Trunk muscle activity increases with unstable squat movements.Can J Appl Physiol. 2005 Feb; 30(1):33-45.CJ
The objective of this study was to determine differences in electromyographic (EMG) activity of the soleus (SOL), vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris (BF), abdominal stabilizers (AS), upper lumbar erector spinae (ULES), and lumbo-sacral erector spinae (LSES) muscles while performing squats of varied stability and resistance. Stability was altered by doing the squat movement on a Smith machine, a free squat, and while standing on two balance discs. Fourteen male subjects performed the movements. Activities of the SOL, AS, ULES, and LSES were highest during the unstable squat and lowest with the Smith machine protocol (p < 0.05). Increased EMG activity of these muscles may be attributed to their postural and stabilization role. Furthermore, EMG activity was higher during concentric contractions compared to eccentric contractions. Performing squats on unstable surfaces may permit a training adaptation of the trunk muscles responsible for supporting the spinal column (i.e., erector spinae) as well as the muscles most responsible for maintaining posture (i.e., SOL).