Development of a lumbar EMG-based coactivation index for the assessment of complex dynamic tasks

Peter Le, Alexander Aurand, Benjamin A. Walter, Thomas M. Best, Safdar N. Khan, Ehud Mendel, William S. Marras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to develop and test an EMG-based coactivation index and compare it to a coactivation index defined by a biologically assisted lumbar spine model to differentiate between tasks. The purpose was to provide a universal approach to assess coactivation of a multi-muscle system when a computational model is not accessible. The EMG-based index developed utilised anthropometric-defined muscle characteristics driven by torso kinematics and EMG. Muscles were classified as agonists/antagonists based upon ‘simulated’ moments of the muscles relative to the total ‘simulated’ moment. Different tasks were used to test the range of the index including lifting, pushing and Valsalva. Results showed that the EMG-based index was comparable to the index defined by a biologically assisted model (r2 = 0.78). Overall, the EMG-based index provides a universal, usable method to assess the neuromuscular effort associated with coactivation for complex dynamic tasks when the benefit of a biomechanical model is not available. Practitioner Summary: A universal coactivation index for the lumbar spine was developed to assess complex dynamic tasks. This method was validated relative to a model-based index for use when a high-end computational model is not available. Its simplicity allows for fewer inputs and usability for assessment of task ergonomics and rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018


  • Co-contraction
  • co-activation
  • neuromuscular
  • trunk muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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