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Neuromuscular Efficiency of the Rectus Abdominis Differs With Gender and Sport Practice

David, Pascal1; Mora, Isabelle1†; Pérot, Chantal2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 6 - p 1855-1861
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31817bd529
Original Research

David, P, Mora, I, and Pérot, C. Neuromuscular efficiency of the rectus abdominis differs with gender and sport practice. J Strength Cond Res 22(6): 1855-1861, 2008-The purpose of this investigation was to distinguish the abilities of the rectus abdominis (RA) muscle according to gender and sport training by means of neuromuscular parameters extracted from electromyography (EMG)-torque relationships. Thirty-eight healthy students, divided into 4 groups (i.e., 8 male runners, 10 female gymnasts, 12 male controls, and 8 female controls) were asked to perform 6 seconds of isometric trunk flexions at 20%, 25%, 75%, and 100% of their maximal voluntary contraction. Flexion torque and surface EMG of the RA muscle were recorded simultaneously to construct a EMG-torque relationship. Under maximal and submaximal conditions, an index of neuromuscular efficiency (NME) was determined to characterize the capacity of the RA muscle to develop a torque. At each level of contraction, the area of data scattering (ADS), reflecting torque and EMG fluctuations, was computed to express the capacity to maintain a constant target torque. Flexion torque, NME, and ADS values differed significantly between genders, but when data were related to anthropometric characteristics, no difference was observed. Although runners were not distinguished from male controls, gymnasts had higher flexion torque, higher NME, and lower ADS values than female controls had. These differences should reflect neural and muscular adaptations linked to the specificity of gymnastic training. These findings revealed different functional abilities of the RA muscle, according to gender and sport practices. The indices of neuromuscular capacities used in this study could constitute complementary tools to athletic trainers and professionals in sports medicine for evaluating and following, during sport-specific training programs, the abdominal muscle performance implied in force transfers with a lower cost and lower risks of back pain.

1Faculté des Sciences du Sport, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France; 2Département de Génie Biologique, Université de Technologie, Compiègne, France

†In memory of Isabelle Mora, who died suddenly in September 2007.

Address correspondence to Dr. Chantal Pérot,

© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association