How to Strengthen your Core and Prevent Lower Back Pain
Unlike the Pecs, Glutes or Triceps, the Transversus Abdominis is not a vanity muscle!
Nor is it a muscle of absolute strength.
BUT! It is one of the most important muscles that you can train, both for strength and endurance.
Quick Tip! When you “suck in your gut”, you are working the Transversus Abdominis, or TrA
The Transversus Abdominis is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles and wraps around your abdomen much like a corset. See the resemblance?
Also, much like the laces on the corset above , the fibers of the TrA run horizontally. So just like you would pull the strings to tighten the corset, when you contract the TrA, its fibers draw the stomach in and flatten it.
As we said before, the TrA is NOT a vanity muscle!
Because it lies deep to the other abdominal muscles, you cannot see it, even if you flex like you would to show off your six pack! Also, the Transversus Abdominis is a muscle of endurance, rather than a muscle of absolute strength. A perfect example is an elbow plank. After a certain amount of time, your core just gives way: that’s your TrA fatiguing and losing its ability to protect the spine.
Watch our YouTube video about flat abs here.
The TrA and Lower Back Pain (LBP)
Another way to measure the efficacy of the TrA is to note the TIMING of its recruitment. A TrA that is slow to recruit (or engage, if that makes more sense) is often the cause of LBP. In studies such as the one referenced below, the doctors were able to alleviate lower back pain in participants when they improved the timing of recruitment of the TrA. And good news!! The exercises the participants did were NOT DIFFICULT! Check them out!
But You Might be Training Wrong!
If you are an elite athlete, you are training your core (and thus your TrA) with high load, resisted and dynamic movements. This type core training is appropriate and functional for sports, and thanks to cool, inspiring videos on social media, etc., many of us have insights into what our favorite elite athletes are doing to train their cores. It's no surprise that we think copying their training will be the key to our success as well.
Please don't do this!
The demands on core musculature for functional, daily tasks are completely different than the demands required by an elite athlete’s sporting performance. While an athlete trains the core with high load, resisted and dynamic movements, the recreational mover or even amateur athlete needs to focus most on the demands on the core musculature required by everyday activities. These core exercises involve lower loads and slower movements than athletic core training, essential to targeting the small muscles of endurance that comprise the core.
Bypassing core exercises that focus on low load, slow movements may leave the deep core musculature unaddressed and under-strengthened because the body -- by default -- will use divert to bigger muscles to do the job. This does NOT improve core strength! For functional, daily task, TIMING of the smallest core stabilizers is most important.
What can you do? Try PLANKENSTEIN!
If you have 5 minutes, you too can do Plankenstein!
Check out our video here.
BUT!… And this is important… if you feel your endurance waning, then TAKE A BREAK.
It is MUCH MUCH MUCH better to do 15 seconds in each position to start, then to overdo it and hurt yourself trying to do too much, too soon!
We hope you enjoyed this mini-presentation on the Transversus Abdominis!
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