Can the Use of Unstable Surfaces and Instruction for Conscious Abdominal Contraction Increase the EMG Activity of the Periscapular Muscles During the Dynamic Push-Up?

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: It is believed that conscious abdominal contraction (CAC) during exercise encourages greater periscapular activation through existing myofascial connections. On the other hand, it is postulated that the use of unstable surfaces would promote greater neuromuscular demand. Objective: To analyze the effect of CAC on periscapular muscle activity during push-up plus exercise on stable and unstable surfaces and to evaluate the correlation between electromyographic (EMG) activity of the serratus anterior (SA) and abdominal oblique muscles. Design: Repeated-measures design in a single group, pre–post CAC. Setting: Biomechanics laboratory. Participants: Twenty-three male volunteers without a history of lesions in the upper limbs participated in the study. Main Outcome Measures: Five repetitions of push-ups on stable and unstable surfaces were performed with and without instruction for CAC. The normalized amplitude of the EMG activity was obtained from the muscles of the upper, middle, and lower trapezius, SA upper (SA_5th) and lower (SA_7th) portions, external oblique (EO), and internal oblique. Results: CAC increased the activity of the EO, internal oblique, middle trapezius, and SA (P < .05) in both surfaces. The use of the unstable surface increased the EMG activity of the EO, SA_7th, and middle trapezius and decreased the EMG activity of the SA_5th. However, all changes observed in EMG signals were of low magnitude, with effect sizes lower than 0.45. There was a weak correlation between the EMG activity of the EO and SA_5th (r = .24) and a strong correlation between the EO and SA_7th (r = .70). Conclusion: The isolated use of CAC or unstable surface during push-up seems to present no practical relevance, but the combined use of these strategies may increase activation of the SA_7th and middle trapezius muscles.

de Araújo, Nascimento, Torres, Trombini-Souza and Pitangui are with the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Pernambuco, Petrolina, Brazil. Behm is with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

de Araújo (rodrigo.cappato@upe.br) is corresponding author.
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