A comparison of isolated lumbar extension strength in competitive and non-competitive powerlifters, and recreationally trained males

Low back strength has been shown to significantly impact performance in a plethora of sports. Aside from its effect on sport performance, low back strength is strongly associated with low back pain. A sport that heavily involves the lower back musculature is powerlifting. The present study looked to compare isolated lumbar extension (ILEX) strength in competitive and non-competitive powerlifters and recreationally trained males. Thirteen competitive powerlifters (CPL group; 31.9 ± 7.6 years; 173.4 ± 5.5 cm; 91.75 ± 18.7 kg), 10 non-competitive powerlifters (NCPL group; 24 ± 3.5 years; 179 ± 4.8 cm; 92.39 ± 15.73 kg, and 36 recreationally trained males (RECT group; 24.9 ± 6.5 years; 178.5 ± 5.2 cm; 81.6 ± 10.0kg) were tested for isolated lumbar extension strength (ILEX). ILEX strength was measured at every 12° throughout participant’s full range of motion and expressed as the following: ’strength index’ calculated as the area under a torque curve from multiple angle testing (SI), average torque produced across each joint angle (AVG) and maximum torque produced at a single angle (MAX). Deadlift and squat strength was measured using 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for the competitive and non-competitive powerlifters. The following powerlifting characteristics were recorded for the competitive and non-competitive powerlifters: primary deadlift stance, primary squat bar position, use of belt, use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and use of exercises to target the lower back musculature. Significant between group effects were found for participant characteristics (age, stature, body mass, and range of motion). However, analysis of covariance with participant characteristics as covariates found no significant between group effects for SI (p=0.824), AVG (p=0.757), or MAX (p=0.572). In conclusion this study suggests that powerlifting training likely has little impact upon conditioning of the lumbar extensors.

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