Does knee and ankle angle affect muscle activation in bridging?
With the increase in bridging and hip thrust variations in the last decade - whether for glute development or horizontal force production - it is valuable to know the influence of these factors.
From the study tagged below, we can see a change in gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, biceps femoris, and retctus femoris activation with altering the knee and ankle angles.
The researchers tested 5 different bridge positions that varied the angle of the knee (90* or 135*), the angle of the ankle (neutral or dorsiflexed), and the position of the contralateral limb (either knee extended with hip neutral or knee relaxed in flexion with femur vertical). From these 5 different positions the researchers saw varying amounts of activation of the musculature tested.
Hamstring activation was lowest in the positions when the knee was flexed to a higher degree (135*) which may be due to the lower leg being aligned parallel to the GRF vector, reducing the need for the hamstrings to keep the knee angle.
In contrast, the positions where the knee was flexed had higher gluteal activation in comparison to hamstrings - reaching essentially double the value for some. Of all of the positions, the 90* knee flexion with foot flat demonstrated the highest gluteal activation - particularly with the contralateral knee extended.
There was also change in hip activation with altering dorsiflexion. When the ankle was dorsiflexed, the biceps femoris reduced activation. This is postulated to being related to the length of the gastrocnemius and its level of activation. As the ankle dorsiflexes, it creates a more optimal length tension relationship - no longer being in active insufficiency and now being able to assist the biceps femoris.
One last interesting note from the researchers was that for all of the testing the arms were crossed. This was to restrict the ability of participants to apply a extensor moment about the shoulders, which would reduce the weight force supported by the bridge leg, reducing the biceps femoris activation.
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