Effect of absolute and relative loading on muscle activity during stable and unstable squatting

Jeffrey M McBride, Tony R Larkin, Andrea M Dayne, Tracie L Haines, Tyler J Kirby

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PURPOSE: The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of stable and unstable conditions on one repetition maximum strength and muscle activity during dynamic squatting using absolute and relative loading.

METHODS: Ten recreationally weight-trained males participated in this study (age = 24.1 +/- 2.0 y, height = 178.0 +/- 5.6 cm, body mass = 83.7 +/- 13.4 kg, 1RM/body mass = 1.53 +/- 0.31), which involved two laboratory sessions separated by 1 wk. Linear position transducers were used to track bar displacement while subjects stood on a force plate for all trials. Vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris (BF) and erector spinae (L1) muscle activity (average integrated EMG [IEMG]) was also recorded during all trials. During the first session subjects complete a one repetition maximum test in a stable dynamic squat (S1RM = 128.0 +/- 31.4 kg) and an unstable dynamic squat (U1RM = 83.8 +/- 17.3 kg) in a randomized order with a 30-min rest period between conditions. The second session consisted of the performance of three trials each for 12 different conditions (unstable and stable squats using three different absolute loads [six conditions] and unstable and stable squats using three different relative loads [six conditions]).

RESULTS: Results revealed a statistically significant difference between S1RM and U1RM values (P < or = .05). The stable trials resulted in the same or a significantly higher value for VL, BF and L1 muscle activity in comparison with the unstable trials for all twelve conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Unstable squatting is of equal or less (depending on the loading condition) benefit to improving or maximizing muscle activity during resistance exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-83
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of sports physiology and performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement/physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal/physiology
  • Weight Lifting/physiology

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