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Research in Review: Full or Partial Back Squat- Which Activates the Muscles More?

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the muscle activation

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See how muscle activation differs (or doesn’t) between the partial and full back squat.

Journal Article:

Da Silva, J.J., Schoenfeld, B.J., Marchetti, P.N., Pecoraro, S.L., Greve, J.M., &Marchetti, P.H. (2017). Muscle activation differs between partial and full back squat exercise with external load equated. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(6), 1688-1693.

Purpose of the Study:

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the muscle activation between partial and full back squat exercise when performed with the load equated on a relative basis.

The load made equal (equated) because there is an assumption that changes in the range of motion during the squat can affect the magnitude of the load. This is thought to affect muscle activation. In an attempt to regulate this effect, ratings of perceived exertion were also taken into consideration after each set.

Study Participants:

15 young, healthy, resistance trained men participated in the study. Subjects had no previous lower back pain, no surgery on lower extremities, and no history of injury with residual symptoms, such as pain, in the lower limbs within the last year.

Procedure or Methods:

Subjects attended 2 sessions in the laboratory separated by 1 week. During the first session, the participants were instructed on the proper squat technique. Condition 1 was the partial squat (0 to 90° of knee flexion). Condition 2 was the full squat (0 to 140° of knee flexion). All participants performed both conditions.

On the first visit to the lab, participants were to establish baseline data to be used on the second visit. The participants warmed-up for 5-minutes on a stationary cycle then performed 10 repetition maximum test of the squat at a self-selected cadence. If the 10 reps were not achieved, the participant was given a 5-minute break, and then the weight was adjusted by 4-10 kg. Participants were given standard instruction regarding exercise technique along with verbal feedback and encouragement. A 30-minute break was given, and then the procedures were repeated for the alternate condition.

On the second visit, participants returned to the lab for the actual recording of data. Again subjects warmed up with 5-minutes on a stationary bike. They then performed 1 set of 10 RM for condition 1 and condition 2 with a 30-minute rest between each condition.

Surface EMG data were collected on the gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, erector spinae, and the soleus. Signals collected during all conditions were normalized to maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC).

Results:

The surface EMG activity was significantly greater in the partial compared to the full squat for the gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, erector spinae, and soleus. No significant differences were found in any other of the muscles studied.

Discussion:

The main finding of this study was that both the partial and full squat demonstrated a similar overall level of muscle activation of the rectus femoris, but a higher level of activation in the gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and erector spinae was found in the partial squat.

The higher activation of the gluteus maximus is likely due to it being a single joint muscle positioned at the hip where there is a longer lever arm during the partial squat. The reduced activity in the full squat may be due to the gluteus maximus not being used as much at greater knee flexion angles. Also, at the greater depth, the gluteus maximus is not needed as much to stabilize the pelvis. In some cases, the gluteus maximus may have to relax to permit greater hip flexion angles to be achieved.

The higher activation of the biceps femoris in the partial squat may be explained by it acting as a joint stabilizer at the knee and a prime mover at the hip for extension.

The increase in rectus femoris activation in the full squat is due to the greater moment across the knee joint since it connects to the tibia via the patella tendon. Therefore, as knee flexion increases, activation of that muscle will also increase. The vastus medialis demonstrated the same activation in both conditions and the vastus lateralis activated only slightly more in the partial squat. However, the increased activation in the vastus lateralis was not significant.

The authors believe that the erector spinae activated more in the partial squat in an attempt to control forward trunk motion to control the center of pressure through the range of motion.

Take away for NASM-CPTs:

This study has several implications for the NASM-CPT. First, this is further evidence that a partial range of motion squat is better than no squat. A full squat requires optimal flexibility and range of motion from the ankle, knee, and hip, as well as, total body coordination and strength. While a full range of motion should be the desired end-goal, clients that don’t have the flexibility or strength to achieve it will benefit from the partial squat. Second, a partial squat should also be considered if a client can’t obtain a full squat due to a structural dysfunction or previous surgical alteration. Squatting to just 90° of hip flexion is enough to generate a significant contraction within the gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, erector spinae, and soleus. Third, this study normalized the load for the conditions. So, if using a partial squat more load should be applied to get similar results. Lastly, it should be noted that this should not be used to completely replace a full squat unless the client has permanent limitations. When the client demonstrates functional dysfunctions (short muscles, lack of strength, lack of neuromuscular control, etc.) use this as a temporary method to improve control and strength as flexibility and coordination are worked on to eventually achieve a full range of motion squat.

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Health & Fitness

5 Moves to Target the Lower Abs

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It’s no secret that not all exercises that target the lower abs are created equal; some are more effective than others. For anyone that’s wanting to target the lower abs, it can be very frustrating, to say the least. However, targeting and strengthening the lower abs is possible. The trick is finding the best moves for you to build muscle and flatten or chisel the stomach the way you desire.

Also: Why the Glute Bridge Is Great for After an Abs Workout

Move 1: Rolling Plank
The plank in itself is a great move for the stomach area as a whole. However, this rolling plank works the entire core including the lower abdominal. It will also build strength in the lower back.

Here’s how to do it. Start in a plank position with the body making a straight line from feet to shoulders. Rotate the body to a right side plank and hold for about 10 to 15 seconds. Then repeat on the left side. 10 reps are recommended, 5 on each side.

Move 2: Hanging Leg Raise
Deep muscles are worked during this move as well as the lower back and abdominal area. The only equipment necessary is a chin-up bar. Simply hang from the bar with the feet together and knees bent slightly. Bend the knees and raise the hips at the same time and lift the thighs up to the chest. Pause then lower back to the start position. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps each.

Move 3: Roll Up
The classic roll-up still can’t be beaten when it comes to the best move to build muscle in the lower tummy. Lay flat on your back, arms stretched straight above the head. Slowly bring them straight up, and raise off the floor to touch the toes. Slowly lower back down. Do 3 sets, 10 reps each.

Move 4: Leg Drop
Lift both legs to the ceiling. Make the abdominals tight then lower the legs slowly until they are a few inches above the floor. When the lower back starts lifting you’ve gone too far. Then raise them back up, and repeat. Do 10 reps and 3 sets.

Move 5: Scissors
Lift both legs straight to the ceiling. Lower the right leg until it’s just a bit off the floor, then switch legs. Do the move quickly with no breaks. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each. For added benefits lift the head and shoulders off the floor.

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The importance of eating a diet high in alkaline foods and water

Alkaline for the Body

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I am sure that many of you have been told of the importance of eating a diet high in alkaline foods and water. What is not as often mentioned is just how alkaline foods and water work to ensure optimal health.

Also: How can I Stay Motivated when it comes to Home Exercise?

To begin with, the consumption of an alkaline diet regulates the body’s PH factor. The body’s PH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. When the body’s PH is kept at just above 7.0 a variety of bodily functions work more efficiently. The resulting health benefits are both numerous and of great importance.

– A diet high in alkaline foods and water is an excellent buffer against cardiovascular disease. Alkaline diets are great for reducing inflammation, the result of this is often the lowering of both cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

– A diet high in alkaline foods and water lowers the chronic pain effects for a variety of ailments. Another benefit of an alkaline diet’s inflammation lowering qualities is a great reduction in chronic pain symptoms. Alkaline foods and water can provide significant relief for chronic sufferers of chronic back pain, headaches, muscle spasms, and joint pain.

– A diet high in alkaline foods and water provides protection of bone density. Alkaline diets provide excellent mineral balance which facilitates bone growth and health. In addition, alkaline diets promote the production of growth hormone and the absorption of Vitamin D which provides further protection for bones.

– A diet high in alkaline foods and water reduces the risk of cancer. Alkaline diets provide an abundance of antioxidant protection against cancer. Also, alkaline environments are not conducive to the growth of cancer cells.

– A diet high in alkaline foods and water prevents the development of diabetes. The pancreas is a bodily organ provided with the task of regulating the body’s blood sugar. The pancreas is dependent on an alkaline environment to function properly. One study, focusing on the effects of alkaline water on blood sugar, showed that just a month of drinking alkaline water can bring the blood sugar of diabetics to a normal level.

The health benefits of eating a diet high in alkaline foods and water cannot be understated. I am sure that after reading just a few of these benefits you will agree that making a conscious effort to incorporate alkaline foods and water into your diet is well worth the effort.

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Health & Fitness

Prevent Muscle Loss During Fasted Cardio with BCAA Supplements

BCAAs to Start Your Day

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Photo by Nicole De Khors

One of the most popular forms of extreme fat loss is fasted cardio. Usually done in the morning, this exercise method consists of working out the body anaerobically on an empty stomach, as opposed to full of calories from prior meals. The benefit of fasted cardio all lies in the specific targeting of fat reserves. More specifically, after eating a large meal, insulin levels are raised within the body. As cortisol levels are very high in the morning, they will target muscle cells with the increase in insulin. However, during a fasted state, those high cortisol levels in the morning can be utilized to target fat reserves as opposed to the muscle as the insulin levels will be greatly diminished during that fasting time. As explained by Men’s Fitness, “if you are fasted, insulin is low and cortisol will then go after body fat reserves”.

Also: Increasing Longevity Through Better Nutrition

For those looking to optimize their fat loss while still maintaining all of their hard-earned muscle, fasted exercise is not the only part of the equation. A healthy amount of Branch Chain Amino Acid’s to start your day will help to maintain all of that muscle that has taken so many dedicated hours in the gym to pack on. BCAA are essentially the very building blocks of muscles themselves. According to Layne Norton, experienced bodybuilder, and Ph.D., “BCAAs not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis”. So not only can this aminos help to you to maintain your muscles, it can also provide your muscles with a greater capacity for growth by targeting the actual muscle cells. But within a fasted state in the morning, we are primarily concerned with the rate of protein breakdown that may occur. Lucky for us, BCAA supplements can answer for this too. BCAA’s are also very capable of decreasing the rate at which protein breaks down. As explained again by Dr. Layne Norton, this can be explained by the aminos “decreasing the activity of the components of the protein breakdown pathway”.

In short, starting your days with a BCAA supplement is a great way to ensure that your muscle gains are not lost during fasted exercise. BCAA’s are one of the most well-researched supplements on the market and therefore finding a wealth of knowledge on them is not difficult. A simple search engine will guide you through a host of well documented and researched information. Additionally, these supplements are easy to find at any local supplement store or more simply online.

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