Real Core Stability…

This is getting ridiculous! Can I please go one day without hearing another so called fitness expert or Pilates person or whoever talk about “drawing your navel towards your spine” during exercise to protect the spine.

Based on an Australian study in 1996 where they found that the firing of the transverse abdominus (TVA) was delayed slightly in the people in the study who were suffering from low back pain. Their advice was to draw the navel back towards the spine (which does engage the TVA) and hope that over time this “drawing in” would become automatic.

I am not aware of any study that shows that drawing in on the navel has ever or could ever become automatic. Additionally, others have drawn the same conclusion before me. Shirley Sahrmann has stated, “I don’t know of a study that shows that drawing in becomes a subconscious reflex”, Sahrmann is a professor of physical therapy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and is author of “Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes”, arguably one of the best references for everything related to joint disfunction. I have personally learned more from this book than any other relating to muscle length/tension relationships and their effect on joint function and disfunction.

A name that if you’re not already familiar with, you will be before too long is Dr. Stuart McGill. Dr. McGill is the foremost back specialist in the world. His research into the mechanics of the spine is shedding new light on the causes of disc injury and prevention.

Dr. McGill states clearly that although the TVA is definitely important in core stabilization, it is just one muscle, and all of the muscles that act upon the core are involved in stabilization. Dr. McGill says if you want to see an easy example of how just pulling in your navel reduces your core strength, sit in a chair and try to stand up by just pulling in your navel versus “bracing” your whole abdominal wall.

“Bracing” is the new key word. You’ll see it popping up everywhere and I think we’ve finally got it right with this one. Of course it was instinctively done thousands of years ago by anybody who was straining to lift a heavy object. Dr. McGill explains that to “brace” your abdominal wall, pretend you’re about to get punched in the abdominals and do what comes naturally. A contraction of all the abdominal muscles as well as the musculature that surrounds the spine at the back occurs when you brace.

Another example is consider what you would do if you had to lift a very heavy object in a hurried fashion. Lets say a heavy object fell on someone and you were going to try to lift it off. You would bend down, with knees and hips, and take a very deep breath and drive the pressure down into your stomach by “bracing” all your abdominals. Then you would try to lift the object.

You may have heard of the “Valsalva Maneuver” named after the 17th century physician Antonio Maria Valsalva is taking a deep breath and forcibly exhaling against a closed glottis. This causes an increase in intra-abdominal pressure by the contraction of the core musculature.

So please folks, even if your Pilates instructor says to draw in your navel when you’re exercising, just brace your core by tensing all of the muscles in your abdominal region.

It could save your discs!

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