The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether walking backward in water and walking backward on dry land elicit different electromyographic (EMG) activities in lower-extremity and trunk muscles. Surface EMG was used to evaluate muscle activities while six healthy subjects walked backward in water (with and without a water current, Water + Cur and Water - Cur, respectively) immersed to the level of the xiphoid process, and while they walked backward on dry land (DL). The trials in water utilized the Flowmill which consists of a treadmill at the base of a water flume. Integrated EMG analysis allowed the quantification of muscle activities. The measurement of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of each muscle was made prior to the gait analysis, and all data were expressed as the mean (SD). The %MVCs from the muscles tested while walking backward in water (both with and without a current) were all significantly lower than those obtained while walking backward on dry land (P<0.05), with the exception of the paraspinal muscles. In the case of the paraspinal muscles, the %MVC while walking backward with a water current was significantly greater than when walking backward on dry land [Water + Cur 19.4 (6.8)%MVC vs. DL 13.1 (1.4)%MVC; P<0.05], or walking backward without a water current [vs. Water - Cur 13.3 (1.8)%MVC; P<0.05]. Furthermore, when walking backward in water, the %MVCs from the muscles investigated were significantly greater in the presence of a water current than without (P<0.05). In conclusion, walking backward in water with a current elicits the greatest muscle activation of the paraspinal muscles. These data may help in the development of water-based exercise programs.
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