Advances in Physical Education
2013. Vol.3, No.3, 111-115
Published Online August 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 111
Does Spine Posture Affect Isometric Torso Muscle
Endurance Profiles in Adolescent Children?
Aleksandar Dejanovic1, Edward D. J. Cambridge2, Stuart McGill2*
1Vertex-Human Performance Lab, Novi Sad, Serbia
2Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
Email: *
Received March 8th, 2013; revised April 8th, 2013; accepted April 15th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Aleksandar Dejanovic et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to examine mean values of isometric torso muscle profiles
of four spinal postures (good posture, thoracic kyphosis, lumbar lordosis and scoliosis) among 743 chil-
dren from the ages of 7 to 14 years old. It was hypothesized that having good posture, thoracic hy-
per-kyphosis, lumbar hyper-lordosis and scoliosis is linked to different isometric torso muscle endurance
profiles. Torso muscle endurance, established through four tests (Biering-Sørensen Test for extensor en-
durance, Flexor Endurance Test and right and left Side Bridge Tests for lateral endurance) performed in
random order and spine postural screening categorized subjectively by observation was measured. Posture
was proved to be linked to endurance scores. Hyper-lordotic spines demonstrated a decreased endurance
compared to the three other postures (F = 5.344; p < 0.01); pairwise comparisons confirmed these differ-
ences (p < 0.05). Trends further suggested that hyper-lordosis was detrimental in lateral chain torso en-
durance while a hyper-kyphotic spine was more resilient in anterior chain torso endurance. Understanding
the relationship between posture and endurance may be beneficial in clinical, as well as coaching/teaching
Keywords: Isometric Torso Muscle Endurance Tests; Children; Spine; Posture
Links between standing posture, chronic muscle contraction,
extensor muscle endurance and back pain motivated this study.
Spinal posture is a highly complex system consisting of the
bony architecture and passive ligaments, the active musculature,
and the neurological control system. For children, in particular,
spine posture appears to be a very critical part of the developing
neuromuscular system. For example, prolonged sitting could be
a concern given in the classroom environment; posterior pelvis
rotation has been identified as a risk factor for the development
of subsequent back pain (Harrison et al., 1999). These sitting
postures reduce lumbar lordosis, and increase both muscular
tension and intervertebral disc pressure (Harrison et al., Wilke
et al., 1999). These loads are coupled with growth spurts between
9.5 and 12.5 years of age (Malina et al., 2004). It has been de-
monstrated that improper spinal loading can influence muscle
strength and motor performance (Malina et al., 2004), change
muscle length (Kendall et al., 2005), alter torso muscular endu-
rance (Dejanovic et al., 2012), influence spinal posture (Hryso-
mallis & Goodman, 2001) and cause an increase in spinal cur-
vature (Escalada et al., 2005; Sanders et al., 2006). Not only
does improper functioning appear to change spine posture, but
changes in the size of anteroposterior spinal curvatures may
derange functioning of the trunk muscles (Anwajler et al.,
2006). Furthermore, longer abdominal and shorter erector spi-
nae muscles were linked with a hyper-lordotic lumbar curvature
(Toppenberg & Bullock, 1986). Despite the apparent links be-
tween posture and growth of children, and between muscle func-
tion and the risk for the development of LBP, little investiga-
tion has been conducted in this area.
Normal healthy posture can be described as a state of balance
between muscular and bony structures, which minimizes local
passive tissue stress and strain (Griegel-Morris et al., 1992).
Deviated spine posture may lead to a range of disorders (Breen
et al., 2007), including: low back pain (Harrison et al., 2002;
McGill, 1997). However, improper posture may also occur as a
result of fatigue, which may increase the risk of injury (Sparto
et al., 1997). McGill (2007) demonstrated that poor standing
posture can result in muscle pain from chronic muscle contrac-
tion of the erector spinae group. Increased segmental or overall
lumbar lordosis may be associated with LBP (Dankaerts et al.,
While sagittal plane posture appears important, they are also
frontal plane deformities. For example, adolescent idiopathic sco-
liosis is a spinal deformity commonly being noticed between 10
and 16 years of age (Reamy & Slakey, 2001) especially in young
girls (Weinstein, 1994). Scoliosis can be associated with back
pain (Ramirez et al., 1997), alter balance control (Gauchard et
al., 2001), and different muscle activation strategies (Stokes et
al., 2004).
Little is known about the variability of children’s standing
posture (McEvoy & Grimmer, 2005). Given the rationale above,
the aim of this cross-sectional study was to establish normative
data for adolescent children for four spine postures (normal,
*Corresponding author.
thoracic hyper-kyphosis, lumbar hyper-lordosis and scoliosis)
and whether there was a link to isometric torso muscle endur-
ance. Identifying standing postural types and their torso muscle
endurance profiles may provide insight into the development of
low back pain in school children, together with guiding a the-
rapeutic approach for preventing and managing improper spine
posture and pain.
Spine posture and torso muscular endurance were evaluated
to establish a database, and to evaluate the relationship between
posture and endurance among children. The testing, data collec-
tion, methods and posture screening were presented to and ap-
proved by the Dean and Parents’ Committee of the Elementary
School, City of Novi Sad, Republic of Serbia, Medical Ethics
Committee of Institute for Health Protection and Prevention of
Children and Youth of Vojvodina, City of Novi Sad, Republic
of Serbia. Informed consent forms were signed by all subjects
and their parents prior to data collection. All children and par-
ents were familiarized with the posture screening and each test
protocol. The inclusion criteria for participants were: 1) aged
from 7 to 14 years of age, 2) no neurological injury of the hips,
lower back or cervical spine, 3) no numbness, weakness or
injury in the upper or lower extremities, 4) no spinal structural
deformities, 5) no current signs or symptoms of headache, 6) all
subjects were healthy for the 4 weeks prior to testing.
This study involved 753 children aged 7 to 14 from one Ser-
bian elementary school, 394 boys and 359 girls. The children
were assessed and grouped into 4 posture groups. For the boys’
subset, per posture group numbers were: good posture (n = 49), lor-
dosis (n = 112), kyphosis (n = 138) and scoliosis (n = 95). In
the girls’ subset, per posture group numbers were: good posture
(n = 79), lordosis (n = 123), kyphosis (n = 75) and scoliosis (n
= 82). The distribution of cases by posture included subjects’
classification by gender and by age (Table 1). The “young” group
was comprised of those between the ages of 7 and 10 years,
while the “old” group was of those between 11 and 14 years.
Postural A ssessment
Boys and girls were separated for postural screening pur-
poses and were observed separately. Children conformed to the
dress code agreed in the informed consent. Boys were dressed
only in underwear while girls were in elastic polyester or cotton
under crops and sport top bra.
Posture was assessed subjectively in the sagittal and frontal
planes using the protocols of Mulhearn and George (1999) and
Kendall et al. (2005). Children stood quietly with their arms re-
laxed by their sides. All subjects were assessed by the same Ki-
nesiotherapist with 15 years of clinical experience in orthopedic
physical therapy and kinesiotherapy. Instead of a side plumb
line used by Mulhearn and George (1999), a posture cage with
5 × 5 cm net (see Figure 1) covered the torso. In the sagittal
plane, the cage net was positioned 1 cm away from subject’s
body, between the subject and the observer with the plumb line
passing through the mastoid process. In the frontal plane the
line passed through the middle of the body (Kendall et al.,
2005). Postures were classified as—thoracic kyphotic (sway-
back), lumbar lordotic and good posture. The fourth posture
(scoliotic) was determined with Adam’s forward bend, test since
it is more sensitive than the scoliometer (Côté et al., 1998). The
Adam’s test began in a standing position, the subject was then
asked to bend forward looking down, keeping the feet appro-
ximately 10 - 15 cm apart, knees fully extended, shoulders
loose and hands positioned in front of thighs and knees, with
elbows straight and palms opposed. Leg length discrepancy was
not assessed.
Endurance Tests
Four tests were used to establish isometric torso muscle en-
durance, according to McGill et al. (1999): back extension test,
right and left side bridge torso test and flexor endurance test.
Figure 1.
Postural assessment with cage net in frontal and sagittal plane (exam-
Table 1.
Distribution of cases by postural categorization for all subjects (n = 753) and by gender and age group.
Gender Age Groups
Posture All Cases
male female Young Old
Good 128 (17%) 49 (12%) 79 (22%) 66 (20%) 62 (15%)
Lordotic 235 (31%) 112 (28%) 123 (34%) 136 (41%) 99 (24%)
Kyphotic 213 (28%) 138 (35%) 75 (20%) 66 (20%) 147 (35%)
Scoliotic 177 (24%) 95 (24%) 82 (23) 68 (20%) 109 (26%)
Total 753 (100%) 394 (100%) 359 (100%) 336 (100%) 417 (100%)
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
McGill et al. (1999) documented that these tests have high re-
liability coefficient >0.97 when tested consecutively over a
five-day period, while Evans et al. (2007) showed high reliabi-
lity for lateral endurance tests.
Back extension test (BET):
Back muscle endurance followed the original Biering-Søren-
sen position. Subjects layed on a Swedish Box (1500 × 1100 ×
500 mm) covered with a soft pad (50 mm thick), elevated 500
mm from the floor, with a soft pad for arm support placed on
the floor. Straps secured the legs and were lined with soft pads
to prevent discomfort. Subjects lay prone over the end of the
bench with fixed legs by three seat belts or with the ankles held
by another person. Upon request, subjects crossed their arms
over the chest and maintained the torso parallel with the ground.
During the test, the subjects were allowed to be verbally cor-
rected twice to maintain the regular position before the test
stopped (see Figure 2).
Side bridge torso test (LSB & RSB):
In the side bridge test, the same mat (2000 × 1000 × 50 mm)
was used, soft enough to prevent discomfort in the elbows,
knees and feet. For this test, the subject lay on their side on
their forearm, with the elbow flexed to 90˚, holding their torso
off the floor. Legs were extended; the top foot was placed in the
front of the lower foot for support (see F i gure 3).
Flexor Endurance Test (FET):
The flexor endurance test was conducted on a Judo mat
(2000 × 1000 × 50 mm) with a wooden box jig angled 50˚ from
the floor (after McGill et al., 1999), and toes were covered with
soft pads and secured with toe straps. Subjects began in a sit-up
position, crossed arms over the chest with hands placed on the
opposite shoulder, toes secured under toe straps or supporters
palms, and the back resting against the jig angled 50˚ from the
floor. Knees and hips were flexed to 90˚. Upon request the jig
was pulled back 10 cm while the subject held their position as
long as possible (see Figure 4).
Time was measured with a TAG Heuer electronic Microsplit
MS200 stopwatch. During each test, two assistants were pre-
sent beside the subject for safety and injury prevention reasons.
Tests ended if subject could not maintain straight torso position
Figure 2.
Back extension test-(BET).
Figure 3.
Side bridge torso test-(RSB & LSB).
Figure 4.
Flexor endurance test-(FET).
as in the case of fatigue, and/or there were any signs of pain
and/or when a maximum time of 300 seconds was reached. In
all endurance tests subjects were encouraged to maintain their
proper positions and straight posture as long as they could.
Data Analyses
Analysis of the effects of posture and torso muscular endur-
ance was conducted with four (one per postural group) General
Linear Model (GLM) univariate analyses. The GLMs were held
to a significance level of alpha = 0.05. However, during inter-
pretation the alpha scores were held to adjusted standard of one
fourth the original to account for the multiple comparisons. In
order to assess which of the postures were associated with the
differences in endurance scores pairwise comparisons were eva-
luated against the protected F values in the omnibus test. All
statistical analysis were conducted in SPSS software portfolio
(IBM SPSS v19).
Posture assessments were able to identify four high preva-
lence postures in each group within this childhood population
(Table 1). Primary analysis for the effect of posture on endur-
ance revealed a statistically significant effect for the BET (F =
5.344, p < 0.01). There were no other statistically significant
differences based on our adjusted requirement (p < 0.02) for
multiple comparisons. To assess the postural condition that caus-
ed the main effect pairwise comparisons were performed, they
demonstrated that those with lordotic spine postures were less
resilient (in extension endurance) than those with good, kypho-
tic and scoliotic postures (p < 0.01; p < 0.01; p < 0.01; respec-
tively). The measure of mean endurance scores and standard
deviations (SD) stratified by postural subgroup are presented in
Table 2.
Secondary analysis of this data set was done to inform and
direct further research into adolescent posture and endurance
scores. Upon examination and for descriptive purposes only;
males seemed to be more likely to have hyper-kyphotic pos-
tures while females were more likely to have hyper-lordotic
postures. Counts and percentage scores for postural group ana-
lysis can be found in Table 1. Examining the effect of these
potential differences and how gender and age may play a factor
is beyond the scope of this paper.
This study provided information on the relationship between
spine posture and torso endurance in school aged children from
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 113
Table 2.
Mean (SD) scores for each isometric endurance test stratified by posture.
Endurance Time (s)
Posture BET*
(F = 5.344; p < 0.01)
(F = 2.670; p < 0.05)
(F = 3.050; p = 0.03)
(F = 1.967; p = 0.12)
Good 176.09 (68.38) 134.09 (77.75) 77.15 (42.37) 82.39 (43.17)
Lordotic 155.34 (68.74)** 122.01 (77.84) 70.64 (34.79) 72.57 (35.66)
Kyphotic 176.82 (71.18) 143.13 (84.99) 78.62 (35.38) 81.41 (36.47)
Scoliotic 178.08 (67.73) 133.47 (75.15) 76.03 (36.53) 80.73 (36.66)
Note: *Statistical significance for omnibus test held at p < 0.0125 to adjust for multiple comparisons; **Statistical signifi-
cance for each Pairwise comparisons held at p < 0.05.
7 to 14 years of age. Each of the postural clusters were well re-
presented in the sample of school aged children, with slightly
more lordotic and kyphotic postures followed by scoliotic and
good postured children (Table 1). Our hypothesis was support-
ed by the data set, in that posture did affect torso isometric
muscle endurance. The results show that there was a statistical-
ly significant decrease in back extensor endurance in those with
lordotic posture as shown by the BET test (Table 2). Moreover,
if not for adjusting the p values for multiple comparisons, the
data also showed trends for lordosis decreasing both RSB and
LSB endurance scores. Those with kyphotic posture showed
trends towards increased anterior chain torso endurance as in-
dicated by the FET (Table 2).
To our knowledge, this is the first study to establish a rela-
tionship between spine posture and isometric torso muscle en-
durance profiles in children aged 7 to 14 years. Regardless of
the limited data for direct comparison to our results, there is a
body of similar work that may provide further insights when
considering the ramifications of posture and endurance in chil-
dren. Mulhearn and George (1999) have documented that those
gymnasts with lordotic posture had poorer exercise execution
compared with ideal (normal) or sway-back (kyphotic) posture.
It was speculated that increased lumbar curvature may have af-
fected these gymnasts, which is consistent with our data set.
Supporting evidence from Coorevits et al., (2005) revealed that
lumbar curvature could be a possible factor to influence back
muscle endurance assessment, which was carefully considered
here. Lastly, the postural analysis in our studied showed that
boys are more prone toward kyphotic posture and girls to lor-
dosis (Table 1). These findings were congruent with Mulhearn
and George’s (1999) data set of gymnasts. However, this was in
contrary to Awad & Atta-Allah (2012) who documented kypho-
sis is more common in girls.
Raistenskis et al. (2012) evaluated 103 children aged be-
tween 7 to 17 and recorded significantly lower torso muscle en-
durance values compared with our data. These authors conclud-
ed that increased torso endurance has a positive influence on
posture, which is inconsistent with our results. A study by Bha-
rati and Rati (2012) showed that with an increase in postural
thoracic kyphosis, there is no significant difference in the
strength and endurance of the rectus abdominis, internal and
external obliques and transverse abdominis muscles in subjects
with and without kyphosis aged from 20 to 50. Our study show-
ed similar results, though trends suggested that there may be
some gains in anterior chain endurance. Sinaki and associates
(1996) found that those with stronger back extensors have
smaller thoracic kyphosis and larger lumbar lordosis with in-
creased sacral inclination, at least in adult women. In contrast to
this, we have observed that increased lumbar lordosis resulted
in lower torso extension endurance compared to the other pos-
tural groups, as shown in Table 2 (p < 0.05).
A number of anatomical and biomechanical factors may be
considered when examining the relationship between form and
function. Interesting findings were documented in Anwajler and
associates (2006) study; they found that force-velocity parame-
ters are balanced within thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis
groups. It remains unclear the nature of the relationship be-
tween gross anatomical posture and muscular microanatomy,
such as optimal muscle rest length conditions. These questions
will likely need to be addressed to fully understand the rela-
tionships between maturation, posture and muscular endurance,
and possible risk factors for conditions such as low back pain.
Our study has certain limitations, only associations can be
drawn from this data set, it remains unclear if posture causes
changes in endurance, or vice versa. Also, analyses of spinal
postures were obtained using a grading system rather than a
more direct measure of spinal deviation such as radiographic
measures in degrees. However, for large samples such as this,
exposure of ionizing radiation is likely unnecessary. The tech-
nique used here is also readily available and accessible in most
clinical situations or even in coaching/teaching instances. Fi-
nally, the subjects were not separated into athletic and non-ath-
letic groups and parallel testing was conducted. It is possible
that, by way of competition, some motivation factors were af-
fected. However, due to the nature of the testing and lack of
material incentives these affects would be negligible. It is also
possible that certain athletic groups may favour certain spine
postures but this was not considered in this study. The upper
limit of 300 seconds for each endurance test was set as such, as
this was found to be the limit for which subjects could maintain
correct form without the use of compensation strategies and
additional musculature (i.e. cervical extension, hamstring acti-
vation etc.). Also, safety concerns such as fatigue induced pain,
over exertion and intensive breathing would become apparent
beyond 300 seconds. Despite this being a limitation, letting
subjects go beyond 300 seconds would only further enhance
our statistical significance. The kyphotic group was comprised
of more males and older subjects, as was the lordotic group
composed of more females and younger subjects. This age and
gender relation to spine posture may influence the endurance
times, however this is the natural distribution of subjects within
these groups and the real link among these factors is unknown.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
This first attempt to examine spine posture and endurance
scores will help interpret pain mechanisms and spine function
in the future. In addition this database may give context for in-
terpreting tests results from children for both therapeutic and
performance training goals.
The financial support of the Natural Sciences and Engineer-
ing Research Council, Canada is gratefully acknowledged. The
authors wish to thank the valuable contributions made by the
Dean, the parents and all the children from the elementary
school for their help, support and participation in this study.
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