Effects of a Core Strengthening Program on Muscle Activity Patterns, Strength, and Endurance in People with and without a History of Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Gillian L. Hatfield


Background of Study: Altered patterns of abdominal and low back muscle activity have been reported in people in the sub-acute phase of low back injury. Specifically, higher overall muscle activity and less ability to match activity to task demands have been found. Objective: This study determined if an 8-week group exercise intervention would alter muscle activity, strength, and endurance in people with/without a history of low back pain (LBP). Method: In this randomized controlled trial 46 participants (age 19-55) with a history of LBP were randomized to exercise (LBPEx, n=24) and no-exercise (LBPCon, n=22) groups. 27 participants without a history of LBP (NoLBP) also exercised. 17 LBPEx and 19 NoLBP participants completed the intervention. 19 LBPCon were tested at 8-week follow-up. The exercise intervention was an 8-week, choreographed, 30-minute group exercise intervention (Les Mills CoreTM) focused on building core strength, stability, and endurance. Pre and post-intervention surface electromyograms from abdominal and low back muscles were recorded during a trunk stability task (TST), and analyzed using Principal Component Analysis to extract patterns corresponding to overall amplitude and relative activation during the TST loading phase. Abdominal and back extensor strength and endurance were also measured. Results: It was found that overall abdominal activity decreased for left anterior external oblique (p=0.019 for TST level 3), left lateral external oblique (p=0.012 for TST level 3), and right posterior external oblique (p=0.035 for TST level 3) in LBPEx and for right lateral external oblique (p=0.009 for TST level 2 and p=0.004 for TST level 3) and left posterior external oblique (p=0.014 for TST level 2 and p=0.011 for TST level 3) in NoLBP during the TST. Abdominal strength and endurance, and back extensor endurance increased for LBPEx and NoLBP (p<0.05). Back extensor strength increased for NoLBP (p<0.05). Relative abdominal activation during the TST level 2 loading phase increased for right upper rectus abdominus (p=0.05), right lateral external oblique (p=0.002), and left posterior external oblique (p=0.006) for NoLBP, and for left anterior external oblique (p=0.042) for LBPEx. Conclusion: Les Mills CoreTM is readily available and may be recommended as a safe, accessible, and effective intervention to increase abdominal strength and endurance, and back extensor endurance, even for people with a history of LBP.


Low Back Pain, Electromyography, Exercise, Principal Component Analysis, Muscles, Core Stability

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijkss.v.10n.3p.37


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