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Old 02-15-2009, 07:38 PM   #1
Brian Lawyer
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Default Activating the Transverse Abdominis Controversy

Two schools of thought regarding the use of the Transverse Abdominis ("TA") muscle.

From the book "Core Performance" written by Mark Verstegan. The below exerpt is from pages 28 and 29. The Catalyst crowd may not be familiar with Verstegan but he is a fairly well respected coach who founded a training facility called Athletes performance which trains NFL players for the combine, and other professional athletes. Here is the exerpt from his book

"Think of the TA as nature's weight belt. It orginates from the lower spine and wraps around and attaches to the ribs, abdominals, and pelvis. When we draw the belly button in toward the spine and up toward the ribs, we're essetially tightening a belt, ensuring the protection of the pelvis and lower back. Your natural weight belt stabilizes the pelvis and supoorts the torso. Whenever movement begins, the TA is the first muscle that fires...If we can learn how to activate the TA, we can rely on nature's weight belt and not wear additional support. "

From the book "Olympic Weight Lifting" written by Greg Everett, page 30. I think everyone on this website is familiar with Mr. Everett's work. Here is his take on the use of the TA muscle.

"It's critical the athlete not "hollow", or suck in the abdominals as many have been taught to do or will believe is correct. If the abdomnals are drawn in , the ase of support is reducted in width, and this is obviously not beneficial. Such a postiion also limits potential internal pressure and consequently stability. We want the muscles activated tightly while keeping the torso as wide and deep as possible, allowing us a broad foundation to support the load. It may help athletes having difficulty with this activation to think of pushing the abs down."
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Last edited by Brian Lawyer; 02-15-2009 at 07:56 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:44 PM   #2
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Here are my experiences. I have tried both ways and I am considering going back to the drawing my belly button in and up method. For several years I would always draw my belly button in to activate my TA just before I would start a set of heavy squats or deadlifts. Then I read starting strength and Mr. Everett's book and I started just taking the enormous breaths and expanding out my stomach prior to a set of squats or deadlifts.

I believe the drawing in my belly button method seems to contribute to a more neutral spine position. In addition, I found my stomach really firmed up from doing this. The deep breath and expand abdominals method seemed to contribute to more hyperextension of my lower back. As a result, I believe I have been experiencing more tightness and soreness in my lower back from the latter method. I am considering going back to the method of drawing my my belly button to activate the TA prior to every set or rep.

What do you all think...
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:57 PM   #3
George Mounce
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The deep breath allows your abdominals to contract against the air pressure (not expand). There is no difference here. If you aren't contracting correctly that is a fault of yours, not on who is writing what.

If you want to tighten against no air you are asking for injury in the end. FWIW, I own the book, did the workouts there for 6 months before finding CF and CA and a whole bunch of stuff. I think the only chapter of worth in that book is the AIS portion.
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Old 02-15-2009, 08:06 PM   #4
Robert Callahan
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Brian do you subscribe to the Crossfit Journal? Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist crossfitter, just had a few pieces talking about this exact thing. You should check it out.

Edit: the articles in mention are titled "Midline Stabilization"
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Old 02-15-2009, 08:18 PM   #5
Brian Lawyer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Mounce View Post
The deep breath allows your abdominals to contract against the air pressure (not expand). There is no difference here.
I agree with you I don't think there is a difference here. I think the difference is drawing the abs in, or as Everett describes "hollowing", versus expanding.
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Old 02-15-2009, 08:48 PM   #6
Brian Lawyer
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Default Not trying to make this Everett Vs. Verstegan

Also, let me note I am not trying to make this an Everett said this but Verstegan said this thread. Those just happened to be the two books on the subject I have in my library. I think there are quite a few arguments for either side of the issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by George Mounce View Post
FWIW, I own the book, did the workouts there for 6 months before finding CF and CA and a whole bunch of stuff. I think the only chapter of worth in that book is the AIS portion.
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Old 02-15-2009, 10:08 PM   #7
George Mounce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Lawyer View Post
Also, let me note I am not trying to make this an Everett said this but Verstegan said this thread. Those just happened to be the two books on the subject I have in my library. I think there are quite a few arguments for either side of the issue.
Oh I know. Just saying the AIS portion is a real gem in that book. It is the part I like about it, and I do it daily.

I don't think there are sides. Verstegan is looking at all movement and posture. Greg is looking at lifting a heavy weight, and the need to take a deep breath and hold it.

You won't properly or safely secure the core of the body in any type of substantial weightlifting holding your TA the way Verstegan describes.
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Old 02-15-2009, 11:34 PM   #8
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"Hollowing" is a technique that is somewhat valid in rehabilitation, but not in any strength training of significance.

I didn't read Greg E.'s statement as "expanding" the abdominals at all. I've found that a medium-sized breath held tightly by abdominals contracted as if bracing against an incoming punch to be good for me.
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Old 02-16-2009, 09:10 AM   #9
Liam Dougherty Springer
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For what its worth I have naturally shifted from the drwn in stomach to the flat solid abs for the reason of security in my lambar and pelvic floor region...

It feels like taking a deep (not overly full) breath and then "forceing" it from my chest down into my belly with a wave of contraction. For my self my abs are much more flat when I do this than when I draw in from underneath the breath.

Also on a max lift when the pressure forces some breath out of my face (never really notice if its the mouth nose or both) it leaves an even pressure throughout my trunk in the flat ab version where as there will often be a release of pressure in the middle back in the drawn in version.

That being said I do think that I could practice drawing in a bit more as a stabilizing function for just walking standing and sitting throughout my normal day. The function of core stabalization in a anaerobic and aerobic function to me seem to be to entirely different things.... But thats another thread.
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Old 02-19-2009, 12:08 PM   #10
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Brian -

I only skimmed your first post, so based exclusively on that, I just want to comment thusly -

It sounds like you might be a little unsure of what I'm trying to communicate (which may be my fault) - In no way am I suggesting there be no TVA activation - I want EVERYTHING activated. The difference is the position we're in when those muscles are activated. We can either suck in our gut and look skinny while tightening those muscles, or we can begin from a wider base position by first expanding to allow more air intake. In other words, we're still cinching everything down - we just will never get to that hollow position because the torso is pressurized with air to a larger girth first. We are NOT pushing the abs out during a lift - only before taking in air.

This gets confusing when you read info about using belts, in which most folks will cue you to push out against the belt. I take some exception to this, because I think it's either a) confusing or b) misguided.

My opinion of belts is simply that they act as reinforcement of the torso walls to maintain the pressure we've created. If we simply push the abs against the belt, we'll be tight along the circumference where we're in contact with the belt, but not as tight above and below.

If we instead tighten the belt to just inside the circumeference our gut would be with our abovedescribed proper breath, and then take and hold that breath as usual, we'll still be getting the same pressurization and musclular stabilization we get sans belt, but with the reinforcement and sightly icreased pressure the belt allows by preventing any re-expansion under stress of the ab walls.

Hope that clears up your questions.
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