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Pelvic Stabilization and Semisitting Position Increase the Specificity of Back Exercises


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 2 - p 435-443
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318188446a
Applied Sciences

Purpose: To examine the effect of pelvic stabilization and two lower-limb configurations on the EMG activity of back and hip extensor muscles during a dynamic back extension exercise on a machine and to compare them between sexes.

Methods: Twenty-two healthy volunteers (11 men and 11 women) performed five trunk flexion-extension cycles at 40% of their maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) in a machine designed for back exercise. Two different positions were used: 1) seated position (seat horizontal, knees at 90°) and 2) semisitting position (seat slightly tilted forward at 15°, knees at 45° of flexion). In each position, three pelvic stabilization conditions were tested: 1) unrestrained (control condition), 2) partially restrained (posteriorly), and 3) totally restrained (posteriorly and anteriorly). EMG signals were recorded bilaterally with 12 pairs of electrodes placed on back muscles as well as on the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris. The muscular activation level, that is, the percentage of EMG amplitude relative to the maximal EMG obtained from MVC, was used to asses the relative contribution of each muscle group across exercises.

Results: In both sexes, two main results were found: 1) pelvic stabilization (partially and totally restrained) significantly (P < 0.05) increased the activity of all back muscles (average of 12%) and 2) semisitting position significantly decreased (range = 8-27%) the activity of two hip extensors compared with the seated position. Sex differences were also observed relative to the activity of some back muscles as well as the biceps femoris.

Conclusions: Combining pelvic stabilization and semisitting position in back exercise machines might be a useful way to localize the effects of endurance training at the back muscles and this in both the sexes.

1Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (CRIR), Montreal Rehabilitation Institute; 2School of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal; and 3Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute Robert-Sauvé, Montreal, Quebec, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Christian Larivière, Ph.D., Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute Robert-Sauvé, 505 boul. De Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 3C2; Email:

Submitted for publication December 2007.

Accepted for publication July 2008.

©2009The American College of Sports Medicine