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The purpose of this study was to examine the extent of activation in various trunk muscles during dynamic weight-training and isometric instability exercises. Sixteen subjects performed squats and deadlifts with 80% 1 repetition maximum (1RM), as well as with body weight as resistance and 2 unstable calisthenic-type exercises (superman and sidebridge). Electromyographic (EMG) activity was measured from the lower abdominals (LA), external obliques (EO), upper lumbar erector spinae (ULES), and lumbar-sacral erector spinae (LSES) muscle groups. Results indicated that the LSES EMG activity during the 80% 1RM squat significantly exceeded 80% 1RM deadlift LSES EMG activity by 34.5%. The LSES EMG activity of the 80% 1RM squat also exceeded the body weight squat, deadlift, superman, and sidebridge by 56, 56.6, 65.5, and 53.1%, respectively. The 80% 1RM deadlift ULES EMG activity significantly exceeded the 80% 1RM squat exercise by 12.9%. In addition, the 80% 1RM deadlift ULES EMG activity also exceeded the body weight squat, deadlift, superman, and sidebridge exercises by 66.7, 65.5, 69.3, and 68.6%, respectively. There were no significant changes in EO or LA activity. Therefore, the augmented activity of the LSES and ULES during 80% 1RM squat and deadlift resistance exercises exceeded the activation levels achieved with the same exercises performed with body weight and selected instability exercises. Individuals performing upright, resisted, dynamic exercises can achieve high trunk muscle activation and thus may not need to add instability device exercises to augment core stability training.

(C) 2007 National Strength and Conditioning Association