To determine whether dynamic back muscle endurance exercises in a semisitting position induce more fatigue in back muscles than that in hip extensors in healthy controls as well as in patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain.
Sixteen healthy volunteers and 18 volunteers with nonspecific chronic low back pain performed trunk flexion-extension cycles until exhaustion at 60% of their strength in a machine designed for back exercise in a semisitting position with knees' angle at 135 degrees . The number of cycles and perceived muscle fatigue (Borg CR-10 scale) at five areas (upper and lower back, gluteus, hamstrings, and quadriceps) were used as fatigue criteria. EMG signals were recorded bilaterally on four back muscles, two hip extensors (gluteus maximus and biceps femoris), and the vastus medialis. The slope values of the instantaneous median frequency values computed over time were retained as EMG indices of fatigue.
The number of cycles was equivalent in healthy controls (n = 23 +/- 13) and patients with back pain (n = 27 +/- 16). EMG indices of fatigue disclosed evidence of muscle fatigue in all the back muscles and the vastus medialis, contrary to hip extensors. EMG revealed significantly more muscle fatigue of lower back muscles, which was further corroborated by the Borg scale assessment. No between-group difference was obtained in any EMG comparison.
These results showed that this type of exercise machine can specifically train the back muscles, and this as much in subjects with nonspecific chronic low back pain as in healthy controls. This has implications for the training of back muscle endurance, especially in patients with back pain for whom poor back muscle endurance is sometimes of concern.