Today we're going deep. Arguably the most important group of muscles in your body is the inner core. Like the trunk of a tree, everything branches from it's stabilizing base. Weakness or lack of connection to your deep core can cause low back pain, decreased stability, and poor balance, especially as we get older. This leads to a higher risk of falls and all that comes with it. Probably not on the radar of most of you reading, but as with all prevention, considering our future selves now makes things SO much easier down the road.
We're not talking 'beauty' 6 pack abs here. The deep core muscles are a group made up of your pelvic floor on bottom, diaphragm muscle that's your primary respirator and sits under your rib cage, transverse abs that wrap around your torso like a built-in back brace, and the multifidi that run up your spine giving support to each vertebrae. Today we'll focus on the transverse abs or TrA. This muscle, along with the glutes, is one I find most people either aren't connecting to fully if at all or don't quite get how to engage it.
Even if you're doing exercises to target the deep lower abs or TrA, if you don't feel that strong connection and stability deep below your belly button, chances are you're using other muscles to compensate. This often means you have a BLOCK. Something that's blocking the neuromuscular connection from your brain to the TrA telling it to activate as it should naturally. Often I find it's an overbearing neighbor like the inner thigh or one side of your diaphragm that's holding too much tension, but can also be an emotional/trauma experience, a scar like from a cesarean, or another seemingly unrelated muscle. It's different in every individual. For me, it was the muscles of my jaw where I've experienced previous trauma that was blocking my core connection.
The connection works like this.. Imagine not talking to someone for years, maybe decades, because you lived a lifestyle where you didn't need them much. Or maybe they're a tier 3 friend and you ignore them all day then call them up and ask them to carry you around for an hour while you run your errands, or do crossfit, or that really advanced Pilates class. They're going to give you a big thanks, but nah thanks,. go ask that other guy you talk to all day to do that for you! So it goes. We live sedentary lifestyles from a young age sitting in desks, watching TV, driving, and our connection to our most important core becomes neglected. And as in any neglected relationship, it can be a struggle to get it back to a healthy place.
Let's give it a go though and check in on your relationship with your core. Best to start lying on your back, although eventually, you want to be free to do this anytime, anywhere, any position. So lying on your back, start to use your muscles to pull your belly button towards the floor, without moving your back or your pelvis at all. This is an isometric exercise, meaning nothing moves, you're just tightening the muscle. Once you have that muscle tight you can add in a kegel, engaging the pelvic floor (more on this in future), and breathing using your diaphragm so your ribs expand as you inhale instead of your chest. Hold for about 5 seconds to start then fully relax those muscles.
If that was tough, you didn't feel it, you felt it in your back, or pain anywhere, you're likely not connecting to your TrA and you're also in excellent company. Sometimes with practice you re-establish that relationship to your very precious core. Sometimes not, which is where I come in to test you and trouble shoot why you're not. Then release those blocks, whether they're physical or emotional, and also show you how to smooth things over with your core on your own, especially when you have a big ask coming up, like those super physical tasks.
Knowledge is power. Prevention is key. Your body is unique. Get IN+FORM.
Front image by Salt Swimwear.