The most commonly mentioned muscle when talking about core stability is the transversus abdominal muscle or TVA. As the name suggests, this muscle runs across our mid-section like a corset, and is the deepest of all the abdominal muscles. The function of the TVA has been the subject of a lot of debate among researchers on lower back problems, mostly with regard to how much it contributes to spinal stability. Rather than function independently, the TVA works with other muscles and tissues to provide stiffness and stability to the back.
It is very hard to isolate the action of TVA, so rather than trying to concentrate on a specific muscle, simply learning to activate the abdominals can help maintain good core positioning during exercise. Remember that these muscles work at a lower intensity, and you shouldn’t be squeezing too hard, as this can cause the upper back to flex forwards, which is incorrect. You should be able to breathe normally when practising this. It is natural to hold the breath when lifting a heavy object, but this can cause dangerous rises in blood pressure and should not be practised. Learning to activate the abdominals should help retrain them to work more effectively, and will become automatic over time.
Pelvic positioning – neutral position
Getting the pelvis in the right position during exercise can be challenging, as it takes time to develop a good level of awareness in this area. Put simply, you are trying to avoid positions where you are arching or flexing your lower back excessively. A ‘neutral’ spine is often the word used to describe the ideal pelvic position. Pelvic rocks are a simple way to find and practise pelvic positioning.
Stand with your hands at your waist just above the pelvis.
Roll your pelvis forwards, feeling your lower back arch.
Gently roll the pelvis back, flattening your lower back. When you do this, it is really important to maintain good posture in the trunk and not to bend forwards [which will be the tendency).
The neutral spine position is midway between the two extremes of pelvic movement and is the starting point for all your exercises. It is a good idea to start your workouts with this movement until you feel practised at it.
Core training provides us with strength from within. It enables us to develop strength, speed and power (all necessary for movement) without compromising the spine and pelvis. It is necessary for us all to include core training as part of a successful training programme, so if you’re ready to get started, let’s go! Remember, they have to be done correctly to be effective.