Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Adamson M, Macquaide N, Helgerud J, Hoff J, Kemi OJ (2008) Unilateral arm strength training improves contralateral peak force and rate of force development. Eur J Appl Phyisol 103:553–559

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Arokoski J, Valta T, Airaksinen O (2001) Back and abdominal muscle function during stabilization exercises. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 82:1089–1098

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson KG, Behm DG (2004) Maintenance of EMG activity and loss of force output with instability. J Strength Cond Res 18:637–640

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Baechle TR, Earle RW (2000) Resistance training. In: Baechle TR, Earle RW (eds) Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Human Kinetics, Champaign, pp 395–425

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ballantyne BT, O`Hare SJ, Paschall JL, Pavla-Smith MM, Pitz AM, Gillion JF, Soderberg GL (1993) Electromyographic activity of selected shoulder muscles in commonly used therapeutic exercises. Phys Ther 73:668–677

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Behm DG, Leonard AM, Young WB, Andrew W, Bonsey C, MacKinnon SN (2005) Trunk muscle electromyographic activity with unstable and unilateral exercises. J Strength Cond Res 19:193–201

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Behm DG, Drinkwater EJ, Willardson JM, Cowley PM (2010) Canadian society for exercise physiology position stand: the use of instability to train the core in athletic and nonathletic conditioning. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 35:109–112

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bergmark A (1989) Stability of the lumber spine. A study in mechanical engineering. Orthop Scand 230:1–54

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Cholewicki J, van Vliet JJ (2002) Relative contribution of trunk muscles to the stability of the lumbar spine during isometric exertions. Clin biomech 17:99–105

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cresswell AG, Thorstensson A (1994) Changes in intra-abdominal pressure, trunk muscle activation and force during isokinetic lifting and lowering. Eur J Appl Physiol 68:315–321

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Garhammer J (1981) Free weight equipment for the development of athletic strength and power, part I. NSCA J 3:23–26

    Google Scholar 

  12. Goodman CA, Pearce AJ, Nicholes CJ, Gatt BM, Fairweather IH (2008) No difference in 1RM strength and muscle activation during the barbell chest press on a stable and unstable surface. J Strength Cond Res 22:88–94

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, Kizuka T, Ishii N, Takamatsu K (2004) Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low resistance exercises. J Strength Cond Res 18:730–737

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Gottshalk F, Kourosh S, Leveau B (1989) The functional anatomy of tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medis and minus. J Anat 166:179–189

    Google Scholar 

  15. Graham JF (2008) Exercise: dumbbell seated shoulder press. J Strength Cond Res 30:54–55

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hamlyn N, Behm DG, Young WB (2007) Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities. J Strength Cond Res 21:1108–1112

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Hermens HJ, Freriks B, Disselhorst-Klug C, Rau G (2000) Development of recommendations for SEMG sensors and sensor placement procedures. J Electromyo Kinesiol 10:361–374

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Hodges PW, Richardson CA (1997) Contraction of the abdominal muscles associated with movement of the lower limb. Phys Ther 77:132–142

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Holm L, Reitelseder S, Pedersen TG, Doessing S, Petersen SG, Flyvbjerg A, Andersen JL, Aagaard P, Kjaer M (2008) Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity. J Appl Physiol 1005:1454–1461

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kohler JM, Flanagan SP, Whiting WC (2010) Muscle activation patterns while lifting stable and unstable loads on stable and unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res 24:313–321

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Koyama Y, Kobayahi H, Suzuki S, Enoka RM (2010) Enhancing the weight training experience: a comparison of limb kinematics and EMG activity on three machines. Eur J Appl Physiol 109:789–801

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Lehman GJ, MacMillan B, MacIntyre I, Chivers M, Fluter M (2006) Shoulder muscle EMG activity during push up variations on and off a Swiss ball. Dyn Med 5:7

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Liemohn W, Pariser G (2002) Core strength: Implications for fitness and low back pain. ACSM Health Fitness J 6:10–16

    Google Scholar 

  24. Marshall PW, Murphy BA (2006) Increased deltoid and abdominal muscle activity during Swiss ball bench press. J Strength Cond Res 20:745–750

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. McCaw ST, Friday J (1994) A comparison of muscle activity between a free weight and machine bench press. J Strength Cond Res 8:259–264

    Google Scholar 

  26. Munn J, Herbert RD, Hancock MJ, Gandevia SC (2005) Training with unilateral resistance exercise increases contralateral strength. J Appl Physiol 99:1880–1884

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Norwood JT, Anderson GS, Gaetz MB, Twist PW (2007) Electromyographic activity of the trunk stabilizers during stable and unstable bench press. J Strength Cond Res 21:343–347

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Nuzzo JL, McCaulley GO, Cormie P, Cavill MJ, McBride JM (2008) Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. J Strength Cond Res 22:95–102

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Saeterbakken AH, Tillaar R, Seiler KS (2011) Effect of core stability training on throwing velocity in female handball players. J Strength Cond Res 25:712–718

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Sale DG (1988) Neural adaptation to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 20:135–145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Santana JC, Vera-Garcia FJ, McGill SM (2007) A kinetic and electromyographic comparison of the standing cable press and bench press. J Strength Cond Res 21:1271–1277

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Schmidtbleicher D (1992) Training for power events. In: Komi PV (ed) Strength and power in sport. Blackwll, Oxford, pp 381–395

    Google Scholar 

  33. Schmitz RJ, Riemann BL, Thompson T (2002) Gluteus medius activity during isometric closed-chain hip rotation. J Sport Rehabil 11:179–188

    Google Scholar 

  34. Schwanbeck S, Chilibeck PD, Binsted G (2009) A comparison of free weight squat to Smith machine using electromyography. J Strength Cond Res 23:2588–2591

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Souza GM, Baker LL, Powers CM (2001) Electromyographic activity of selected trunk muscles during dynamic spine stabilization exercises. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 82:1551–1557

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. Struge B, Lærum E, Kirkesola G, Vøllestad N (2004) The efficacy of a treatment program focusing on specific stabilizing exercises for pelvic girdle pain after pregnancy. A randomized controlled trial. Spine 29:351–359

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Vera-Garcia FJ, Grenier SG, McGill SM (2000) Abdominal muscle response during curl-ups on both stable and labile surfaces. Phys Ther 80(6):564–569

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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

Conflict of interest

None.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Atle Hole Saeterbakken.

Additional information

Communicated by Toshio Moritani.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Saeterbakken, A.H., Fimland, M.S. Muscle activity of the core during bilateral, unilateral, seated and standing resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 1671–1678 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2141-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • EMG
  • Resistance exercise
  • Unilateral
  • Bilateral
  • Shoulder press
  • Instability