Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology and Health Science

Department name when degree awarded

Health and Human Movement

Committee Chair(s)

Dennis Dolny


Dennis Dolny


Eadric Bressel


Brian Larsen


Low back pain (LBP) is a widespread problem affecting a number of people. Traditionally treated by nonoperative approaches the recent development of water currents and treadmills imbedded into pools has spurred physical therapists and athletic trainers to incorporate the use of aquatic therapy into their rehabilitation programs. OBJECTIVE: Determine if select trunk muscle activity levels are different in water-based exercises compared to land-based exercises. METHODS: 11 healthy male participants age 25.9 ± 5.53 years, whom did not have a history of and were not currently experiencing LBP or injury. Muscle activity was monitored via electromyography (EMG) at the rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO), lower abdominals (LA), erector spinae (ES), and lumbar multifidis (MT). Each subject performed (1) maximum voluntary contractions (MVC’s), (2) land-based exercises, and (3) water-based exercises. A paired samples t test was used to compare abdominal bracing (ABbrace), abdominal hallowing (ABhol), Anterior/Posterior pelvic tilts (APTilts), and lateral pelvic tilts (LatTilts) between comparable land and water conditions; general linear model-repeated measures was run to compare the 11 different water exercises; ABbrace, ABhol, APTilts, LatTilts, physioball push down (PBPushDown), PB lateral flexion, PB transverse rotations, stationary marching, leg abduction, and wall sits with sagittal and transverse plane arm movements. Follow-up multiple comparisons (LSD) were performed between water exercises using a Holm’s corrected alpha level set at 0.05. RESULTS: Land-based exercises elicited greater EMG activity compared to water-based activities for all muscles (%MVC land vs. %MVC water): RA %MVC (8.3-19.3 vs. 2.1-9.7, P = .003-.029); LA %MVC (27-105 vs. 5.2-25, P = .001-.016); EO %MVC (13-59 vs. 4.8-24.5, P = .001-.303); ES %MVC (19.1-37.6 vs. 7.75-22.1, P = .001-.039) and MT %MVC (16-25.4 vs. 5.9-8.8, P = .00-.005). For water comparison ABbrace and PB exercises produced the most muscle activity while WallSitSag/Trans consistently produced the least muscle activity. CONCLUSION: Even with reduced muscle activity in the water, the calculated % mean MVCs were high enough (at or below 25% MVC) to provide muscle endurance and stability gains. With the information provided from the analysis of water exercise comparison, practitioners can effectively progress patients through a rehabilitation program.




This work made publicly available electronically on August 9, 2011.

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