Changes in the Muscle Activity of Gymnasts During a Handstand on Various Apparatus

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Gymnasts perform handstands on various apparatus, both in stable and unstable conditions. Such performances require specific muscle activation, which should differ depending on the condition and expertise of the gymnast. Therefore, the aim of the study was to evaluate 1) the difference in electromyography (EMG) between handstands performed on three apparatus (floor, rings and parallel bars); and 2) the difference between young and well-trained adult gymnasts. Ten adult (25 ± 3.94 years) and 15 young (13.9 ± 0.7 years) gymnasts participated in the study. We investigated EMG amplitude in thirteen muscles normalized by arbitrary angle maximal isometric voluntary contraction (Normalized Root Mean Square, NRMS). In comparison to the handstand on the floor (61 ± 28%), the wrist flexor muscles of gymnasts exhibited a decreased NRMS on the parallel bars (44 ± 25%; p = 0.017) and rings (46 ± 32%; p = 0.029), whereas no changes were observed in the triceps brachii. The rest of the investigated muscles showed a higher NRMS in rings. Differences between young and adult gymnasts were seen in the triceps brachii and anterior deltoid muscles, where more experienced gymnasts showed 19.1% (p = 0.014) and 17.6% (p = 0.048) lower NRMS, respectively. The different gymnastic apparatus led to specific muscle activation. This activation predominantly depended on hand support conditions, which alternated the primary wrist strategy of the handstand balance control, and in consequence, the activation of other muscles controlling balance. Training focused on the development of motor control and strength of the anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and trapezius descendent muscles in order to improve handstand performance.

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