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The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training

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The present study investigated the activation of gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles in different squat variations. Ten male competitive bodybuilders perform back-squat at full (full-BS) or parallel (parallel-BS) depth, using large feet-stance (sumo-BS), and enhancing the feet external rotation (external-rotated-sumo-BS) and front-squat (FS) at 80% 1-RM. The normalized surface electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG RMS) amplitude of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, adductor longus, longissimus, and iliocostalis was recorded during both the ascending and descending phase of each exercise. During the descending phase, greater sEMG RMS amplitude of gluteus maximus and gluteus medius was found in FS vs. all other exercises (p < 0.05). Additionally, FS elicited iliocostalis more than all other exercises. During the ascending phase, both sumo-BS and external-rotated-sumo-BS showed greater vastus lateralis and adductor longus activation compared to all other exercises (p < 0.05). Moreover, rectus femoris activation was greater in FS compared to full-BS (p < 0.05). No between-exercise difference was found in vastus medialis and longissimus showed no between-exercise difference. FS needs more backward stabilization during the descending phase. Larger feet-stance increases thigh muscles activity, possibly because of their longer length. These findings show how bodybuilders uniquely recruit muscles when performing different squat variations.
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International Journal of
Environmental Research
and Public Health
Article
The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in
Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive
Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training
Giuseppe Coratella 1, * , Gianpaolo Tornatore 1, Francesca Caccavale 1, Stefano Longo 1, Fabio Esposito 1,2
and Emiliano Cè1,2


Citation: Coratella, G.; Tornatore, G.;
Caccavale, F.; Longo, S.; Esposito, F.;
Cè, E. The Activation of Gluteal,
Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in
Different Squat Variations Performed
by Competitive Bodybuilders:
Implications for Resistance Training.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,
18, 772. https://doi.org/10.3390/
ijerph18020772
Received: 3 December 2020
Accepted: 14 January 2021
Published: 18 January 2021
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Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
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4.0/).
1Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, Universitàdegli Studi di Milano, via Giuseppe Colombo 71,
20133 Milano, Italy; gianpaolo.tornatore@email.it (G.T.); francesca.caccavale@studenti.unimi.it (F.C.);
stefano.longo@unimi.it (S.L.); fabio.esposito@unimi.it (F.E.); emiliano.ce@unimi.it (E.C.)
2IRCCS Galeazzi Orthopaedic Institute, 20122 Milano, Italy
*Correspondence: giuseppe.coratella@unimi.it
Abstract: The present study investigated the activation of gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles in
different squat variations. Ten male competitive bodybuilders perform back-squat at full (full-BS)
or parallel (parallel-BS) depth, using large feet-stance (sumo-BS), and enhancing the feet external
rotation (external-rotated-sumo-BS) and front-squat (FS) at 80% 1-RM. The normalized surface
electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG RMS) amplitude of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius,
rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, adductor longus, longissimus, and iliocostalis was recorded
during both the ascending and descending phase of each exercise. During the descending phase,
greater sEMG RMS amplitude of gluteus maximus and gluteus medius was found in FS vs. all other
exercises (p< 0.05). Additionally, FS elicited iliocostalis more than all other exercises. During the
ascending phase, both sumo-BS and external-rotated-sumo-BS showed greater vastus lateralis and
adductor longus activation compared to all other exercises (p< 0.05). Moreover, rectus femoris activation
was greater in FS compared to full-BS (p< 0.05). No between-exercise difference was found in
vastus medialis and longissimus showed no between-exercise difference. FS needs more backward
stabilization during the descending phase. Larger feet-stance increases thigh muscles activity, possibly
because of their longer length. These findings show how bodybuilders uniquely recruit muscles
when performing different squat variations.
Keywords:
EMG; quadriceps; gluteus maximus; adductor longus; weight training; strength training;
front squat; back squat; feet stance
1. Introduction
The squat is one of the most popular exercises used to elicit lower-limb strength,
hypertrophy, and power [
1
3
]. It consists of a simultaneous flexion-extension of the hip,
knee, and ankle joints, with the important role of the lower back muscles that stabilize the
upper body, and consequently the whole movement [
4
,
5
]. Particularly, the gluteal, thigh,
and lower back muscles are strongly activated during both the ascending and descending
phase [69].
The squat can be performed in a multitude of variations, depending for example on
the place where the barbell is located, the squatting depth, the feet stance, and/or feet
rotation. Consequently, we may have back-squat (BS) or front-squat (FS) when the barbell
is placed over the shoulders or in front of the clavicular line, respectively [
10
]. Alternatively,
the squatting depth may lead to parallel or full squat, where the descending phase ends
when the thighs are parallel to the ground or below this line, respectively [
7
]. Furthermore,
the feet stance may be regular or wide, leading in the latter case to a so-called sumo-squat,
where the direction of the feet can be parallel or rotated externally [
11
]. Obviously, all
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020772 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 2 of 11
these independent parameters can be miscellaneously used to create many combinations
of squatting techniques and exercises. Among these, full-BS, parallel-BS, FS, sumo-BS, and
external-rotated-sumo-BS are widely performed in practice.
A number of studies have investigated the difference in muscle activation when
different squat variations are performed. Overall, squatting depth was shown to affect
gluteus maximus activation with inconsistent results, with greater activation recorded in
partial vs. full squat performed by young resistance-trained men [
12
], greater activation
in full vs. partial performed by experienced lifters [
7
], or no difference when performed
by resistance-trained women [
13
]. Additionally, quadriceps activation was overall greater
in full vs. partial squat [
14
]. Interestingly, no difference in muscle activation was found
comparing BS vs. FS performed with 70% 1-RM by healthy men [
10
], while larger stance
specifically activates medial thigh muscles in experienced lifters [
15
], although no difference
was found in gluteal muscles activation [11].
Bodybuilders have a unique capacity to perform exercises with a profound consistency
of their technique, and were recently used to investigate the differences in muscle activation
when bench press [
16
] or shoulder raise variations [
17
] are performed. Additionally,
examining the muscle activation during both the concentric and the descending phase may
help practitioners to characterize the strength and the hypertrophic stimuli, given both the
short-term [
18
,
19
] and long-term unique responses following traditional or eccentric-based
exercise training [
2
,
20
22
]. Therefore, the present study investigated the differences in
the gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles’ activation in bodybuilders when varying the
squatting technique. Particularly, the exercises selected were full-BS, parallel-BS, sumo-
BS, external-rotated-sumo-BS, and FS, and the gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles’
activation were recorded during both the ascending and descending phase.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Design
The present investigation was designed as a cross-over, repeated-measures, within-
subject study. The participants were involved in seven different sessions. In the first five
sessions, the 1-RM was measured in full-BS, parallel-BS, sumo-BS, external-rotation-sumo-
BS, and FS in random order. In the sixth session, the participants were familiarized with the
selected loads and the electrodes placement. In the seventh session, the muscles’ maximum
activation was first measured, i.e., the activation during a maximum voluntary contraction.
Then, after a minimum of 30 min of passive recovery, the participant performed a non-
exhausting set for each exercise performed in a random order, with an inter-set pause
of 10 min. Each session was separated by at least three days, and the participants were
instructed to avoid any further form of resistance training for the entire duration of the
investigation.
2.2. Participants
The present investigation was advertised by the investigators during some regional
and national competitions, and to be included in the study, the participants had to compete
in regional competitions for a minimum of 5 years. Additionally, they had to be clinically
healthy, without any reported history of upper-limb and lower back muscle injury and
neurological or cardiovascular disease in the previous 12 months. To avoid possible
confounding factors, the participants competed in the same weight category (Men’s Classic
Bodybuilding <80 kg, <1.70 m), according to the International Federation of Body Building
Pro-League. The use of drugs or steroids was continuously monitored by a dedicated
authority under its regulations, although we could have not checked for it. Thereafter,
10 male competitive bodybuilders (age 29.8
±
3.0 years; body mass 77.9
±
1.0 kg; stature
1.68
±
0.01 m; training seniority 10.6
±
1.8 years) were recruited for the present procedures.
The participants were asked to abstain from alcohol, caffeine, or similar beverages in
the 24 h preceding the test. After a full explanation of the aims of the study and the
experimental procedures, the participants signed a written informed consent. They were
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 3 of 11
also free to withdraw at any time. The current design was approved by the Ethical
Committee of the Universitàdegli Studi di Milano (CE 27/17) and performed following
the Declaration of Helsinki (1975) for studies involving human subjects.
2.3. Maximum Voluntary Isometric Activation
The maximum voluntary isometric activation of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius,
rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, erector spinae longissimus, and erector
spinae iliocostal was assessed in random order. The electrodes were placed on the dominant
limb, defined as the one preferred to kick a ball [
2
]. The participants were required to
exert their maximum force against manual resistance. Each attempt lasted 5 s and three
attempts were completed for each movement separated by 3 min of passive recovery [
16
,
17
].
The operators provided strong standardized verbal encouragements to push as hard as
possible against the resistance exerted. The surface electromyography (sEMG) electrodes
were placed following the SENIAM recommendations [
23
]. To check for appropriate
electrodes placement previous procedures were followed [
17
]. For example, if the electrode
shifted over the innervation zone during part of the movement, the EMG amplitude was
underestimated. Therefore, to check for any consequence due to a possible shift of the
surface electrode over the innervation zone, a Fast-Fourier Transform approach was used,
as suggested in a previous investigation [
24
]. Briefly, the electrode placement on each
muscle was checked during the warm-up phase of each exercise, analyzing the power
spectrum profile of the sEMG signal recorded at the starting-, middle-, and endpoint of
each exercise in all muscles. The correct electrode placement results in a typical belly-
shaped power spectrum profile of the EMG signal, while noise, motion artifacts, power
lines, and electrodes placed on the innervation zone or myotendinous junction generate
a different power spectrum profile [
24
]. If the power spectrum did not match with the
typical belly-shaped power spectrum profile in any of the temporal points, the electrodes
were repositioned, and the procedures repeated so to have a clear EMG signal from all the
muscles throughout the movement. The same experienced operator placed the electrodes
and checked the power-spectrum profile. This approach was shown to provide very high
reliability in sEMG data [16,17].
For gluteus maximus, the participants laid prone with the flexed knee and the electrode
was placed below the line between the posterior-superior iliac spine and the trochanter
major [
13
]. The participants were then asked to extend the hip against a manual resistance
on the distal thigh [
13
]. For gluteus medius, the participant laid on a side and the electrodes
were placed at 50% on the line from the crista iliaca to the trochanter. The participant was
then asked to abduct the limb against manual resistance [
23
]. For rectus femoris,vastus
lateralis, and vastus medialis, the participants sat on a table with the knees in slight flexion
and the trunk slightly bent backward. The electrode were respectively placed at 50% and
2/3 on the line between the anterior-superior iliac spine and the lateral side of the patella
and at 90% on the line between the anterior-superior iliac spine and the joint space in
front of the anterior border of the medial ligament [
23
]. The participant were then asked
to extend the knee against manual resistance [
23
]. The adductor longus belly was found
midway between the origin at the pubic tubercle and the insertion at the medial linea
aspera of the femur [
25
]. To ensure electrode placement, the test leg was passively abducted
and the adductor longus muscle belly was palpated just distal to the muscle’s tendon,
traced from the pubic tubercle on the medial side of the leg, and the participant was then
asked to actively adduct the leg against resistance [
25
]. For erector spinae longissimus and
iliocostalis, the participant laid prone and the electrodes were respectively placed at 2-finger
width lateral from the processus spinalis of L1 and 1-finger width medial from the line
from the posterior-superior iliac spine to the lowest point of the lower rib, at the level of
L2 [
23
]. The participant was then asked to extend the trunk against manual resistance [
23
].
The electrodes were equipped with a probe (probe mass: 8.5 g, BTS Inc., Milano, Italy)
that permitted the detection and the transfer of the sEMG signal by wireless modality.
sEMG signal was acquired at 1000 Hz, amplified (gain: 2000, impedance and the com-
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 4 of 11
mon rejection mode ratio of the equipment are >1015
//0.2 pF and 60/10 Hz 92 dB,
respectively), and driven to a wireless electromyographic system (FREEEMG 300, BTS Inc.,
Milano, Italy) that digitized (1000 Hz) and filtered (filter type: IV-order Butterworth filter;
bandwidth: 10–500 Hz) the raw sEMG signals.
2.4. 1-RM Protocol
The squat 1-RM was assessed following previous procedures [
26
] using an Olympic
bar (Vulcan Standard 20 kg, Vulcan Strength Training System, Charlotte, NC, USA). Briefly,
after a standardized warm-up consisting of 30 weight-free squats, the 1-RM attempts
started from 80% of the self-declared 1-RM and additional 5% or less was added until
failure [
27
]. Each attempt was separated by at least 3 min of passive recovery. A standard
time under tension (2 s for the ascending and descending phase, 0.5 for the isometric
phase) was used and the participants had to lower the bar until the thighs were parallel
to the ground. A metronome was used to pace the intended duty cycle and a camera was
used to provide a feedback about the squatting technique and depth. Strong standardized
encouragements were provided to the participants to maximally perform each trial.
2.5. Exercises’ Technique Description
The selected exercises are shown in Figure 1, and described here from left to right, first
the upper and then the lower row. In parallel-BS, the bar was placed over the shoulder and
the participants were required to descent until the thighs were parallel to the ground, with
a regular feet stance. In full-BS, the bar was placed over the shoulder and the participants
were required to descent below the parallel thighs, with a regular feet stance. In FS, the bar
was placed in front of the clavicular line and sternum, and the participants were required to
descent until the thighs were parallel to the ground, with a regular feet stance. In sumo-BS,
the bar was placed over the shoulder, and the participants were required to descent until
the thighs were parallel to the ground, with a two-fold feet stance compared to the previous
exercises. In external-rotated-sumo-BS, the participants received the same instructions as
for sumo-BS, with the exception of the feet that were rotated externally. Six non-exhaustive
repetitions were performed for each exercise.
Figure 1.
The squat variations are shown. From the left to the right, in the upper row: full-back squat
(BS), parallel-BS, and front squat (FS). In the lower row: sumo-BS and external-rotated-sumo-BS.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 5 of 11
2.6. Data Analysis
The sEMG signals from both the peak value recorded during the maximum voluntary
isometric activation and from the ascending and descending phases of each exercise were
analyzed in time-domain, using a 25-ms mobile window for the computation of the root
mean square (RMS). For the maximum voluntary isometric activation, the average of the
RMS corresponding to the central 2 s was considered. During each exercise, the RMS was
calculated and averaged over the 2 s of the ascending and descending phase. To identify
the ascending and the descending phase, the sEMG was synchronized with an integrated
camera (VixtaCam 30 Hz, BTS Inc., Milano, Italy) that provided the duration of each phase.
Such a duration was used to mark the start and the end of each phase while analyzing the
sEMG signal. The sEMG data were averaged excluding the first repetition of each set, to
possibly have more consistent technique during the following repetitions. After, the sEMG
RMS of each muscle during each exercise was normalized for its respective maximum
voluntary isometric activation [16,17,27] and inserted into the data analysis.
2.7. Statistical Analysis
The statistical analysis was performed using a statistical software (SPSS 22.0, IBM,
Armonk, NY, USA). The normality of data was checked using the Shapiro–Wilk test and all
distributions were normal. Descriptive statistics are reported as mean (SD). The differences
in the normalized EMG RMS were separately calculated for each exercise (5 levels) and
phase (2 levels) using a two-way repeated-measures ANOVA. Multiple comparisons were
adjusted using the Bonferroni’s correction. Significance was set at p< 0.05. The differences
are reported as mean with 95% of confidence interval (95%CI). Cohen’s deffect size (ES)
with 95% confidence interval (CI) was reported and interpreted according to the Hopkins’
recommendations: 0.00–0.19: trivial; 0.20–0.59: small: 0.60–1.19: moderate; 1.20–1.99: large;
2.00: very large [28].
3. Results
The 1-RM were as follows: 215(28) kg for full-BS, 238(31) kg for parallel-BS, 255(36) kg
for sumo-BS, 258(41) kg for external-rotated-sumo-BS, and 176(33) kg for FS.
The results for gluteus maximus are shown in Figure 2. No phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.197) was found for the normalized RMS of gluteus maximus. A main effect was found
for factor phase (p< 0.001), but not exercise (p= 0.097). With the exception of FS (11.1%,
6.5% to 28.8%, p= 0.11; ES: 0.48,
0.43 to 1.48), greater normalized RMS was found
during the ascending vs. descending phase in all exercises (16.0% to 41.1%, p< 0.05; ES:
1.55 to 3.99). During the ascending phase, no between-exercise difference was observed.
During the descending phase, greater normalized RMS was found in FS vs. full-BS (46.6%,
8.4% to 84.8%, p= 0.017; ES: 2.94, 1.58 to 4.05), parallel-BS (40.9%, 14.0% to 67.9%, p= 0.005;
ES: 2.58, 1.31 to 3.63), sumo-BS (40.1%, 7.1% to 73.0%, p= 0.017; ES: 2.38, 1.16 to 3.41), and
external-rotated-sumo-BS (44.9%, 10.3% to 79.5%, p= 0.012; ES: 2.83, 1.49 to 3.92).
The results for gluteus medius are shown in Figure 2. No phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.157) was found for the normalized RMS of gluteus medius. A main effect was found
for factor phase (p= 0.002), but not exercise (p= 0.125). Greater normalized RMS was
found during the ascending phase in full-BS (12.0%, 9.1% to 15%, p< 0.001; ES: 2.92, 1.56
to 4.02) and external-rotated-sumo-BS (12.9%, 4.2% to 21.7%, p= 0.010; ES: 1.57, 0.51 to
2.49). During the ascending phase, no between-exercise difference was observed. During
the descending phase, greater normalized RMS was found in FS vs. full-BS (19.0%, 4.9%
to 33.1%, p= 0.010; ES: 2.16, 0.98 to 3.16), parallel-BS (13.6%, 0.4% to 26.8%, p= 0.016; ES:
1.35, 0.10 to 2.70), sumo-BS (17.5%, 5.4% to 29.6%, p= 0.006; ES: 1.90, 0.78 to 2.86), and
external-rotated-sumo-BS (19.4%, 7.3% to 31.5%, p= 0.003; ES: 2.10, 0.93 to 3.08).
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 6 of 11
Figure 2.
The surface electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG) RMS amplitude of gluteus maximus and gluteus medius
is shown. BS: back squat. *: p< 0.05 ascending vs. descending phase. a: p< 0.05 vs. full-BS. b: p< 0.05 vs. parallel-BS. c:
p< 0.05 vs. sumo-BS. d: p< 0.05 vs. external-rotated-sumo-BS.
The results for rectus femoris are shown in Figure 3. Phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.038) was found for the normalized RMS, and no main effect was found for factor
phase (p= 0.417) and exercise (p= 0.231). Greater normalized RMS was found during
the ascending compared to the descending phase in FS (30.1%, 7.8% to 52.3%, p= 0.015;
ES: 1.35, 0.33 to 2.25). During the ascending phase FS showed greater normalized RMS
than full-BS (24.0%, 1.9% to 46.0%, p= 0.032; ES: 1.21, 0.21 to 2.11). No between-exercise
difference was found during the descending phase.
The results for vastus lateralis are shown in Figure 3. Phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.026) was found for the normalized RMS, and a main effect was found for factor
phase (p= 0.011), but not exercise (p= 0.457). Compared to the descending phase, greater
normalized RMS was found during the ascending phase in full-BS (22.1%, 6.1% to 38.1%,
p= 0.013; ES: 1.60, 0.54 to 2.53), sumo-BS (28.8%, 8.4% to 49.1%, p= 0.012; ES: 1.64, 0.57
to 2.58), and external-rotated-sumo-BS (30.0%, 14.6% to 45.5%, p= 0.002; ES: 1.26, 0.25 to
2.16). During the ascending phase, both sumo-BS (19.8%, 0.8% to 38.8%, p= 0.040; ES: 0.97,
0.01 to 1.85) and external-rotated-sumo-BS (23.0%, 3.8% to 42.1%, p= 0.019; ES: 0.88,
0.07
to 1.76) had greater normalized RMS than FS. No between-exercise difference was found
during the descending phase.
The results for vastus medialis are shown in Figure 3. No phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.133) was found for the normalized RMS, and a main effect was found for factor
phase (p< 0.001), but not exercise (p= 0.102). Compared to the descending phase, greater
normalized RMS was found during the ascending phase in full-BS (25.2%, 11.8% to 38.5%,
p= 0.003; ES: 1.06, 0.08 to 1.94) and sumo-BS (25.9%, 10.6% to 41.2%, p= 0.005; ES: 1.27,
0.26 to 2.17). No between-exercise difference was observed during both the ascending and
descending phase.
The results for adductor longus are shown in Figure 3. Phase x exercise interaction
(p= 0.032) was found for the normalized RMS, and a main effect was found for factor phase
(p< 0.001) and exercise (p= 0.021). Compared to the descending phase, greater normalized
RMS was observed during the ascending phase in all exercises (ES: 2.25 to 5.39). During
the ascending phase, greater normalized RMS was found in external-rotated-sumo-BS than
full-BS (17.9%, 1.7% to 34.0%, p= 0.029; ES: 2.01, 0.86 to 2.98), parallel-BS (16.7%, 3.0% to
30.3%, p= 0.017; ES: 1.47, 0.43 to 2.39), and FS [26.9%, 7.3% to 46.5%, p= 0.009; ES: 2.64,
1.35 to 3.70). Greater normalized RMS was also found for sumo-BS than FS (19.7%, 5.6% to
33.9%, p= 0.008; ES: 2.15, 0.98 to 3.14).
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 7 of 11
Figure 3. The surface electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG) RMS amplitude of rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus
medialis and adductor longus is shown. BS: back squat. *: p< 0.05 ascending vs. descending phase. a: p< 0.05 vs. full-BS. b: p
< 0.05 vs. parallel-BS. e: p< 0.05 vs. parallel front squat.
The results for erector spinae longissimus are shown in Figure 4. Phase x exercise
interaction (p= 0.004) was found for the normalized RMS, and a main effect was found for
factor phase (p= 0.015), but not exercise (p= 0.477). Compared to the descending phase,
greater normalized RMS was found during the ascending phase in full-BS (39.6%, 16.0%
to 63.1%, p= 0.005; ES: 1.76, 0.67 to 2.71). No between-exercise difference was observed
during both ascending and descending phase.
Figure 4.
The surface electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG) RMS amplitude of erector spinae longissimus and erector
spinae iliocostalis is shown. BS: back squat. *: p< 0.05 ascending vs. descending phase. a: p< 0.05 vs. full-BS. b: p< 0.05 vs.
parallel-BS. c: p< 0.05 vs. sumo-BS. d: p< 0.05 vs. external-rotated-sumo-BS.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 8 of 11
The results for erector spinae iliocostalis are shown in Figure 4. Phase x exercise interac-
tion (p= 0.020) was found for the normalized RMS, and a main effect was found for factor
exercise (p= 0.040), but not phase (p= 0.431). Compared to the descending phase, the
normalized RMS was greater during the ascending phase in full-BS (9.4%, 4.5% to 14.3%,
p= 0.003; ES: 1.91, 0.78 to 2.87) and lower in FS (
10.4%,
18.6 to
2.3, p= 0.019; ES:
1.14,
2.03 to
0.15). During the descending phase, FS showed greater normalized RMS than
full-BS (22.9%, 14.6% to 31.2%, p< 0.001; ES: 3.29, 1.84 to 4.46), parallel-BS (18.1%, 0.5% to
35.7%, p= 0.043; ES: 2.37, 1.14 to 3.39), sumo-BS (18.2%, 12.1% to 24.3%, p< 0.001; ES: 2.14,
0.97 to 3.13), and external-rotated-sumo-BS (19.2%, 7.1% to 31.2%, p= 0.004; ES: 2.43, 1.19
to 3.46). No between-exercise difference was found during the ascending phase.
4. Discussion
The current study examined how different squat variations influence the activation
of the main muscles involved in these exercises. Both gluteus maximus and gluteus medius
were more active during the descending phase of FS compared to all other exercises. Rectus
femoris was more active during the ascending phase of FS compared to full-BS compared
to all other exercises, while no between-exercise difference was visible for vastus medialis.
Vastus lateralis and adductor longus were more active during the ascending phase of sumo-BS
and external-rotation-sumo-BS compared to all other exercises. Lastly, while no between-
exercise difference was observed for erector spinae longissimus,erector spinae iliocostalis was
more active during the descending phase of FS elicited compared to all other exercises. As
such, varying the squatting technique seems to affect selectively the muscle activation.
4.1. Gluteal Muscles
FS showed very large increases in the gluteus maximus activation compared with all
other exercises during the descending phase, with no between-exercise difference recorded
during the ascending phase. A direct comparison with the literature is challenging, since
few previous studies used similar design. When recording the sEMG RMS amplitude of
gluteus maximus and distinguishing the ascending from the descending phase, no difference
in FS vs. BS was found [
29
]. However, the load was maximal and performed by healthy men
that limits the inference towards the present population. Additionally, we found that the
gluteus maximus activation recorded here is much greater compared to the aforementioned
study (e.g., 70% vs. 30% of the maximum activation during the descending phase of
FS), which underlines the capacity of bodybuilders to increase muscle activation while
training [
30
]. Moreover, no difference in gluteus maximus activation was found comparing
FS, full-BS, and parallel-BS in trained women [
13
]. However, the authors did not specifically
state which phase (ascending or descending or both) was examined, since it leads to argue
that these findings are consistent with the no between-exercise difference recorded here
during the ascending phase. Additionally, FS vs. BS was previously investigated, but no
gluteal muscle was examined [
10
]. Lastly, the effect of stance does not seem to play a key
role in gluteus maximus activation, which contrasts with the greater activation reported
at greater stance [
11
,
15
]. Again, it is possible that the present bodybuilders population
may have cancelled such a difference, since they were able to recruit the gluteus maximus
more than just experienced lifters irrespectively of the stance. Similarly, gluteus medius
resulted in greater activation during the descending phase of FS compared to all other
exercise, with no between-exercise difference during the ascending phase. In a previous
study, no difference in gluteus medius activation was observed when increasing the feet
stance, confirming the present findings [
11
]. Taking all together, gluteal muscles seem to be
particularly involved during the descending phase of FS. This may derive from the need to
maintain an adequate trunk extension to avoid the barbell slipping forward (i.e., gluteus
maximus), and to avoid a medial collapsing of the knees (i.e., gluteus medius), particularly
when controlling the descending phase. As such, a frontal barbell placement seems to be a
good option to increase the stimuli towards gluteal muscles while squatting.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 9 of 11
4.2. Thigh Muscles
Rectus femoris showed greater activation in FS compared to full-BS during the ascend-
ing phase, with no other between-exercise differences. The lack of differences between
full-BS and parallel-BS agrees with the no-difference found previously in powerlifters
or weightlifters [
31
] or in healthy resistance-trained men [
12
]. Similarly with previous
results, no difference in rectus femoris activation was reported when varying the squatting
stance [
11
]. The reduced activation in full-BS vs. FS can be possibly explained by the
greater rectus femoris length forced by the more vertical trunk in FS, which agrees with
the greater work performed by the aforementioned gluteal muscles. Indeed, since rectus
femoris acts as hip flexor, a more extended trunk corresponds to a longer length throughout
the whole movement, thus increasing its activation as previously shown for deltoids [
17
]
and triceps [
32
]. Both the sumo squats showed greater activation in vastus lateralis vs. FS.
As suggested previously, larger stance makes hip and knee joint to exert more force to lift
the load due to the non-favorable less vertical lever, thus increasing their recruitment [
15
].
Indeed, larger stance was shown to increase the vastus lateralis activation [
33
], rather than an
external feet rotation alone, as previously reported [
34
]. Moreover, vastus medialis showed
no between-exercise difference, with all exercises highly recruiting it. This may depend
by the role of profound stabilizer of the patella across all movements, that enhances its
activation when high loads have to be lifted. Lastly, larger stance and feet external rotation
increased the adductor longus activation. This may depend on the need to stabilize the
thigh position and keep the trajectory as vertical as possible in conjunction with the thigh
external rotators, and on the longer muscle length at which adductor longus act at larger
squat stance [
11
,
15
,
35
]. Taking together, larger feet stance may be used as an effective
stimulus to increase the thigh muscles activity and could be implemented in the training
practice accordingly.
4.3. Lower Back Muscles
Erector spinae longissimus showed no between-exercise difference, displaying a great
activation across all exercises and during both the ascending and descending phase. In line
with our results, no difference was found between BS and FS in experienced lifters [
10
],
not even at different squatting depth in resistance trained men [
12
]. The study that in-
vestigated the effects of feet stance did not examine any lower back muscle [
11
,
15
,
36
], so
a direct comparison cannot be made. However, given the high load and the consistent
squatting technique, it is possible that the feet stance does not play a role in the erector
spinae longissimus activation. Intriguingly, the activation of erector spinae iliocostalis was
greater in FS compared with all other exercises during the descending phase. This may
imply that FS needs additional balance control by mean of the trunk extensors to avoid
any possible forward unbalancing. However, it should be noted that the net activation
was much lesser than what observed in longissimus, meaning that the whole trunk and not
only the lower back is involved in stabilizing the body. Lastly, both erectors’ activation
was greater during the ascending vs. descending phase in full-BS. This may be accounted
for the very closed joint angles that could need an additional backward action to start the
movement from a non-favorable body position. In practice, in conjunction with the greater
stimulus for the gluteal muscles, FS might be recommended to enhance the work of the
lower back muscles.
4.4. Limitations
A number of limitations should be acknowledged. First, there is no information of
any rear thigh muscle (e.g., biceps femoris) that could have deepened the between-exercise
differences. Second, similarly, the stabilizer role of any anterior trunk muscle (e.g., rectus
abdominis) was not examined. Third, we selected a group of squat variations among several
possible different combinations, that cannot be examined in a single study, so further
research is needed to widen these aspects. Fourth, adding kinematic data would deepen
the knowledge and should be considered in future research. Last, it is acknowledged that
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 772 10 of 11
the present results are specific for the present populations, and different sport background
may result in different muscle activation.
5. Conclusions
In conclusion, the present study showed different muscle activation depending on the
squat variation in competitive bodybuilders. A front vs. back bar position led to greater
gluteal and lower back muscles activation compared to all other exercises. Additionally,
larger feet stance increases the thigh muscles activation, particularly rectus femoris,vastus
lateralis, and adductor longus. Lastly, squatting depth does not seem to promote any specific
difference in muscle activation, with the exception of the greater rectus femoris activation
in FS vs. full-BS. These findings could be used in resistance training practice to vary the
training stimuli when performing the squat exercises depending on the muscle group
needed to be highlighted. Additionally, the specific differences observed during the
ascending or descending phase may increase the specificity of the training-induced effects.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, G.C., F.E., and E.C.; methodology, G.T., F.C., and S.L.;
formal analysis, G.C., G.T., F.C., and S.L.; investigation, G.T.; data curation, G.T.; writing—original
draft preparation, G.C. and F.C.; writing—review and editing, G.C., G.T., F.C., S.L. F.E., and E.C.; All
authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement:
The study was conducted according to the guidelines of
the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Universitàdegli Studi di
Milano (protocol code CE 27/17, October 2017).
Informed Consent Statement:
Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the
study.
Data Availability Statement:
The data presented in this study are available on request from the
corresponding author.
Acknowledgments:
The Authors are grateful to the participants that volunteered for the present
investigation.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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Conference Paper
Quantification of the strength and quality of the muscle, adipose tissue, and bone is important for the characterization of the effects of normal aging, age-related diseases, metabolic disorders and neuromuscular diseases. The cost, duration and risks of medical imaging trials may render the task of generating a sufficient high number of quality data for the training of systems for clinical trials and evaluations impracticable. In this work, we developed a model of the human mid-thigh with structural representation of its muscles, adipose tissue and bone anatomy, for use in virtual clinical studies. This is a simulation-based approach to optimizing medical imaging systems. We simulated thigh phantoms based on the OpenVCT software framework, originally designed for digital breast imaging studies. We designed and generated phantoms of mid-thigh anatomical structures representing normal anatomy. Exploiting the flexibility of the system, we were able to generate a controlled population for which we varied, separately, different anatomical structures. We simulated regional mid-thigh muscle area degeneration that is frequently observed in diabetes patients and quantified the structural changes relatively to a healthy anatomy. This framework also allows us to simulate variations of anatomical structures -- hence serving as a system for advanced data augmentation that may be used for training machine learning-based diagnostic methods, simulating the effects of diseases, and designing clinical studies.
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The present study examined the posterior chain muscle excitation in different deadlift variations. Ten competitive bodybuilders (training seniority of 10.6 ± 1.8 years) performed the Romanian (RD), Romanian standing on a step (step-RD), and stiff-leg deadlift (SD) with an 80% 1-RM. The excitation of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, erector spinae longissimus, and iliocostalis was assessed during both the ascending and descending phases. During the ascending phase, the RMS of the gluteus maximus was greater in the step-RD than in the RD (effect size (ES): 1.70, 0.55/2.84) and SD (ES: 1.18, 0.11/2.24). Moreover, a greater RMS was found in the SD than in the RD (ES: 0.99, 0.04/1.95). The RMS of the semitendinosus was greater in the step-RD than in the RD (ES: 0.82, 0.20/1.44) and SD (ES: 3.13, 1.67/4.59). Moreover, a greater RMS was found in the RD than in the SD (ES: 1.38, 0.29/2.48). The RMS of the longissimus was greater in the step-RD than in the RD (ES: 2.12, 0.89/3.34) and SD (ES: 3.28, 1.78/4.78). The descending phase had fewer differences between the exercises. No further differences between the exercises were found. The step-RD increased the overall excitation of the posterior chain muscles, possibly because of the greater range of movement and posterior muscle elongation during the anterior flexion. Moreover, the RD appeared to target the semitendinosus more than the SD, while the latter excited the gluteus maximus more.
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Background: Squatting is a core exercise for many purposes. However, there is still controversy surrounding the practice of targeting specific muscle groups when performing the back squat with different stance widths or foot positions. Therefore, this study aimed to assess lower limb muscle activation during different form of back squat when adopting three different foot angles. Methods: Eight male active participants (age 24.0±0.8 years, height 1.80±0.63m and mass 85.8±8.7kg) performed maximal isometric squat, back squat with an overload of 80% of 1 repetition maximum, and countermovement jump (CMJ) when adopting three foot rotation angles: parallel (0°); +10° outward (external rotation); +20° outward (external rotation). We calculated the root mean square of the electromyographic signals recorded from eight participant's dominant leg muscles. Results: During the descending phase of the back squat, the 20° external foot rotation elicited greater activation of the biceps femoris (+35%; p = 0.027) and gastrocnemius medialis (+70%; p = 0.040) compared to parallel foot. There were no significant differences among the other muscles and exercise conditions. Conclusions: The +20° foot position increased BF and GasM muscle activity only during the downward phase of the back squat. Strength coaches should consider the present findings when selecting specific resistance exercises aiming to improve athletes' strength and physical fitness.
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Bodybuilding is a sport that requires adequate training strategies in order to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy. The purpose of the present review was to perform a narrative assessment of the training routines designed for muscle hypertrophy used by bodybuilders. A search was carried out in the databases Pubmed/MEDLINE, Scielo, EBSCO, LILACS, SportDiscus, Web of Science, and CINAHL with the words "Resistance training" and "hypertrophy" in bodybuilders and their variations that involve the respective outcomes. Fourteen studies were identified that investigated the long-term training routines of bodybuilders. These studies demonstrate a pattern in the training organization, whereby there is a separation of training into four distinct periods: off-season, pre-contest, peak week, and post-contest. Each period has a specific spectrum of intensity load, total training volume, and exercise type (multi-or single-joint). We conclude that bodybuilding competitors employed a higher intensity load, lower number of repetitions, and longer rest intervals in the off-season than pre-contest.
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The present study investigated whether or not verbal instruction affects the electromyographic (EMG) amplitude of back-squat prime movers. Fifteen resistance-trained men performed back-squat at 50%1-RM and 80%1-RM and received external (EF) or internal focus (IF) on lower-limb posterior muscles. EMG amplitude of gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius medialis, vastus lateralis and tibialis anterior was recorded during both concentric and eccentric phase. During the concentric phase, the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris EMG amplitude was greater in IF vs EF at 50% [effect size (ES): 0.63(95%CI 0.09/1.17) and 0.49(0.10/0.78) respectively] and 80% [ES: 1.30(0.29/2.21) and 0.59(0.08/1.10)]. The gastrocnemius medialis EMG amplitude was greater in IF vs EF during the eccentric phase at 50% [ES: 0.73(0.13/1.33)] and at 80% [ES: 0.72(0.10/1.34)]. Concomitantly, vastus lateralis EMG amplitude was lower at 50% [ES: −0.71(−1.38/-0.04)] and 80% [ES: −0.68(−1.33/-0.03)]. During the eccentric phase, the tibialis anterior EMG amplitude was greater in IF vs EF at 50% [ES: 0.90(0.12 to 1.68)] and 80% [ES: 0.74(0.13/1.45)]. Irrespective of the load, in the thigh muscles the internal focus promoted a different motor pattern, increasing the hip extensors and reducing the knee extensor excitation during the concentric phase. Concomitantly, both ankle muscles were more excited during the eccentric phase, possibly to increase the anterior-posterior balance control. The internal focus in back-squat seems to have phase-dependent effects, and it is visible at both moderate and high load.
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The present study examined the muscle activation in lateral raise with humerus rotated externally (LR-external), neutrally (LR-neutral), internally (LR-internal), with flexed elbow (LR-flexed) and frontal raise during both the concentric and eccentric phase. Ten competitive bodybuilders performed the exercises. Normalized surface electromyographic root mean square (sEMG RMS) was obtained from anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid, pectoralis major, upper trapezius, and triceps brachii. During the concentric phase, anterior deltoid and posterior deltoid showed greater sEMG RMS in frontal raise (effect size (ES)-range: 1.78/9.25)) and LR-internal (ES-range: 10.79/21.34), respectively, vs. all other exercises. Medial deltoid showed greater sEMG RMS in LR-neutral than LR-external (ES: 1.47 (95% confidence-interval—CI: 0.43/2.38)), frontal raise (ES: 10.28(95% CI: 6.67/13.01)), and LR-flexed (ES: 6.41(95% CI: 4.04/8.23)). Pectoralis major showed greater sEMG RMS in frontal raise vs. all other exercises (ES-range: 17.2/29.5), while upper trapezius (ES-range: 2.66/7.18) and triceps brachii (ES-range: 0.41/3.31) showed greater sEMG RMS in LR-internal vs. all other exercises. Similar recruitment patterns were found during the eccentric phase. When humerus rotates internally, greater activation of posterior deltoid, triceps brachii, and upper trapezius occurs. Humerus external rotation increases the activation of anterior and medial deltoid. Frontal raise mainly activates anterior deltoid and pectoralis major. LR variations and frontal raise activate specifically shoulders muscles and should be proposed accordingly.
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The present study investigated the effects of in-season enhanced negative work-based training (ENT) vs weight training in the change of direction (COD), sprinting and jumping ability, muscle mass and strength in semi-professional soccer players. Forty male soccer players participated in the eight-week, 1 d/w intervention consisting of 48 squat repetitions for ENT using a flywheel device (inertia=0.11 kg·m-2) or weight training (80%1 RM) as a control group (CON). Agility T-test, 20+20 m shuttle, 10 m and 30 m sprint, squat jump (SJ) and countermovement jump (CMJ), lean mass, quadriceps and hamstrings strength and the hamstrings-to-quadriceps ratio were measured. Time on agility T-test and 20+20 m shuttle decreased in ENT (effect-size =-1.44, 95% CI -2.24/-0.68 and -0.75, -1.09/-0.42 respectively) but not in CON (-0.33, -0.87/0.19 and -0.13, -0.58/0.32). SJ and CMJ height increased in both ENT (0.71, 0.45/0.97 and 0.65, 0.38/0.93) and CON (0.41, 0.23/0.60 and 0.36, 0.12/0.70). Overall, quadriceps and hamstrings strength increased in both ENT and CON (0.38/0.79), but the hamstrings-to-quadriceps ratio increased in ENT (0.31, 0.22/0.40) but not in CON (0.03, -0.18/0.24). Lean mass increased in both ENT (0.41, 0.26/0.57) and CON (0.29, 0.14/0.44). The repeated negative actions performed in ENT may have led to improvements in braking ability, a key point in COD performance. Semiprofessional soccer players may benefit from in-season ENT to enhance COD and the negative-specific adaptations in muscle strength and hamstrings-to-quadriceps ratio.
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The current study compared the muscle excitation in free-weight bench press variations and chest press machine. Ten competitive bodybuilders were recruited. The EMG-RMS amplitude of clavicular and sternocostal head of pectoralis major, long head of triceps brachii and anterior and lateral deltoid was recorded while performing horizontal (BP), inclined (45°) (IBP) or declined (-15°) bench press (DBP) and chest press machine (CP). Four non-exhaustive repetitions were performed using 80% of 1-repetition maximum of each exercise. Both concentric and eccentric phases were recorded. During the concentric phase, [d effect size: 2.78/7.80] clavicular head was more excited in IBP and less excited in CP (d: -9.69/-4.39) compared to all other exercises. The sternocostal head was similarly excited in DBP vs BP and BP vs CP and more excited (d: 2.42/9.92) compared to IBP. Triceps brachii excitation was overall greater (d: 2.01/6.75) in BP and DBP compared to all other exercises. Anterior deltoid was less excited (d: 3.84/19.77) in DBP compared to all other exercises. Lateral deltoid excitation was greater (d: 0.96/3.10) in BP, IBP and DBP compared to CP. Muscle excitation during the eccentric phase followed a similar pattern, with the exception of the greater (d: 3.89/11.32) excitation in the clavicular head in BP compared to all other exercises. The present outcomes showed that the excitation of the clavicular and sternocostal head of pectoralis major depends on the bench inclination angle. The use of BP variations vs CP allows overall greater triceps brachii and lateral deltoid excitation, due to the greater instability.
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Purpose The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes. Methods Seventeen males were randomly assigned to a full squat training group (FST, n = 8) or half squat training group (HST, n = 9). They completed 10 weeks (2 days per week) of squat training. The muscle volumes (by magnetic resonance imaging) of the knee extensor, hamstring, adductor, and gluteus maximus muscles and the one repetition maximum (1RM) of full and half squats were measured before and after training. Results The relative increase in 1RM of full squat was significantly greater in FST (31.8 ± 14.9%) than in HST (11.3 ± 8.6%) (p = 0.003), whereas there was no difference in the relative increase in 1RM of half squat between FST (24.2 ± 7.1%) and HST (32.0 ± 12.1%) (p = 0.132). The volumes of knee extensor muscles significantly increased by 4.9 ± 2.6% in FST (p < 0.001) and 4.6 ± 3.1% in HST (p = 0.003), whereas that of rectus femoris and hamstring muscles did not change in either group. The volumes of adductor and gluteus maximus muscles significantly increased in FST (6.2 ± 2.6% and 6.7 ± 3.5%) and HST (2.7 ± 3.1% and 2.2 ± 2.6%). In addition, relative increases in adductor (p = 0.026) and gluteus maximus (p = 0.008) muscle volumes were significantly greater in FST than in HST. Conclusion The results suggest that full squat training is more effective for developing the lower limb muscles excluding the rectus femoris and hamstring muscles.
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The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of weighted jump squat (WJST) vs body mass squat jump training (BMSJT) on quadriceps muscle architecture, lower-limb lean-mass (LM) and muscle strength, performance in change of direction (COD), sprint and jump in recreational soccer-players. Forty-eight healthy soccer-players participated in an off-season randomized controlled-trial. Before and after an eight-week training intervention, vastus lateralis pennation angle, fascicle length, muscle thickness, LM, squat 1-RM, quadriceps and hamstrings isokinetic peak-torque, agility T-test, 10 and 30m sprint and squat-jump (SJ) were measured. Although similar increases in muscle thickness, fascicle length increased more in WJST (ES=1.18, 0.82-1.54) than in BMSJT (ES=0.54, 0.40-0.68) and pennation angle only increased in BMSJT (ES=1.03, 0.78-1.29). Greater increases in LM were observed in WJST (ES=0.44, 0.29-0.59) than in BMSJT (ES=0.21, 0.07-0.37). Agility T-test (ES=2.95, 2.72-3.18), 10m (ES=0.52, 0.22-0.82) and 30m-sprint (ES=0.52, 0.23-0.81) improved only in WJST, while SJ improved in BMSJT (ES=0.89, 0.43-1.35) more than in WJST (ES=0.30, 0.03-0.58). Similar increases in squat 1-RM and peak-torque occurred in both groups. The greater inertia accumulated within the landing-phase in WJST vs BMSJT has increased the eccentric workload, leading to specific eccentric-like adaptations in muscle architecture. The selective improvements in COD in WJST may be related to the increased braking ability generated by the enhanced eccentric workload.
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Background: Elbow extension exercises in different shoulder positions are selected to raise distinct effort levels among the triceps brachii heads. Because there are several triceps exercises, its choice is a big challenge on resistance training prescription. The present study aimed to compare the electromyographic signal of triceps brachii long and lateral heads among three different elbow ranges of motion (ROM) during two commonly prescribed elbow extension exercises: overhead dumbbell elbow extension (OD) and lying dumbbell elbow extension (LD). Methods: The long and lateral heads electromyographic signals were acquired from 21 resistance-trained men. One to two maximal repetition of each exercise was performed with a 40% load of a maximal voluntary isometric contraction test. The signals of concentric and eccentric phases were divided into three equal ROMs each (initial, middle, and final). Results: Eccentric phase elicited less muscular activity than concentric in both exercises. Concentric contraction presented the same pattern during OD (long and lateral heads) and LD (lateral head). Initial and middle intervals elicited higher muscle activity than final interval. This behavior was also present in the eccentric contraction (initial demanded less activity than middle and final during both exercises). Conclusions: Since both exercises presented similar activation patterns, the prescription of OD and LD on the same training routine should be avoided.
Article
Saeterbakken, AH, Stien, N, Pedersen, H, and Andersen, V. Core muscle activation in three lower extremity with different stability requirements. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2019-The aim of the study was to compare core muscle surface electromyography (sEMG) during 3-repetition maximum (3RM) and the sEMG amplitude in the turnover from the descending to ascending phase in leg press, free-weight squats, and squats using the Smith machine. Nineteen women with 4.5 (±2.0) years of resistance training were recruited. After one familiarization session, the subjects performed 3RM in randomized order measuring electromyographic activity in the rectus abdominis, external oblique, and erector spinae. The exercises with the lowest stability requirements (leg press) demonstrated 17-59% and 17-42% lower core muscle sEMG amplitude than free weights and the Smith machine, respectively. No statistically significant differences were observed between the Smith machine and free weights. No statistically significant differences in turnover sEMG amplitude in the rectus abdominis between the exercises was observed, but lower sEMG amplitude was observed in external oblique and erector spinae in leg press compared with the other exercises. The 3RM loads in leg press were 54 and 47% greater than squats using the Smith machine and free weights, with 5% greater loads with the Smith machine than with free weights. In conclusion, lower mean and turnover core muscle sEMG amplitude were observed with the leg press but greater 3RM loads compared with squats with the Smith machine and free weights. The authors recommend that resistance-trained individuals use squats to include the core muscles in the kinetic chain, but there is no evidence that greater stability requirements (free weights instead of the Smith machine) will result in greater core muscle sEMG amplitude.