Most of the studies evaluating core muscle activity during exercises have been conducted with healthy participants. The objective of this study was to compare core muscle activity and tolerability of a variety of dynamic and isometric exercises in patients with non-specific low back pain (NSLBP). 13 outpatients (average age 52 years; all with standing or walking work in their current or latest job) performed 3 consecutive repetitions at 15-repetition maximum during different exercises in random order. Surface electromyography was recorded for the rectus abdominis; external oblique and lumbar erector spinae. Patients rated tolerability of each exercise on a 5-point scale. The front plank with brace; front plank and modified curl-up can be considered the most effective exercises in activating the rectus abdominis; with a median normalized EMG (nEMG) value of 48% (34-61%), 46% (26-61%) and 50% (28-65%), respectively. The front plank with brace can be considered the most effective exercise in activating the external oblique; with a nEMG of 77% (60-97%). The squat and bird-dog exercises are especially effective in activing the lumbar erector spinae; with nEMG of 40% (24-87%) and 29% (27-46%), respectively. All the exercises were well tolerated; except for the lateral plank that was mostly non-tolerated. In conclusion; the present study provides a variety of dynamic and isometric exercises; where muscle activity values and tolerability can be used as guide to design evidence-based exercise programs for outpatients with NSCLBP.

Keywords: bridging; electromyography; plank; squat; trunk.