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A Journal on Sports Medicine

Official Journal of the Italian Sports Medicine Federation
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Medicina dello Sport 2008 September;61(3):313-27

language: English, Italian

Muscle activity of upper and lower rectus abdominis during curl-up and sit-up exercises

Ripani M. 1, Giombini A. 1, Ciccarelli A. 1, Di Cesare A. 3, Cerulli C. 1, Morini S. 2

1 University Institute of Motor Sciences, Rome, Italy
2 Department of Biomedical Researches, University Campus Bio Medico of Rome, Rome, Italy
3 Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy


Aim. The purpose of this study was to determine the performance of the rectus abdominis muscle during curl-up and sit-up exercises with different leg positions by means of motion analysis and surface electromyography.
Methods. Sixteen healthy female volunteers aged between 20 and 22 years participated in the study. Subject completed two trials for each exercise with repetition rate controlled by the tester. Electromyography (EMG) activity of upper rectus abdominis (URA) and lower rectus abdominis (LRA) was collected. Video data were measured using a Vicon System 370.
Results. The results showed a higher electrical activity of 22-28% of LRA during the sit-up with respect to curl-up exercise, whereas there was no difference for the URA. The higher activity of LRA resulted statistically significant only in the backward phase of the sit-up exercise (P<0.05). Leg position did not modify electrical activity but affected the initial position of the pelvis and the length of LRA.
Conclusion. These data provided useful information on the functional performance of the recto-abdominis muscle during curl-up and sit-up exercises. Some suggestions are given to sports medicine operators as regard as how to start abdominal exercises and the cautions in case of lumbar pathologies in athletes.

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