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Postural and respiratory activation of the trunk muscles changes with mode and speed of locomotion

Journal Article

Article in Posture 20(3):280-90 · January 2005


Steven W. Saunders, David Rath, Paul W. Hodges


Despite the importance of the deep intrinsic spinal muscles for trunk control, few studies have investigated their activity during human locomotion or how this may change with speed and mode of locomotion. Furthermore, it has not been determined whether the postural and respiratory functions, of which these muscles take part, can be coordinated when locomotor demands are increased. EMG recordings of abdominal and paraspinal muscles were made in seven healthy subjects using fine-wire and surface electrodes. Measurements were also made of respiration and gait parameters. Recordings were made for 10s as subjects walked on a treadmill at 1 and 2 ms(-1) and ran at 2, 3, 4 and 5 ms(-1). Unlike the superficial muscles, transversus abdominis was active tonically throughout the gait cycle with all tasks, except running at speeds of 3 ms(-1) and greater. All other muscles were recruited in a phasic manner. The relative duration of these bursts of activity was influenced by speed and/or mode of locomotion. Activity of all abdominal muscles, except rectus abdominis (RA), was modulated both for respiration and locomotor-related functions but this activity was affected by the speed and mode of locomotion. This study provides evidence that the deep abdominal muscles are controlled independently of the other trunk muscles. Furthermore, the pattern of recruitment of the trunk muscles and their respiratory and postural coordination is dependent on the speed and mode of locomotion.

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