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Shoulder Musculature Activation During Upper Extremity Weight-Bearing Exercise
Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (2003)
  • Timothy L Uhl, University of Kentucky
  • Thomas J. Carver, University of Kentucky
  • Carl G. Mattacola, University of Kentucky
  • Scott d. Mair, University of Kentucky
  • Arthur J. Nitz, University of Kentucky

Study Design

Repeated-measures design comparing 7 static weight-bearing shoulder exercises.


The purpose of this study was to determine the demand on shoulder musculature during weight-bearing exercises and the relationship between increasing weight-bearing posture and shoulder muscle activation.


Weight-bearing shoulder exercises are commonly prescribed in the rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. Limited information is available as to the demands placed on shoulder musculature while these exercises are performed.

Eighteen healthy college students volunteered for this study. Surface bipolar electrodes were applied over the infraspinatus, posterior deltoid, anterior deltoid, and pectoralis major muscles. Fine-wire bipolar intramuscular electrodes were inserted into the supraspinatus muscle. Electromyographic (EMG) root mean square signal intensity was normalized to 1 second of EMG obtained with a maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC). Subjects were tested under 7 isometric exercise positions that progressively increased upper extremity weight-bearing posture.


There was a high correlation between increasing weight-bearing posture and muscular activity (r = 0.97, P<0.01). There was relatively little demand on the shoulder musculature for the prayer and quadruped positions (2%–10% MVIC). Muscular activation was greater for the infraspinatus than for other shoulder muscles throughout most of the exercise positions tested.


These results indicate that alterations of weight-bearing exercises, by varying the amount of arm support and force, resulted in very different demands on the shoulder musculature. Specifically, the infraspinatus was particularly active during the weight-bearing exercises used in this study.

  • electromyography,
  • muscles,
  • progressive resistive exercise,
  • rehabilitation
Publication Date
March, 2003
Citation Information
Timothy L Uhl, Thomas J. Carver, Carl G. Mattacola, Scott d. Mair, et al.. "Shoulder Musculature Activation During Upper Extremity Weight-Bearing Exercise" Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy Vol. 33 Iss. 3 (2003)
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