The Effect of Abdominal Muscle Activation Techniques on Trunk and Lower Limb Mechanics During the Single-Leg Squat Task in Females

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Females suffer 4 to 6 times more noncontact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries than males due to neuromuscular control deficits of the hip musculature leading to increases in hip adduction angle, knee abduction angle, and knee abduction moment during dynamic tasks such as single-leg squats. Lateral trunk displacement has been further related to ACL injury risk in females, leading to the incorporation of core strength/stability exercises in ACL preventative training programs. However, the direct mechanism relating lateral trunk displacement and lower limb ACL risk factors is not well established. Objective: To assess the relationship between lateral trunk displacement and lower limb measures of ACL injury risk by altering trunk control through abdominal activation techniques during single-leg squats in healthy females. Design: Interventional study setting: movement and posture laboratory. Participants: A total of 13 healthy females (21.3 [0.88] y, 1.68 [0.07] m, and 58.27 [5.46] kg). Intervention: Trunk position and lower limb kinematics were recorded using an optoelectric motion capture system during single-leg squats under differing conditions of abdominal muscle activation (abdominal hollowing, abdominal bracing, and control), confirmed using surface electromyography. Main Outcome Measures: Lateral trunk displacement, peak hip adduction angle, peak knee abduction angle/moment, and average muscle activity from bilateral internal oblique, external oblique, and erector spinae muscles. Results: No differences were observed for peak lateral trunk displacement, peak hip adduction angle, or peak knee abduction angle/moment. Abdominal hollowing and bracing elicited greater muscle activation than the control condition, and bracing was greater than hollowing in 4 of 6 muscles recorded. Conclusion: The lack of reduction in trunk, hip, and knee measures of ACL injury risk during abdominal hollowing and bracing suggests that these techniques alone may provide minimal benefit in ACL injury prevention training.

The authors are with the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

Linde ( is corresponding author.

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