The objective of this study was to determine the amplitude of the electromyographic activity of trunk muscles during Pilates exercises in women with and without chronic low back pain (LBP) through a case control study involving 60 women. Amplitude of the electromyographic activity (root mean square values) of the gluteus maximus and external oblique muscles collected during three Pilates exercises: Shoulder bridge performed in the mat, and Hip roll and Breathing performed in equipment. Pain intensity was assessed in the LBPG. The amplitude of the electromyographic activity was similar between groups (p ≥ 0.05). For both groups, the amplitude of the gluteus maximus was higher in the Shoulder Bridge exercise compared to the Hip Roll with 2 springs (CG: mean difference (MD) = 0.18, 95% Confidence interval (CI) = 0.05 to 0.41; LBPG: MD = 0.29, 95% CI = 0.16 to 0.31) and the Breathing exercise (CG: MD = -0.40, 95% CI = -0.55 to -0.26; LBPG: MD = -0.36, 95% CI = -0.52 to -0.20). The amplitude of the external oblique muscle was higher in the Shoulder Bridge compared to the Hip Roll with 2 springs (CG: MD = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.05 to 0.21; LBPG: MD = 0.18, 95% CI = 0.03 to 0.33). Pain intensity increased after exercises, but this increase was lower for the mat exercises.
Similar muscle activation between groups was found. The findings suggest that mat exercises caused less pain and greater difference in the amplitude of muscle activation compared to the equipment-based exercises.