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A recent study has shown that posterior rotator cuff (RC) muscles are recruited at significantly higher levels than the anterior RC during shoulder flexion. It was proposed that the mechanism whereby the posterior RC muscles were providing shoulder stability during flexion was to counterbalance potential anterior humeral head translation caused by flexion torque producing muscles. This hypothesis implies that anterior RC activity should be higher than posterior RC activity during extension to prevent posterior humeral head translation. As the normal recruitment pattern of the RC during extension has not been established, the purpose of this study was to examine this hypothesis by comparing shoulder muscle activation levels and recruitment patterns during flexion and extension exercises. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded from 9 shoulder muscles in 15 volunteers. Flexion and extension exercises were performed in prone at 20%, 50%, and 70% of each participant's maximal load. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine differences between exercises, muscles and loads, while Pearson's correlation analysis was used to relate mean EMG patterns. During extension subscapularis and latissimus dorsi were activated at higher levels than during flexion; during flexion, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, deltoid, trapezius, and serratus anterior were more highly activated than during extension. In addition, the pattern of activity in each muscle did not vary with load. These results support the hypothesis that during flexion and extension the RC muscles are recruited in a direction specific manner to prevent potential antero-posterior humeral head translation caused by torque producing muscles.


School of Science

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Journal Article

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