The Association of Obesity with Quadriceps Activation during Sit-to-Stand

Lance M. Bollinger, Amanda L. Ransom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Obesity reduces voluntary recruitment of quadriceps during single-joint exercises, but the effects of obesity on quadriceps femoris muscle activation during dynamic daily living tasks, such as sit-to-stand (STS), are largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine how obesity affects quadriceps muscle recruitment during STS. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 10 women who were lean and 17 women who were obese completed STS from a chair with arms crossed over the chest. Three-dimensional motion analysis was used to define 3 distinct phases (I-III) of the STS cycle. The electromyographic (EMG) activity of the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and semitendinosus was measured. Results: STS duration was greater (3.02 [SD = 0.75] seconds vs 1.67 [SD = 0.28] seconds) and peak trunk flexion angle was lower (28.9 degrees [SD = 10.4 degrees] vs 35.8 degrees [SD = 10.1 degrees]) in the women who were obese than in the women who were lean. The mean EMG activity of the knee extensors increased from phase I to phase II in both groups; however, the mean EMG activities of both the vastus medialis (32.1% [SD = 16.6%] vs 47.3% [SD = 19.6%] maximal voluntary isometric contraction) and the vastus lateralis (31.8% [SD = 19.4%] vs 47.5% [SD = 19.6%] maximal voluntary isometric contraction) were significantly lower during phase II in the women who were obese. The mean EMG activity of the semitendinosus increased throughout STS but was not significantly different between the 2 groups. Coactivation of the semitendinosus and knee extensors tended to be greater in the women who were obese but failed to reach statistical significance. Conclusions: Knee extensor EMG amplitude was reduced in women who were obese during STS, despite reduced trunk flexion. Impact: Reduced knee extensor recruitment during STS in obesity may redistribute forces needed to complete this task to other joints. Functional movement training may help improve knee extensor recruitment during STS in people who are obese. Lay Summary: People with obesity often have low quadriceps muscle strength and impaired mobility during daily activities. This study shows that women who are obese have lower voluntary recruitment of quadriceps when rising from a chair than women who are lean do, which could increase workload on hip or ankle muscles during this important daily task. Quadriceps strengthening exercises might improve the ability to rise from sitting to standing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2134-2143
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Physical Therapy Association. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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