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Muscle Activation Patterns During Different Squat Techniques

Slater, Lindsay V.; Hart, Joseph M.

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2017 - Volume 31 - Issue 3 - p 667–676
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001323
Original Research

Abstract: Slater, LV, and Hart, JM. Muscle activation patterns during different squat techniques. J Strength Cond Res 31(3): 667–676, 2017—Bilateral squats are frequently used exercises in sport performance programs. Lower extremity muscle activation may change based on knee alignment during the performance of the exercise. The purpose of this study was to compare lower extremity muscle activation patterns during different squat techniques. Twenty-eight healthy, uninjured subjects (19 women, 9 men, 21.5 ± 3 years, 170 ± 8.4 cm, 65.7 ± 11.8 kg) volunteered. Electromyography (EMG) electrodes were placed on the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, and the gastrocnemius of the dominant leg. Participants completed 5 squats while purposefully displacing the knee anteriorly (AP malaligned), 5 squats while purposefully displacing the knee medially (ML malaligned) and 5 squats with control alignment (control). Normalized EMG data (MVIC) were reduced to 100 points and represented as percentage of squat cycle with 50% representing peak knee flexion and 0 and 99% representing fully extended. Vastus lateralis, medialis, and rectus femoris activity decreased in the medio-lateral (ML) malaligned squat compared with the control squat. In the antero-posterior (AP) malaligned squat, the vastus lateralis, medialis, and rectus femoris activity decreased during initial descent and final ascent; however, vastus lateralis and rectus femoris activation increased during initial ascent compared with the control squat. The biceps femoris and gastrocnemius displayed increased activation during both malaligned squats compared with the control squat. In conclusion, participants had altered muscle activation patterns during squats with intentional frontal and sagittal malalignment as demonstrated by changes in quadriceps, biceps femoris, and gastrocnemius activation during the squat cycle.

Department of Kinesiology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Address correspondence to Lindsay V. Slater, ls4zj@virginia.edu.

Copyright © 2017 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.