The purpose of this study was to develop a submaximal repetitive isoinertial back muscle endurance test by defining the relationships between the power spectral indices of paraspinal muscle electromyographic (EMG) activities, endurance time and a subjective estimate of fatigue (Borg scale). Bilateral surface EMG recordings were obtained over the lumbar paraspinal muscles in ten individuals who were currently free from back pain. All subjects performed repetitive upper trunk extensions (25 degrees flexion and 5 degrees extension, 30 repetitions per min), while movement below the third lumbar vertebral body was mechanically restricted. The load level depended upon upper body mass, sex, and age. The tests continued for as long as the subjects were able to maintain the required repetition rate (endurance time). Median (MF) and mean power frequency (MPF) slopes were calculated by performing a fast Fourier transformation after confirmation of EMG stationarity by recurrence quantification analysis. MF and MPF correlations with endurance time/Borg scale were measured for the first 60 s (0.60-0.88/0.42-0.86), the first 90 s (0.62-0.89/0.52-0.90), the first 120 s (0.50-0.76/0.41-0.73), and the entire repetitive run (0.63-0.88/0.54-0.90). To test for the reproducibility of the spectral indices EMGs were recorded for 2 min during repetitive loading from the same subjects on two consecutive days. Corresponding spectral slopes of MF and MPF were correlated at 60 s (0.36-0.93), 90 s (0.58-0.92), and 120 s (0.70-0.94) at the L3-L4 and L5-S1 levels, indicating good reproducibility of results from alternate recording sessions at the L5-S1 level. It is concluded that paraspinal muscle spectral indices (MF and MPF) measured before the onset of total muscle fatigue are good predictors of endurance time and are closely related to the subjective perception of fatigue.
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