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The ineffectiveness of traditional low back exercises

Electromyographic Activity of Selected Trunk Muscles during Dynamic Spine Stabilization Exercises

Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
November 2001 Volume 82, Number 11

Souza GM, Baker LL, Powers CM

Study Outcomes & Clinical Relevance:

Spine Stabilization Exercises produced low levels of electromyographic activity (41% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction). Healthy persons may not receive a significant strengthening effect from common, low-technology trunk extensions.

Differences in Electromyographic Activity in the Multifidus Muscle and the Iliocostalis Lumborum between Healthy Subjects and Patients with Sub-Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain

European Spine Journal
February 2002 Volume 11, Number 1

Danneels LA, Coorevits PL, Cools AM, Vanderstraeten GG, Cambier DC, Witvrouw EE, De CH
University Hospital, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Ghent, Belgium

Study Outcomes & Clinical Relevance:

Back pain patients have a reduced capacity to voluntarily recruit the multifidus in order to obtain a neutral lordosis. Pain, pain avoidance and deconditioning may have contributed to these lower levels of EMG activity during intensive back muscle contraction. This study reaffirms the involvement of the multifidi in the possible pathogenesis of low back pain.

In this study, low load activity (lumbar stabilization exercises) was insufficient to challenge the multifidi during “stabilization” exercises. This is in agreement with another study previously reviewed in this column that concluded stabilization exercises do not recruit the paraspinal musculature at a level high enough to stimulate strength adaptations. One of the most researched means of accomplishing this spinal overload is via the MedX lumbar extension machine.

Effect of Roman Chair Exercise Training on the Development of Lumbar Extension Strength

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
May 2003 Volume 17, Number 2

Mayer, JM, Udermann, BE, Graves, JE, Ploutz-Snyder LL
Department of Exercise Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244.

Study Outcomes & Clinical Relevance:

Following training, peak isometric lumbar extension torque did not increase for the group training on the Roman Chair. It was determined that the Roman Chair primarily strengthened the hamstrings and gluteal muscles.

Effects of Three Different Training Modalities on the Cross Sectional Area of the Lumbar Multifidus Muscle in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain

British Journal of Sports Medicine
2001 Volume 35

L A Danneels, G G Vanderstraeten, D C Cambier, E E Witvrouw, J Bourgois, W Dankaerts and H J De Cuyper
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physical Therapy, Ghent University, Belgium; Centre of Sports Medicine, Ghent University Hospital, Belgium; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Hospital Jan Palfijn-Campus Gallifort, Antwerp, Belgium

Study Outcomes & Clinical Relevance:

Multifidus muscle wasting appears to be reversible if given the proper intervention. But, spinal stabilization training does not restore atrophied multifidi in the absence of progressive resistance exercises for the low back musculature. The most effective resistance exercise routine in this study used a concentric-eccentric protocol with a 5-second isometric pause with the muscles in their most contracted position.