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Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part I





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Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part II

Fri, 31 Jul 2009 18:07:00 +0000

Someone from the original group which initiated the discussion on asquatting article in that bodybuilding magazine reminded me that I alsosent in these comments about belt wearing and squats. Here it is, just incase some folk feel that the critique may be incomplete without inclusionof this aspect.ABS, TRANSVERSUS & SQUATSAn article in a popular bodybuilding magazine stated:“Inhale and suck in your stomach to activate the transverse abdominis, whichis your body’s natural weightlifting belt. If you learn to use it properly,you increase intra-abdominal pressure, which will have an unloading effecton your disks. As with any other muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it!”***This ’sucking-in of the abs’ advice to stabilise the trunk via activatingtransversus is one of the very popular urban myths based on old aerobicspractice and partial references which do not relate to strength trainingsituations. Belt wearing does not prevent you from using your abs -plenty of EMG electrical recordings show that idea to be untrue. Moreover,transversus may be activated in several other ways than just forcefulsucking in, such as forceful grunting and exhalation (see Basmajian“Muscles Alive”).There probably isn’t a Powerlifter or Weightlifter alive who would suck absin while doing serious training or competitive lifts. Similarly, evenwithout an added load and no belt, there are no athletes in other sportswho stabilise their trunks in that misguided way - for example, my Russiancolleagues have studied breathing and abdominal muscle recruitment patternsin their top gymnasts, jumpers, pole vaulters, shotputters and so forth andnobody sucks in the abs to stabilise the trunk during their events.As a matter of interest, the body quite naturally responds to forceproduction with a breath holding reflex (the Valsalva Manoeuvre)accompanied by an outward bulging of the abdominal muscles. Any deliberateattempt to pull the abs in produces a tendency towards spinal flexion,which is the last tendency that anyone wants when squatting, lifting a loadfrom the ground or pushing above the head.Outward bulging of the abdomen is a perfectly natural reflex actionassociated with large force production and trunk stabilisation - why goagainst a natural reflex and pull in when your nervous system is doing aperfectly competent job on its own by guiding you to push out?As mentioned earlier, the acts of forceful grunting and short, sharpattempts at expulsion of air from the lungs tends to strongly activate thetransversus muscle and we have all noticed how often that sort of action isindulged in by powerlifters.This ab sucking-in tale is all part of a whole belief system whichmaintains that the abdominal muscles are the most important muscles instabilising and protecting the back. Some of us in the past have had veryheated arguments about this, but the proponents of this method resolutelyrefuse to accept that it is strength of the back muscles which plays a fargreater role in protecting the backs of Weightlifters and Powerlifters.They seem to refuse the research of folk such as Basmajian (”MusclesAlive”) that it is passive bulging of the abdominal muscles, rather thanactive contraction of these muscles, which offers added pneumaticstabilisation to the already massive contribution by the erector spinaemuscles of the back. Maybe they actually believe that huge abs are betterfor trunk strength than strong backs!The article continued: “I’m not a proponent of lifting belts becausewearing one tends to cause dysfunction of your transverse abdominis, whichcan eventually lead to serious injury. A weight belt inhibits your nervoussystemís ability to fire that muscle when itís neededónot only forweightlifting activity but for normal everyday movements”***This is not supported by research. There are several ways of wearing abelt, anyway - the fairly loose wearing of a belt can enhance one’sproprioceptive awareness and act as a useful teaching tool. On the otherhand, the chronic wearing of a very tight belt for entire workouts at atime, day in, day out[...]



Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part I

Fri, 31 Jul 2009 18:07:00 +0000

“By focusing on your the transverse abdominis when you move, you canimprove your core control during exercise”, says NY City physical therapistand personal trainer Suzanne Countryman. “Plus you’ll suffer less wear andtear on your back, neck and knees”.*Comment. Activation of transversus abdominis (TA) appears to be thelatest “hot” advice for core stabilisation and training among PTs andfitness instructors. While voluntary activation of TA sometimes may beuseful in contributing to trunk stability in fairly static postures beforea dynamic multi-dimensional movement occurs, it becomes impossible andunwise to mentally involve yourself in any dynamic training or sportingtasks which activate numerous different patterns of contraction andrelaxation of many stabilising and moving muscles.Moreover, the more rapid, more forceful or more complex the activity, theless able one is able to focus on controlling the moment-to-moment actionof any given muscle. The inadvisability of doing this to TA or any othermuscle for that matter has often been fondly referred to in exercisephysiology as “paralysis by analysis.”So, while you may be able to activate TA at the start of a squat, press,jump, clean or deadlift, the moment that complex dynamic action begins, theneural programs that control the pattern of movement will set off a seriesof involuntary reflexes and motor actions over which one has little or nocontrol. In fact, deliberate attempts to activate TA often tend toactivate abdominal contraction and lumbar spinal flexion, which is the lastthing that you want during a heavy lift or complex action.It is unnecessary to try to intervene in controlling in any given singlemuscle once you are an experienced exerciser, because the correctrepetition of any exercise will ensure that your neural programs activateor relax the necessary muscle in the most effective and safest manner. Thevery reason that we practise technique is to create automatic neuralprograms that we don’t have to ever think about during an exercise orsporting action.I leave the comment about TA control helping to protect neck and knees toothers for their scrutiny.ISOLATION PHILOSOPHYThe therapeutic and fitness training worlds still seem to place a heavyemphasis on an isolationist approach to physical testing and conditioning,without carefully identifying the situational limitations and scopewhenever such as approach is used.Attempts are made to test and train muscles individually. Few days passwithout comments being made on isolating the upper or lower abdominals fortraining, selectively training the core of the body, activatingtransversus abdominis to ’stabilise the trunk’, testing for weaknesses orimbalances in certain muscle groups or explaining poor performance orinjury on the basis of imbalance in some isolated system of the body.The body constitutes a linked system and, unless the scope and limitationsof any given isolationist approach is meticulously identified, it ismisleading and unwarranted to use and extrapolate findings based onisolationist methods. If one unquestioningly applies isolationist methods,then it is being assumed that the isolated area concerned constitutes aclosed system. This implies further that this isolated system is notaffected by or does not affect what happens in adjacent or other linkedsystems, or at least that any such interaction with other systems isinsignificant.The trunk, abdominals, lower extremity, knee and so forth are not closedsystems and any action involving these subsystems influences what ishappening in all parts of the body and the body as a whole. It is vitalthat the body be regarded in terms of a systems theoretical approach,rather than one which makes very tenuous assumptions about the closednessof conveniently isolated subsystems whose apparent isolation from othersystems invariably is based entirely on convenience or convenience.Even if one attempts to apply a systems theoretical approach, it may stillbe inadequate to regard the entire body as the superordinate closed system,[...]