Consciously working your core muscles is often a challenging task for most people. Simply bracing and tightening your tummy does not activate the deep abdominal muscles rather the superficial layer. This is why it is important to know what cues work for you and how best you can monitor your core contraction during Pilates to ensure you are getting the most benefit!
The transverse abdominus or TA as it is commonly referred to, is the muscle that wraps around the abdomen like a corset and when it contracts it holds your back in a more stable position. This then provides a stable base for your limbs to work from. It is the only abdominal muscle that has the ability to stabilise, and therefore strengthen your back.
So how do you strengthen TA and what should it feel like?
Firstly it is important to learn how to correctly activate TA. The easiest way to feel your deep abdominal muscles engaging is to lie comfortably on your back. Now find your neutral pelvis position (flatten and arch your lower back to do this). Next, place your hands on the bony parts at the front of your hips, move them an inch towards your belly button and the slightly towards your toes. Now cough. Did you feel the tightening under your fingers? This is your deep transverse abdominus.
Let’s now try a more controlled contraction.
Gently drawing your tummy towards the spine and drawing the pelvic floor up, remember to keep breathing. Did you feel the tightening under your fingers? It should be subtle and not a bludging of the stomach which probably means you’re engaging your superficial abdominal muscles. The next step is to try and maintain that tightening while breathing as it is common for beginners to hold their breath as they focus on contracting the core.
Your Pilates trained physiotherapist at The Physio Clinic can then guide you through a series of exercises to help you strengthen your core using both mat and machine exercises.
For more information, call The Physio Clinic on 8342 1233 or click below to book online.
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