoas (15-35% MVC) more than the curl-up(<10%); psoas was not highly activated during barbell lifting of loads up to 100 kg (<16% MVC); psoas was most active during maximal hip flexion efforts; push-ups activated psoas up to 25% MVC. Several isometric abdominal exercises were evaluated using the criteria of maximizing abdominal activation while minimizing psoas activity: the side (bridge) support exercise proved the best training method for the abdominal wall.
Conclusions: Consideration of deep muscle activity, provided in this report, is important for choosing the most appropriate rehabilitation and training program for an individual. Specific guidance is provided for choosing the best abdominal exercise, together with activation profiles during lifting, during twisting, and during hip rotation.