The muscle responsible for this drawing-in movement is the transversus abdominis, or the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles. It surrounds your midsection like a girdle and helps to stabilize and protect your lower spine. Abdominal hollowing is a type of isometric exercise that activates the transversus abdominis and can be performed in various positions -- sitting, standing and on all fours. Locating the Muscle Abdominal-hollowing exercises help you to activate and control the transversus abdominis, building your core strength. Since the muscle is buried in your body, locating it before you start the exercises is helpful. Stand with your spine in a neutral position.
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The debate is on whether there is a controversy here between drawing in the navel to stabilize the spine, or abdominal hollowing, versus to brace, this abdominal bracing. When you contract that, it sucks the belly button in towards the spine.
So, which is of value in order to stabilize the spine? And the debate is really coming because there are people that have a tendency, and these are professionals in the field that do this as well, they have a tendency to pick one and then they downplay the validity and the value of the other, even though they both have plenty of research behind them to show value. So this is things like systematic reviews, these are meta-analysis, this is taking all or many of the research that is out there on a particular topic, put it together in a large study to find out what content is there and see if it creates a better whole picture understanding of what certain things do.
So, with that being said, there is a lot of research on each one of these topics. So, what I want to do is discuss it and get into the idea of where these things started and really a part of it started with Bergmark, who in , identified the lumbo-pelvic-hip Complex and divided it into two systems, like a local system where those are the intrinsic stabilizers of the spine, and a global system, which are the larger movement muscles of the spine that also cross the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
And these muscles influence everything that we do because the LPHC, the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, the core, is the center of the body so anytime we push with the arm, then it has to anchor itself onto our axial skeleton with muscles and the axial skeleton has to stay strong in order for us to push, pull, rotate, and stabilize things we are grasping. So, same thing goes with our legs. So, a very long time, you started getting people across the boards in fitness and in Pilates and modalities that were really important in helping with spinal stabilization.
Cueing over and over again, draw the navel in, belly button in, belly button towards the spine. So, whatever their language was, in order to use it, people are trying to get people to suck their belly buttons in towards their spine, activating their transverse abdominis, and creating this intra-abdominal pressure through the drawing in maneuver. And it showed that there was a delay in transverse abdominis activation for people that experienced chronic low back pain. So, people with chronic low back pain, when they would have them do a movement, muscles would activate and then it would be a delayed activation of the transverse abdominis.
This was a very important thing to notice. So, they started pushing this concept and the industry started picking up on the concept that spinal stabilization and lower back pain, was linked with the transverse abdominis.
Is the lower back pain in existence because there was a delayed reaction in the transverse abdominis, or is there a delay in the transverse abdominis because their back hurts? So, they would say draw in your navel, and that would then create this spinal support before people would start to do movement and exercise. But, a study in came out and said that these patterns are exhibited in multiple different muscle types, not just the transverse abdominis.
I believe so. Lower back pain? Yes, we believe so. But, what does the literature then continue to say about the drawing in maneuver? So, the stabilization of the spine is incredibly important. But, Stu McGill downplays the value of drawing in the belly button, or abdominal hollowing solely. So, just solely abdominal hollowing.
And abdominal hollowing has shown to increase local spinal stabilizer strength. Abdominal hollowing was found superior to abdominal bracing for increasing lumbo-pelvic-hip stability and leg stiffness in hopping tasks, so single leg dynamic activity. Though it does seem that maintaining a neutral spine and costo-diaphragmatic breathing, that is chest and belly breathing, is important for the optimization of abdominal hollowing when it comes to stabilization of the spine.
Also, when it comes to breathing, doing just belly breathing, or just chest breathing, is not as advantageous when it comes to stabilizing the spine, as it is if you use both. You breathe as a unit, not just pick your chest or pick your belly, in order to breathe from, which, I believe is probably a better outcome when it comes to breathing anyway, using the entire abdominal thorax region to support breathing. Then we find research that supports that doing that while abdominal hollowing helps to support the spine.
And the full expiration, if you just breathe everything out, showed significant increase in external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis activation, when compared to both abdominal hollowing and abdominal bracing.
So again, this is the research. But, the debate is not over because there are researchers that note that abdominal bracing is a more effective technique to activate the deep core musculature.
And the bracing is better, can be better, for certain things, because the global muscles are starting to work and to help stabilize the spine. So, we want to be conscience of what the information says and in how we start to apply it.
That sounds valuable. Research out there supports it. But, why only draw in when you could support the spine from multiple different ways, create intra-abdominal pressure, and have the transverse abdominis be a supporting role in that as well?
He believes abdominal bracing and engaging the transverse abdominis is highly indicated for that. And, I like that. As a matter of fact, there is no change in the size of the abdominal muscles. And his ultimate goal, when it comes to protecting the spine, is creating stiffness around the spine. Well, I agree. I think this is really wonderful information. So, what do we do? What do we do? So, practicing drawing in is valuable, and practicing abdominal bracing is valuable. So, adding stabilization, and adding in the drawing in maneuver, or the abdominal hollowing to support your spine, is vitally important to know how to do both of them.
So, when you draw in the navel, then you are also getting a very strong activation of your internal obliques, that is going to work concurrently with each other through the thoracolumbar fascia aponeurosis to stabilize the spine and the SI joint, which we also have support from drawing in maneuver, and bracing, to support the SI joint.
So, doing these particular exercises, drawing in and abdominal bracing, are both valuable. I think you should practice both. But, might there be a time where, through trying to get the best out of learning how to control the foot, that we preferentially activate the posterior tibialis, in order to create more support at the foot and the ankle?
In that, the answer is going to be yes, of course. We can put our foot into plantar flexion and then we can create inversion and do plantar flexed inversion exercises in order to strengthen the posterior tibialis.
And that can then help to support my foot and ankle complex, as I go through ambulation and movement while going through plantar flexion. And the same thing, or similar thing, would happen at the core. Sometimes you have to focus on pieces and not the whole. So, incorporating abdominal hollowing into your training, drawing in the belly button to help support the spine, those local muscles vitally important, they should be practiced.
Doing abdominal bracing to support the spine, especially as you start to do heavier lifting. It is a natural component, where you start to lift heavier, you start to increase the bracing and the intra-abdominal pressure.
We want that stability. Fortunately we have internal and external obliques on both the sides, the flanks of our body, that creates spinal stabilization. Why just pick drawing in when I know that we can do other things that support our spine? We are also looking at rectus abdominis, can be a component that helps to support our spine the way that our thorax and our pelvis stabilize. But it is that drawing in maneuver that does work all the smaller muscles in the lumbar spine. Alright, I hope this helped and basically what I said is, both abdominal hollowing and abdominal bracing work and do them both.
Why is there a debate? This is an integrated training model and you find information that works and is of value, just start integrating it into your system.
Alright, thank you so much for listening.
Abdominal Hollowing Exercises
Share on Facebook Many muscles work together to create a stable core, which supports your spine and improves balance and gait. Abdominal hollowing is a technique that is used to stabilize your core. In a sense, abdominal hollowing tightens the corset around your waist. Hollow Your Abdominals To hollow your abdominal muscles, contract your pelvic floor, pulling it up. Then pull your belly button in toward your spine.
How Are We Still Getting It Wrong: Abdominal Hollowing vs. Bracing
The debate is on whether there is a controversy here between drawing in the navel to stabilize the spine, or abdominal hollowing, versus to brace, this abdominal bracing. When you contract that, it sucks the belly button in towards the spine. So, which is of value in order to stabilize the spine? And the debate is really coming because there are people that have a tendency, and these are professionals in the field that do this as well, they have a tendency to pick one and then they downplay the validity and the value of the other, even though they both have plenty of research behind them to show value. So this is things like systematic reviews, these are meta-analysis, this is taking all or many of the research that is out there on a particular topic, put it together in a large study to find out what content is there and see if it creates a better whole picture understanding of what certain things do.
Touted as a way to improve your core stability this technique, known as abdominal hollowing , has been a universally accepted, go-to exercise for physical therapists PTs and fitness coaches for the last decade. In fact, following any sort of low back injury, abdominal hollowing is usually the number one exercise physical therapists teach clients during rehabilitation. The therapists themselves are taught the technique in school, and it has been long accepted as the standard exercise for spinal stability. But let me ask you something: just because something has always been done a certain way, does that make it the best way? Some exercises become universal, but not because they are great, or even effective. People fall into a trap of teaching and doing what was taught to them.
The transverse abdominus is a muscle deep in the abdomen that holds in the abdominal contents and supports the trunk. To isolate the transverse abdominus, perform abdominal hollowing in a variety of body positions. All Fours The abdominal hollowing exercise is meant to hollow your stomach by pulling your abs in. Instead of the abdomen rounding out for those people whose stomachs are not completely flat, the stomach will cave inwards when the transverse abdominus contracts. To ensure that your stomach is in fact hollowing, perform the all fours exercise sideways to a mirror that reaches the floor.