Can the strength of back muscles actually be measured?

Yes, but no exact values are considered “normal” by age, weight, gender, or range of motion. Instead, a range of values is used, given as ratios.

Some research has provided strength ratios for men compared to women. Researchers using a computer-based device called a dynamometer show that women can exert about 50 percent of their body weight. This force is about 65 to 75 percent in men. All the people in the study had a history of back pain.

More studies of maximum strength are needed both on “normals” (people without back problems) and those with a history of chronic back pain.

Zeevir Dvir, PhD, and Jennifer L. Keating. Trunk Extension Effort in Patients with Chronic Low Back Dysfunction. In Spine. April 1, 2003. Vol. 28. No. 7. Pp. 685-692.

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