Ann Rehabil Med.  2013 Dec;37(6):804-813. 10.5535/arm.2013.37.6.804.

Effects of Abdominal Hollowing During Stair Climbing on the Activations of Local Trunk Stabilizing Muscles: A Cross-Sectional Study

  • 1Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Spine Center, Yeungnam University College of Medicine, Daegu, Korea.


To examine using surface electromyography whether stair climbing with abdominal hollowing (AH) is better at facilitating local trunk muscle activity than stair climbing without AH.
Twenty healthy men with no history of low back pain participated in the study. Surface electrodes were attached to the multifidus (MF), lumbar erector spinae, thoracic erector spinae, transverse abdominus - internal oblique abdominals (TrA-IO), external oblique abdominals (EO), and the rectus abdominis. Amplitudes of electromyographic signals were measured during stair climbing. Study participants performed maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) for each muscle in various positions to normalize the surface electromyography data.
AH during stair climbing resulted in significant increases in normalized MVCs in both MFs and TrA-IOs (p<0.05). Local trunk muscle/global trunk muscle ratios were higher during stair climbing with AH as compared with stair climbing without AH. Especially, right TrA-IO/EO and left TrA-IO/EO were significantly increased (p<0.05).
Stair climbing with AH activates local trunk stabilizing muscles better than stair climbing without AH. The findings suggest that AH during stair climbing contributes to trunk muscle activation and trunk stabilization.


Stair climbing; Abdominal hollowing; Local trunk stabilizing muscles

MeSH Terms

Cross-Sectional Studies*
Low Back Pain
Paraspinal Muscles
Rectus Abdominis


  • Fig. 1 Subject performing abdominal hollowing (AH) with verbal and tactile feedback. AH with verbal and tactile feedback in the supine position (A) and standing position (B).

  • Fig. 2 Subject performing abdominal hollowing (AH) with pressure biofeedback. AH with pressure biofeedback in the supine position (A) and supine hook lying position (B). AH with pressure biofeedback in the single leg slide with the contralateral leg supported position (C) and unsupported position (D).

  • Fig. 3 Subject performing abdominal hollowing (AH) with real-time ultrasound biofeedback. AH with real-time ultrasound biofeedback in the supine hook lying position (A), in the single leg slide with the contralateral leg supported position (B) and unsupported position (C), and in the standing position (D).

  • Fig. 4 Positions of surface electrodes: (A) ventral side and (B) dorsal side. (a) External oblique abdominals, (b) rectus abdominis, (c) transverse abdominus - internal oblique abdominals, (d) thoracic erector spinae, (e) lumbar erector spinae, (f) multifidus, (g) ground electrode.

  • Fig. 5 Stair-climbing and recording electromyography activities with or without abdominal hollowing.

  • Fig. 6 Trunk muscle activities during stair climbing with or without abdominal hollowing (AH). Stair climbing with AH resulted in significantly more recruitment of the multifidus (MF) and transverse abdominus - internal oblique abdominal muscles (TrA/IO). *p<0.05. MVC, maximal voluntary contraction; Rt., right; Lt., left.


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