Relative electromyographic activity in trunk, hip, and knee muscles during unilateral weight bearing exercises: Implications for rehabilitation

Lori Ann Bolgla, Mario F. Cruz, Lauren Hayes Roberts, Angela Minning Buice, Tori Smith Pou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Background: Clinicians routinely prescribe unilateral weight bearing exercises to strengthen the lower extremity. Researchers have primarily examined thigh muscle activation with minimal attention to the hip and trunk muscles. The purpose of this study was to quantify trunk, hip, and thigh muscle activation during these types of exercises. Methods: Electromyographic (EMG) activity was collected for the abdominal obliques (AO), lumbar extensors (LE), gluteus maximus (GMX), gluteus medius (GM), and vastus medialis (VM) as subjects performed four unilateral weight bearing exercises. Data were expressed as 100% of a maximum voluntary isometric contraction (% MVIC). Separate analyses of variance with repeated measures were used to identify muscle activity differences across exercise. The sequentially-rejective Bonferroni test was used for all post-hoc analyses. Results: EMG activity for the AO, LE, and GMX was low (5.7-18.9% MVIC) during all the exercises. The GM activity was moderate (21.4-26.5% MVIC) while VM activity was high (40.0-45.2% MVIC). Conclusion: Lower AO and LE activation most likely resulted from subjects maintaining a vertical trunk position over the stance limb during each exercise. The fact that the exercises required greater frontal plane control (from balancing on a single limb) most likely accounted for lower GMX activity. The exercises would provide little, if any, benefit for individuals with AO, LE, or GMX weakness. The unilateral weight bearing exercises would be beneficial for GM neuromuscular re-education and endurance and VM strengthening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016



  • EMG
  • lower extremity
  • rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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