Water-filled training tubes increase core muscle activation and somatosensory control of balance during squat

This study examined trunk muscle activation, balance and proprioception while squatting with a water-filled training tube (WT) and a traditional barbell (BB), with either closed (CE) or open eyes (OE).

Eighteen male elite Gaelic footballers performed an isometric squat under the following conditions: BB-OE, BB-CE, WT-OE and WT-CE. The activity of rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO) and multifidus (MF) was measured using electromyography, along with sway of the centre of pressure (CoP) using a force platform. Only the EO and the MF muscles exhibited an increased activity with WT (p < 0.01). In the medio-lateral direction both the velocity and range of the CoP increased significantly with WT (p < 0.01). Interestingly, the range of the CoP for the WT-CE condition was significantly lower than WT-OE (p < 0.05, d = 0.44), whilst the velocity of the CoP was marginally reduced (d = 0.29). WT elicited a greater level core muscle activation and created a greater challenge to postural stability when compared to a BB. It appears that WT does not benefit from vision but emphasises the somatosensory control of balance.

The use of WT may be beneficial in those sports requiring development of somatosensory/proprioceptive contribution to balance control.