Truly effective abdominal work begins at the deepest of muscle layers and works its way out. No matter what abdominal routine you are doing, if you think about connecting from the inside out you will be training your core to work more efficiently.
This is particularly important for the fitness buff that, because of an unexpected back injury, has required physiotherapy to increase core strength even though he/she proudly displays 6 pack abs (is this you or someone you know?) This is also significant for anyone who is haunted by recurring pain that never seems to completely disappear.
There are four layers of abdominal muscles; from the outside in: Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Internal Obliques and finally the Transversus (please see last week’s Fit Tip “Fight For Flat” for more on the transversus and how to connect it). Each abdominal layer plays its own biomechanical role. Outer layers are mobilizers (meant to create movement) and the inner layers are stabilizers (meant to create more structural soundness).
Go even deeper and you arrive at the pelvic floor (kegel muscles). The pelvic floor works hand in hand with the transversus to create deep core activation and stability. More specifically for abdominal work, you are targeting the anterior pelvic floor: the “stop the pee” muscles; often mistaken for the posterior pelvic floor muscles: the “stop the gas” muscles. Yes, blunt. Clear images are key when targeting deep, hard to find muscle groups. Check out this great 3D tutorial for clarity.
Before doing an abdominal exercise try the following: RELAX EVERYTHING then:
- stop the pee (do it but don’t overdo it)
- sink and flatten the abs inward
- perform the exercise while at the same time trying not to loose these deeper connections
- stop and rest if you loose them and then try again
By reprogramming your body to engage your abdominal layers in a sequence that begins innermost,you are helping to ensure that each muscle layer continues to act in its rightful role. Lack of awareness and strength in the deep stabilizing muscles causes mobilizers to over work, grip and struggle to gain structural stability when that was never their role in the first place. This can often set off a chain of compensation in the body creating muscle imbalances that leave you highly susceptible to injury. The first step in attempting to resolve unexplained sources of pain (especially in fit individuals) is repatterning activation from the inside out. You will develop a stronger, flatter core. You may find sources of pain gradually disappear. You will be less susceptible to injury in the first place. An added benefit? A high likelihood of increased sexual pleasure and performance.
So in your workouts today (and always) GO DEEP. Your body will thank you.