Muscle Activation Patterns of Lower-Body Musculature Among 3 Traditional Lower-Body Exercises in Trained Women

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Korak, JA, Paquette, MR, Fuller, DK, Caputo, JL, and Coons, JM. Muscle activation patterns of lower-body musculature among 3 traditional lower-body exercises in trained women. J Strength Cond Res 32(10): 2770–2775, 2018—The deadlift and back and front squats are common multijoint, lower-body resistance exercises that target similar musculature. To our knowledge, muscle activity measured using surface electromyography has never been analyzed among these 3 exercises. Furthermore, most literature examining this topic has included male participants creating a void in the literature for the female population. Knowledge of lower-body muscle activation among these 3 exercises can aid coaches, trainers, and therapists for training and rehabilitative purposes. Trained women (n = 13) completed 2 days of testing including a 1-repetition maximum (1RM) estimation, an actual 1RM, and 3 repetitions at 75% 1RM load for the deadlift and back and front squats. Muscle activity of the 3 repetitions of each muscle was averaged and normalized as a percentage to the 1RM lifts for the deadlift and front and back squats. Five separate repeated-measure analysis of variances were performed indicating muscle activity of the gluteus maximus (GM) differed among the 3 exercises (p = 0.01, = 0.39). Specifically, post hoc analysis indicated greater muscle activity during the front squat (M = 94%, SD = 15%) compared with the deadlift (M = 72%, SD = 16%; p ≤ 0.05) in the GM. No significant differences were observed among the lifts in the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, and rectus femoris. Strength and conditioning specialist and trainers can use these findings by prescribing the front squat to recruit greater motor units of the GM.

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