European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 5, pp 1671–1678 | Cite as

Muscle activity of the core during bilateral, unilateral, seated and standing resistance exercise

  • Atle Hole SaeterbakkenEmail author
  • Marius Steiro Fimland
Original Article


Little is known about the effect of performing common resistance exercises standing compared to seated and unilaterally compared to bilaterally on muscle activation of the core. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare the electromyographic activity (EMG) of the superficial core muscles (i.e. rectus abdominis, external oblique and erector spinae) between seated, standing, bilateral and unilateral dumbbell shoulder presses. 15 healthy males performed five repetitions at 80% of one-repetition maximum of the exercises in randomized order. Results were analyzed with a two-way analysis of variance and a Bonferroni post hoc test. The position × exercise interaction was significantly different for rectus abdominis (P = 0.016), but not for external oblique (P = 0.100) and erector spinae (P = 0.151). The following EMG results were observed: For rectus abdominis: ~49% lower in seated bilateral versus unilateral (P < 0.001), similar in standing bilateral versus unilateral (P = 0.408), ~81% lower in bilateral seated versus standing (P < 0.001), ~59% lower in unilateral seated versus standing (P < 0.001); For external oblique: ~81% lower in seated bilateral versus unilateral (P < 0.001), ~68% lower in standing bilateral than unilateral (P < 0.001), ~58% lower in bilateral seated versus standing (P < 0.001), ~28% lower in unilateral seated versus standing (P = 0.002); For erector spinae: similar in seated bilateral versus unilateral (P = 0.737), ~18% lower in standing bilateral versus unilateral (P = 0.001), similar in seated versus standing bilateral (P = 0.480) and unilateral (P = 0.690). In conclusion, to enhance neuromuscular activation of the superficial core muscles, standing exercises should be used instead of seated exercises, and unilateral exercises should be used instead of bilateral exercises.


EMG Resistance exercise Unilateral Bilateral Shoulder press Instability 



We particularly thank the participants, and Espen Krohn-Hansen and Mats Smaamo for assistance in participant recruitment and data collection.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atle Hole Saeterbakken
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marius Steiro Fimland
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Teacher Education and SportSogn og Fjordane University CollegeSogndalNorway
  2. 2.Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of MedicineNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Hysnes Rehabilitation Center, St. Olavs University HospitalTrondheimNorway

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