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Integration Core Exercises Elicit Greater Muscle Activation Than Isolation Exercises

Gottschall, Jinger S.1; Mills, Jackie2; Hastings, Bryce2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 3 - p 590–596
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2cc7
Original Research

Gottschall, JS, Mills, J, and Hastings, B. Integration core exercises elicit greater muscle activation than isolation exercises. J Strength Cond Res 27(3): 590–596, 2013—The American College of Sports Medicine and the United States Department of Health and Human Services advocate core training as a means to improve stability, reduce injury, and maintain mobility. There are countless exercises that target the primary core trunk muscles (abdominal and lumbar) with the aim of providing these benefits. However, it is unknown as to which exercises elicit the greatest activation thereby maximizing functional gains and peak performance. Thus, our purpose was to determine whether integration core exercises that require activation of the distal trunk muscles (deltoid and gluteal) elicit greater activation of primary trunk muscles in comparison with isolation core exercises that only require activation of the proximal trunk muscles. Twenty participants, 10 men and 10 women, completed 16 randomly assigned exercises (e.g., crunch, upper body extension, and hover variations). We measured muscle activity with surface electromyography of the anterior deltoid, rectus abdominus, external abdominal oblique, lumbar erector spinae, thoracic erector spinae, and gluteus maximus. Our results indicate that the activation of the abdominal and lumbar muscles was the greatest during the exercises that required deltoid and gluteal recruitment. In conclusion, when completing the core strength guidelines, an integrated routine that incorporates the activation of distal trunk musculature would be optimal in terms of maximizing strength, improving endurance, enhancing stability, reducing injury, and maintaining mobility.

1Department of Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

2Les Mills International, Auckland City, New Zealand

Address correspondence to Dr. Jinger S. Gottschall,

© 2013 National Strength and Conditioning Association