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Does Having a 6-pack Help with Core Strength? The Answer May Surprise You!

If you have been to Hemmett Health there is a 99% chance you have heard one of the providers mention posterior pelvic tilt or have told you to activate your Transversus Abdominis.

What is your Transversus Abdominis (TA)? It is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and the top of the pelvis. It functions like a corset. When TA contracts, the waist narrows slightly and the lower abdomen flattens. Who doesn’t want that?  This muscle does not give you the 6-pack look, but it is CRITICAL to core stability. Its’ function is to stabilize the low back and pelvis before movement of the arms and legs occurs.

Why is the TA important? Mid or low back pain, abdominal injury or surgery and or excessive lengthening due to pregnancy can cause a delay or absence in the anticipatory contraction of transversus abdominis. If this muscle contraction delay or absence is not corrected, this dysfunction will remain even after your pain has subsided. Therefore, it is important to learn how to activate this muscle and how to embed it in our everyday routine. We need to be sure that we are activating our TA before doing any movement to prevent back pain in the future. Your TA is no different than any other muscle in your body. First, you will need to train the muscle then you will need to strengthen it.

The first step is to learn to isolate the muscle, to train it to contract. The second step is to strengthen or teach it to co-contract with the other muscles of the core, the deep multifidus and the pelvic floor as you breathe. The final step is to co-contract the entire core and use this connection in functional activities.

You cannot strengthen a muscle your brain cannot activate. Therefore, you need exercises to help you find the muscle and activate it properly.

Lie on your back or side with your spine in a neutral posture.

  • Imagine a line that connects the inside of your two pelvic bones (front of hips). Think about connecting or drawing the muscle, along this line as if closing two book covers.
  • Contract your pelvic floor by drawing muscles from behind your pubic bone to your tail bone and the left and right sides of your pelvis floor together then like a draw string bag, gently draw the entire pelvic floor up.
  • In sidelying- gently lift your lower belly up away from your pubic bone.

Now that you have found the muscle practice properly activating it and next time you are in the office ask about strengthening exercises for your TA! At Hemmett Health, we give patient’s many different cues and exercises to find the muscle, contract and strengthen it. This could be from the lying down position, seated, standing or sitting on an exercise ball then working with our on staff Athletic Trainer to start incorporating activating your TA while picking up your child out of the crib, exercising at the gym or with any coordinated movement.

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