External perturbations during pushing tasks have been suggested to be a risk factor for low-back symptoms. An experiment was designed to investigate whether self-induced and externally induced sudden stops while pushing a high inertia cart influence trunk motions, and how flexor and extensor muscles counteract these perturbations. Twelve healthy male participants pushed a 200 kg cart at shoulder height and hip height. Pushing while walking was compared to situations in which participants had to stop the cart suddenly (self-induced stop) or in which the wheels of the cart were unexpectedly blocked (externally induced stop). For the perturbed conditions, the peak values and the maximum changes from the reference condition (pushing while walking) of the external moment at L5/S1, trunk inclination and electromyographic amplitudes of trunk muscles were determined. In the self-induced stop, a voluntary trunk extension occurred. Initial responses in both stops consisted of flexor and extensor muscle cocontraction. In self-induced stops this was followed by sustained extensor activity. In the externally induced stops, an external extension moment caused a decrease in trunk inclination. The opposite directions of the internal moment and trunk motion in the externally induced stop while pushing at shoulder height may indicate insufficient active control of trunk posture. Consequently, sudden blocking of the wheels in pushing at shoulder height may put the low back at risk of mechanical injury. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.