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Trunk muscle activation in Compound lifts and Stability Ball X

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Just got an interesting study in this month's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Here's the abstract:

J.L. Nuzzo, G.O. McCaulley, P. Cormie, N.T. Triplett, J.M. McBride, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

PURPOSE: To investigate the amount of trunk muscle activity during three stability ball exercises in comparison to the squat (SQ) and deadlift (DL). METHODS: Nine resistance-trained males participated in one testing session. Isometric contractions of three seconds were performed during the stability ball exercises (quadruped (QP), pelvic thrust (PT), back extension (BE)). In addition, SQs and DLs with loads of approximately 50, 70, 90 and 100% of one-repetition maximum (1RM) were completed. During all exercises, average integrated electromyography (IEMG) from the rectus abdominis (RA), external obliques (EO), longissimus (L1) and multifidus (L5) muscles was collected and analyzed. RESULTS: When expressed relative to DL 1RM, muscle activity was 19.5 ± 14.8% for L1 and 30.2 ± 19.3% for L5 during QP, 31.4 ± 13.4% for L1 and 37.6 ± 12.4% for L5 during PT, and 44.2 ± 22.8% for L1 and 45.5 ± 21.6% for L5 during BE. IEMG of L1 during the concentric phase of SQ and DL at 90 and 100% of 1RM was significantly greater (p < 0.05) when compared to all three stability ball exercises. Muscle activity of L5 during the SQ and DL at 100% of 1RM was significantly greater in comparison to all three stability ball exercises. Furthermore, muscle activity of L1 during the DL at 50 and 70% of 1RM was significantly greater than QP and PT. No significant differences were observed in RA and EO muscle activity during the SQ and DL at any load when compared to all three stability ball exercises. CONCLUSION: Activity of the trunk muscles during submaximal and maximal SQs and DLs is significantly greater or equal to that which is produced during stability ball exercises. The low level of back extensor muscle activity (L1 and L5) during the stability ball exercises indicates an insufficient stimulus to elicit gains in muscular strength and hypertrophy. As a result, the efficacy of stability ball exercises for improving athletic performance is questioned. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The SQ and DL provide a significantly greater stimulus to the trunk muscles in comparison to stability ball exercises; thus, the use of SQs and DLs for improving trunk muscle strength is recommended.

Interesting, I heard speculation on this but this is the first study I've seen showing it.
post #2 of 15
Nice to see what many believe to be true have some scientific backup.
post #3 of 15
That's an interesting article (abstract). I'm curious though, they mention performance gains for sports; How can they comment on the performance gains made by SQ and DL compared to stability ball exercises when they only are testing the gains made in abdominal muscles? I'm not saying its wrong by any means, but by working with stability balls you can improve on your balance in more plains of motion (forwards, backwards, diagonally, etc.), as opposed to the SQ and DL which seems primarily forwards and backwards stability. Obviously there is crossover, but say I was comparing squats on a stability ball with weighted bar squats, I would think that the amount stabilizing muscles that come into play doing the ball squats would definitely be more than weighted bad squats, and would be beneficial in improving athletic performance. That article used some fairly weak examples of exercises on the ball, although I'm not sure what they meant by "quadruped (QP)". Pelvic thrusts and back extensions compared to 1RM bar squats and deadlifts? Were they honestly expecting the ball exercises to compare? I'm just playing the devils advocate, but I think that advanced ball exercises like full squats on a stability ball do have thier place in athletic performance. You need to be able to apply force in multiple directions in most sports, and the squat and deadlift don't, in my opinion, improve your balance to the same degree as advanced ball exercises. I may be getting a bit out of the scope of the study, but I thought I should just state my point that for some of us that do play sports competitively, ball workouts have their place.
post #4 of 15
The thing you have to remember is that the squat and deadlift are basic lifts so why would you compare a more advanced ball technique to a fundamental lift. Sure adding complexity to a movement is going to make it harder, do a pistol and tell me it doesn't require balance. Also, the point of the study is to compare midsection activation comparing using squats and deadlifts versus exercises performed on a ball. They picked 3 exercises that stressed the midsection on the ball and compared them. The purpose of the midsection is to provide stabilization in a near straight line, not to crunch forward or backward. The squat and deadlift, when done with proper form, stress that kind of stabilization with a much greater weight than can be used with a balance ball.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kever View Post
Obviously there is crossover, but say I was comparing squats on a stability ball with weighted bar squats, I would think that the amount stabilizing muscles that come into play doing the ball squats would definitely be more than weighted bad squats, and would be beneficial in improving athletic performance.

I'm just playing the devils advocate, but I think that advanced ball exercises like full squats on a stability ball do have thier place in athletic performance. You need to be able to apply force in multiple directions in most sports, and the squat and deadlift don't, in my opinion, improve your balance to the same degree as advanced ball exercises. I may be getting a bit out of the scope of the study, but I thought I should just state my point that for some of us that do play sports competitively, ball workouts have their place.

Ok, you try doing full squats while standing on a ball. I'll guarantee that you'll spend so much energy not falling over that you won't be able to use a significant enough load to gain in anything other than your ability to balance on a ball. Yes, athletes do need to be able to change direction quickly and apply force in multiple directions, but they do these things on a stable surface. Training on a ball will improve their ability to train on a ball. I don't think it will crossover well to their normal activity. The best way for them to improve their performance would be to train the movement patterns they actually use, which do not include stability balls.

My $0.02
post #6 of 15
Squats on a ball? What, not a fan of your knee ligaments?
post #7 of 15
I have a stability ball. I use it for reverse hypers, but mostly I just sit on it at the computer. Strangely I don't yet have abs of steel. Should I ask for my money back?
post #8 of 15
Thank you. I hate the ball. Of course some people squat on it.
post #9 of 15
^ Thank god it's just air squats, I can't even imagine how one can squat, say, 1x BW on a ball. Still pretty whack though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by adversity04
The thing you have to remember is that the squat and deadlift are basic lifts so why would you compare a more advanced ball technique to a fundamental lift. Sure adding complexity to a movement is going to make it harder, do a pistol and tell me it doesn't require balance. Also, the point of the study is to compare midsection activation comparing using squats and deadlifts versus exercises performed on a ball. They picked 3 exercises that stressed the midsection on the ball and compared them. The purpose of the midsection is to provide stabilization in a near straight line, not to crunch forward or backward. The squat and deadlift, when done with proper form, stress that kind of stabilization with a much greater weight than can be used with a balance ball.
Clifnote: how f*cking obvious. And I agree. Good to know though, so yeah, thanks eason.
post #10 of 15
Yes, the point of the article is to explain that doing deadlifts and squats are better exercises for increasing the strength and hypertrophy of stabilizing muscles in the midsection than doing stability ball exercises. My point is that the exercises they chose for the stability ball seem much more basic than exercises they could have chosen, like squats on the ball.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Philosoph View Post
Ok, you try doing full squats while standing on a ball. I'll guarantee that you'll spend so much energy not falling over that you won't be able to use a significant enough load to gain in anything other than your ability to balance on a ball. Yes, athletes do need to be able to change direction quickly and apply force in multiple directions, but they do these things on a stable surface. Training on a ball will improve their ability to train on a ball. I don't think it will crossover well to their normal activity. The best way for them to improve their performance would be to train the movement patterns they actually use, which do not include stability balls.

My $0.02

Balance and stabilization when playing sports is obviously extremely important to be effective. By standing on a ball and doing squats your entire body has to work hard to keep you upright. Many stabilizing muscles all over the body have to work together, much like when you play sports. While the ground is stable when you play sports, you are often getting knocked off balance, and your stabilizing muscles have to work to regain balance as quickly as possible. My argument has nothing to do with how much your ab muscles are being worked with each activity. My argument is with this statement in the abstract:
As a result, the efficacy of stability ball exercises for improving athletic performance is questioned.
In my opinion they used bullshit ball exercises and in no way proved that statement. Yes, Swiss ball squats are more advanced, but I would like to see if doing them instead would have made any difference in the conclusion.
post #11 of 15
The reason you choose such simple exercises is because doing a squat while on a ball is a skill; just like playing a sport develops skill, kipping pullup, skipping rope, etc. Point of studies such as this is to apply it to a broad audience instead of a specific instance where the skill transfer MIGHT be applicable. For the most part you'll get your specific sport training in the instances where you're getting knocked around playing the sport. Using a balance ball or weights is meant for general conditioning which doing a squat on a ball isn't. Please tell me a sport where you intentionally stand on a ball and try to balance which is where the benefits of doing a squat on a ball would be beneficial.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by adversity04 View Post
The reason you choose such simple exercises is because doing a squat while on a ball is a skill; just like playing a sport develops skill, kipping pullup, skipping rope, etc. Point of studies such as this is to apply it to a broad audience instead of a specific instance where the skill transfer MIGHT be applicable. For the most part you'll get your specific sport training in the instances where you're getting knocked around playing the sport. Using a balance ball or weights is meant for general conditioning which doing a squat on a ball isn't. Please tell me a sport where you intentionally stand on a ball and try to balance which is where the benefits of doing a squat on a ball would be beneficial.

I could easily argue that proper form doing squats and deadlifts is a skill as well. A skill that very few people in gyms I have worked out in seem to have. The fact that you seem to think squats and deadlifts are simple exercises isn't what I want to argue, or whether or not squats on a ball only make you better at squats on a ball. What I'm saying is that the conclusion that "the efficacy of stability ball exercises for improving athletic performance is questioned." doesn't seem to actually be proven (my opinion) based on these 3 simple exercises.
post #13 of 15
I heard that they tried to use Swiss ball squats for this study, but it didn't work out because the subjects flipped off and broke their necks.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
ef·fi·ca·cy /ˈɛfɪkəsi/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ef-i-kuh-see] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
-noun, plural -cies.
capacity for producing a desired result or effect; effectiveness: a remedy of great efficacy.

You get greater results doing one simple exercise than another. Teaching someone to squat or DL is simple and can produce enormous benefits whereas teaching other simple exercises to elicit a similar response doesn't provide as much. You can go ahead and keep on doing your advanced stability ball exercise, we'll continue doing those that have time and again provided results. Any balance required in a sport can be obtained through participating and practicing in a sport. Physical therapy is a different beast.
post #15 of 15
Argh. I wish the ball had never been invented. I also wish that trainers would not encourage the drunken exploits of their clients. Perhaps that is why your clients are still fat, Mr. Polo-Shirt-Wearing-Guy-at-my-Gym.
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