Abbie Normal, the other abs

Igor from the movie Young Frankenstein
Igor from the movie Young Frankenstein

In keeping with the ab theme I started the other day, I wanted to share some other insight about abs.  The six pack abs are the rectus abdominis.  There is another set, the transverse abdominis, known more familiarly as the TVA.  The TVA wraps your torso, or core, and has a huge impact on stabilization and running form.   If you routinely do crunches and still experience lower back pain  TVA weakness could be the reason.

In a study done by Paul Check some years ago he found that while studying patients and clients who performed high volume abdominal routines, about 98% of those with back pain had weak lower abdominal and transversus abdominis muscles. While those with no history of back pain were frequently able to activate the transverse abdominis.  To alleviate back pain, he suggested that clients stay completely away from any form of sit-up or crunch type exercises. When this advice was adhered to, and exercises for the lower abdominal and transversus abdominis were practiced regularly, back pain either decreased or was completely alleviated.

Transversus abdominis exercises that can be done seated include exercise include pelvic tilts and the drawing-in maneuver. These exercises are best for seniors, pregnant women or anyone who is having difficulty engaging their abdominal muscles. To do the pelvic tilt, sit up straight in a chair and place your back against the back of the seat. Your lower back should naturally curve while your hips and shoulders are flat against the chair’s back. Tilt your pelvis by tucking your hips and engaging your ab muscles. Push your lower back flat against the chair and hold for five seconds. Release and allow your lower back to curve again. Do 10 repetitions.

  1. Bracing
    Bracing refers to an isometric contraction of the TVA by contracting the muscles of the abdomen and holding them tight without movement. When bracing, imagine that you are getting ready for a punch to your belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object. The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen. To activate the TVA with bracing, you will maintain an isometric hold in this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat several times.
  2. Hollowing
    Hollowing refers to a technique to activate the TVA that occurs as you suck in and compress the abdomen. To perform this technique, contract your abdomen and pull your belly button back toward your spine to make your abdomen as small as possible. Once you’ve completed this movement, maintain an isometric hold of this compressed position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat.

So the prevailing thought is, if you have great abs from a regular crunch routine and are frequently experiencing lower back pain the other abs, Abbie Normal, may need some work.