Muscle Activation During Various Hamstring Exercises

A new study has been published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research from Brian Schilling’s research group at the University of Memphis looking at muscle activation during various hamstring exercises.

Twelve healthy, weight trained (8.6±5.5 yrs) men took part in the study. Before testing, subjects were tested on their 1RM on the glute-ham raise (GHR), good morning, prone leg curl, and Romanian deadlift (RDL).

On other visits, subjects performed duplicate trials of single repetitions at 85% 1RM for each lift in a random order, during which surface electromyography (sEMG) and joint angle data were obtained.  In order to determine muscle activity during each lift, sensors were placed on the right side of the body, over the hamstring muscle group – biceps femoris (BF), semitendinosus (ST), and semimembranosus (SM), as well as surrounding stabilising muscles including the gluteus medius (GMed), erector spinae (ES), and medial gostrocnemius (MGas).

Results

  • Significant differences (p<0.05) were noted in eccentric muscle activity for the MGas (p<0.027), ST/SM (p<0.001), BF (p<0.001), and ES (p=0.032), and in concentric muscle activity for the ES (p<0.001), BF (p=0.010), ST/SM (p=0.009), MGas (p<0.001), and the GMed (p=0.018).
  • No significant differences (p>0.05) were noted in eccentric activity for the GMed.
  • RDL showed significantly more activity than the other exercises during eccentric actions for the BF. ST/SM also showed significantly more activity during the RDL, but the MGas was only significantly greater in the RDL compared to the prone leg curl.
  • ES activity during the glute-ham raise was significantly greater (p<0.05) than the good morning and the RDL during concentric actions.
  • There was a significantly greater concentric activity during the glute-ham raise compared to the prone leg curl for the BF, ST/SM, and MGas, and the MGas activity for the RDL was also greater than the prone leg curl.
  • The GMed activity was significantly greater during the leg curl and glute-ham vs. the good morning.

The main findings of this investigation demonstrate that there are significant differences in activation within muscles when comparing all exercises. These results suggest that when considering the concentric actions of the BF and ST/SM, the glute-ham raise is the most effective exercise for maximizing sEMG activity of these muscles. It was also noted that ES involvement was greatest during the glute-ham raise. The elevated activity during the glute-ham raise could be related to the possibility that there is greater torque about the knee and thus greater demands from the hamstring and ES muscles when considering the mechanical actions during these exercises.

Practical Applications
Bicep femoris activity was maximised during the RDL and glute-ham raise. The concentric action from the ST/SM was highest in the glute-ham raise, while the eccentric action of the ST/SM was highest in the RDL. Athletes and coaches who seek to maximise involvement of different regions of the hamstring musculature should consider specific exercises.

Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000302

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  1. Pingback: Injury Prevention | Science of Sports Performance

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