Subscribe: Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part I
Preview: Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part I

Transversus Abdominus And Core Training Part I

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The Reality of Core Stability

Fri, 31 Jul 2009 18:13:00 +0000

Okay, I’ve heard this claim many times (stabilisation originates from the
“centre.”. Do you have anything to prove this? From a biomechanical point of
view, all movement and stabilization occurs from the ground up

This is a claim that far too many people take for granted. Courses on
"Core Stabilisation" are offered by numerous fitness gurus, physical
therapists and fitness organisations, but few people dare to make heretical
remarks that question the 'Core is All Important' philosophy. If one has
back problems, poor technique in sport, lack of flexibility and so on, 'blame
it on deficiencies in core stability' is the cry.

An article that I wrote for several other Internet discussion groups is
relevant in this regard.


Today, in the fitness and therapeutic world, one of the latest buzz terms
is “core stability” and courses are cropping up everywhere to teach this
amazing new discovery in the world of motor control. The implications are
that an athlete or normal human is somehow seriously deficient if core
stability exercises are not being done in some or other discrete, isolated

The belief here, of course, is that isolated core stabilising exercises
necessarily improve balance and postural control. They do not, since most
stabilisation and movement in sports where the hands and feet are in
contact with a surface also depends very strongly on PERIPHERAL contact
with the given surface (some exceptions are diving, airborne gymnastic and
skating manoeuvres, and trampolining.) If this contact is inefficient or
unstable, then no amount of core stabilisation is going to overcome any
deficiency in peripheral stability.

Some simple examples - imagine what would happen to a gymnast or trapeze
artist with poor ankle strength and stability or a huge weightlifter with
great core stability but deficiencies in grip or ankle strength and
stability? One could list a thousand similar examples.

This concept of a separate motor quality called “core stability” leads to
the very faulty belief that core stability is more important and more
central to overall stability than peripheral stability. The fact is that
the body is a linked system of many interacting components, and current
“core stabilisation” dogma happens to be yet another example of
isolationist training. To borrow a somewhat cliched term from the
vocabulary of the late South African Prime Minister, General Jan Smuts (who
coined the word “holism”), it would be far better to talk about “holistic”
stability training. An emphasis on “core stability” is a step towards
general instability, unless it is matched by peripheral stabilisation.

Once upon a time we had kinaesthetic or proprioceptive training or even
motor skill training - now we have “core stability” training, which is by
no means an suitable modern substitute for what used to be offered.
Possibly it is time for the whole “core stabilisation” industry needs to
carefully re-examine itself and take a step back to its more solid older
roots. “Core stabilisation” may be a new term, but it offers little or
nothing new to fitness, therapy or sports training that was not covered
perfectly well a long time ago.
Dr Mel Siff
Author of Supertraining + Facts and Fallacies of Fitness

TVA and Drawing In Your Abdominals while Squatting

Fri, 31 Jul 2009 18:13:00 +0000

This is the original question posed to me which prompted this article;
I am a novice powerlifter and I train and compete raw (no wraps, no suits,
no belt) and I was wondering what I should be doing with my abs during the
squat. Should I be sucking them in, or pushing them out, or something else
altogether? Does the same apply to the deadlift and bench? Note that, I hold
my breath throughout most of the lift(s). I begin to exhale after the
sticking point. Will this have any bearing on how I should use my abs? >>

*** What you appear to have been doing intuitively is most appropriate.
Breath holding is a reflex action meant to stabilise the body or to enable it
to produce maximal force or power under heavily loaded or suddenly imposed

There have been numerous claims that sucking in the abs or deliberately
trying to activate the transversus abdominis (TA) muscle is the best way of
stabilising the trunk during all activities. While one can voluntarily
control muscles during the initial phases of an exercise or during very slow
manoeuvres, it is not possible to do so under dynamic conditions, such as
encountered in the later stages of lifting or in any complex sporting
actions. In fact, any attempts to do so may profoundly disrupt your movement
patterns, as has been pointed out for many years in the form of this aphorism:
‘paralysis by analysis’.

Another anatomical principle should be remembered in this regard, namely “The
body knows of movements not muscles”, so that any attempt to deliberately
alter patterns of muscle activation during dynamic movement in a person who
is not exhibiting any neuromuscular pathology may instill faulty patterns,
timings and rates of muscle synergism.

Note that all or most advice on ab ’sucking in’ and TA recruitment has been
extrapolated from the world of ‘average’ folk and not elite athletes, least
of all any type of competitive lifter, few or none of whom would ever
consider sucking in abs or trying to activate TA during the dynamic or
explosive phases of the lifts, because these unproven actions could cause
spinal injury.
Dr Mel Siff
Author of Supertraining + Facts and Fallacies of Fitness