Bipolar versus high-density surface electromyography for evaluating risk in fatiguing frequency-dependent lifting activities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Tiwana Varrecchia
  • Alberto Ranavolo
  • Silvia Conforto
  • Alessandro Marco De Nunzio
  • Michail Arvanitidis
  • Francesco Draicchio

External organisations

  • Roma Tre University
  • Istituto Nazionale Per L'Assicurazione
  • LUNEX International University of Health


Workers often develop low back pain due to manually lifting heavy loads. Instrumental-based assessment tools are used to quantitatively assess the biomechanical risk in lifting activities. This study aims to verify the hypothesis that high-density surface electromyography (HDsEMG) allows an optimized discrimination of risk levels associated with different fatiguing lifting conditions compared to traditional bipolar sEMG. 15 participants performed three lifting tasks with a progressively increasing lifting index (LI) each lasting 15 min. Erector spinae (ES) activity was recorded using both bipolar and HDsEMG systems. The amplitude of both bipolar and HDsEMG can significantly discriminate each pair of LI. HDsEMG data could discriminate across the different LIs starting from the fourth minute of the task while bipolar sEMG could only do so towards the end. The higher discriminative power of HDsEMG data across the lifting tasks makes such methodology a valuable tool to be used to monitor fatigue while lifting and could extend the possibilities offered by currently available instrumental-based tools.

Bibliographic note

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Original languageEnglish
Article number103456
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2021


  • Bipolar and high-Density (HD) sEMG, Biomechanical risk, Fatiguing frequency-dependent lifting activities