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Variations in muscle activation levels during traditional latissimus dorsi weight training exercises: An experimental study.

Gregory J Lehman1*, Day Deans Buchan2, Angela Lundy2, Nicole Myers2 and Andrea Nalborczyk2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Graduate Studies, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, ON, Canada

2 Undergraduate Department, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, ON, Canada

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Dynamic Medicine 2004, 3:4  doi:10.1186/1476-5918-3-4

Published: 30 June 2004



Exercise beliefs abound regarding variations in strength training techniques on muscle activation levels yet little research has validated these ideas. The purpose of the study is to determine muscle activation level, expressed as a percent of a normalization contraction, of the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii and middle trapezius/rhomboids muscle groups during a series of different exercise tasks.


The average muscle activity during four tasks; wide grip pulldown, reverse grip pull down [RGP], seated row with retracted scapula, and seated rows with non-retracted scapulae was quantified during two 10 second isometric portions of the four exercises. A repeated measures ANOVA with post-hoc Tukey test was used to determine the influence of exercise type on muscle activity for each muscle.

Results & Discussion

No exercise type influenced biceps brachii activity. The highest latissimus dorsi to biceps ratio of activation occurred during the wide grip pulldown and the seated row. Highest levels of myoelectric activity in the middle trapezius/rhomboid muscle group occurred during the seated row. Actively retracting the scapula did not influence middle trapezius/rhomboid activity.


Variations in latissimus dorsi exercises are capable of producing small changes in the myoelectric activity of the primary movers.

EMG; exercise; back; latissimus dorsi; biceps brachii; rhomboids; trapezius