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Upper body Thera-Band exercises good for core muscle activation

May 6, 2013

outer-core-abdominal-musclesCore exercises have become popular in both fitness training and rehabilitation. The rectus abdominus and oblique muscles of the trunk are often considered part of the ‘core’ since they provide flexion, rotation, and stabilization. While flexion and rotation movements are easily created with traditional abdominal exercises such as the curl-up and trunk rotation, stabilization exercises are somewhat more controversial. Some advocate “bracing” the abdominal muscles, while others perform arm and leg movements while maintaining a stable pelvis.

While these exercises may activate the trunk stabilizers, they may not be truly exercising the muscles in the manner they function: reactive stabilization. In other words, these muscles function on a subconscious level prior to voluntary, conscious movement of the extremities to stabilize the trunk. This “reactive” stabilization provides a stable base from which we can move our extremities.

Some researchers have shown that arm movements in standing include a reactive stabilization of the trunk muscles; however, no researchers have examined the muscle activation levels during elastic-resisted arm exercises.

Researchers in South Korea wanted to assess the effect of blue Thera-Band® elastic band exercises during shoulder flexion, extension, and horizontal abduction in a seated position. 20 healthy subjects were assessed using surface EMG of the rectus abdominus, external oblique, and internal obliques.

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EMG data was collected during an isometric hold at end range during bilateral shoulder flexion, extension, and horizontal abduction. They found that activation of the rectus abdominus and obliques was significantly higher in shoulder extension and horizontal abduction than in flexion. The researchers stated that Thera-Band resisted shoulder extension and horizontal abduction “can be recommended for low back pain patients who cannot perform trunk stabilization exercises directly.” Furthermore, stroke patients with trunk muscle deficits may also benefit from this exercise. Obviously, further research should examine different muscles and exercises, as well as the effect of these exercises in patients with low back pain.

REFERENCE: Lee DK, et al. Effects of changing the resistance direction using an elastic tubing band on abdominal muscle activities during isometric upper limb exercises. J Phys Ther Sci. 2012. 24:703-706.

Visit the Thera-Band Academy Low Back Pain resource center here



  1. Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Great information. Too many people and doctors use just abdomenal type exercises to strengthen the core. It’s so important to also address the legs and upper body in stabilizing the core.

  2. Kay Noble
    Posted June 8, 2013 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    I would very much like some simple exercises from you, using the coloured bands. I have yellow, green and black bands. I am Diabetic, and also suffer from C.O.P.D. Unable to walk far for exercise. Can you help me please?

  3. Dr. Phil Page
    Posted June 13, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Kay, I would recommend asking your healthcare provider or clinical exercise specialist to determine a program that’s appropriate for you because of your multiple medical conditions. They can use the website to develop an exercise program just for you here:

  4. Posted January 9, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Therabands are a terrific way to exercise as they are lightweight and can be used anywhere. I’m the producer of Functional Fitness with Suzanne Andrews on PBS TV and just wanted to let Kay know that we have DVD’s for diabetes and for COPD. The DVD proceeds are being used to place close captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our next series so please let people know so we can make fitness accessible to everyone.
    Glenn Poyer
    Healthwise Exercise

  5. Posted January 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I love using therabands to help clients get stronger! They are easy to use and you can take them anywhere with you!

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