The effects of release height on center of pressure and trunk muscle response following sudden release of stoop lifting tasks

Hung Kay Daniel CHOW, Aldous C. S. CHENG, Andrew D. HOLMES, John H. EVANS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objectives: Sudden release of load during lifting threatens postural stability and is countered by trunk muscle response, which can generate high loads on the spine, and may be a cause of tissue injury. The postural threat following sudden release and the consequent muscular response are likely to depend on the posture at the time of release. This study investigates the effects of sudden release of load at two release heights of one- and three-quarters of the knee to shoulder distance during stoop lifting. 

Methods: Ten normal southern Chinese male volunteers were subject to sudden release of 20, 40, 60 and 80N loads during stoop lifting trials. The release was randomly selected to be on the third, fourth or fifth cycle of a trial and was triggered at heights of one- and three-quarters of the total knee to shoulder lifting distance. The subjects stood on a force platform to allow the postural disturbance to be recorded by monitoring the center of pressure (COP), and electromyographic (EMG) data were collected from the rectus abdominus, internal oblique, external oblique, erector spinae and latissimus dorsi muscle groups. 

Results: The COP excursion moved closer to the posterior limit of stability with increasing release load, and this effect was significantly more marked for release from the lower of the two heights. The minimum posterior COP separation from the posterior limit of stability was significantly less for the lower release height at all loads (p<0.001 in all cases). EMG data showed that the agonist-antagonist co-contraction durations were higher for the lower release height, and unlike sudden release from the higher level, showed a significant increase with increasing load. 

Conclusions: Sudden release at lower release height during stoop lifting results in significantly greater postural disturbance and spinal loading. The mean load predicted to result in fall or stumble at the lower release height (133N) is significantly less than that predicted at the higher of the two release heights (245N). A more marked effect of release load is also seen in the postural disturbance and trunk muscle co-contraction time for the lower release height, and particular care should therefore be taken when handling potentially unstable loads under these conditions. If the security of the load cannot be guaranteed, storage at a higher level may reduce the risk of injury due to sudden release of the load. Copyright © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-619
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003



Chow, D. H. K., Cheng, A. C. S., Holmes, A. D., & Evans, J. H. (2003). The effects of release height on center of pressure and trunk muscle response following sudden release of stoop lifting tasks. Applied Ergonomics, 34(6), 611-619. doi: 10.1016/S0003-6870(03)00056-5


  • Stooped lifting
  • Sudden release
  • Release load
  • EMG
  • Center of pressure
  • Posture control