Move Over 6 Pack
Allison Kares, NCPT
THE MOST SUPERFICIAL ABDOMINAL MUSCLE, the rectus abdominus (RA), is commonly known as the six pack, due to it's appearance. Although nice to look at, your overdeveloped six pack can be part of the problem if you have ongoing back pain or restrictions in movement.
The RA is categorized as a part of the superficial myofascial system which create general stabilization and movement. Its action is usually compressive and non-specific. In contrast, the transversus abdominus is a part of the deep myofascial system and can provide joint stabilization when functioning optimally. These two systems should work together to provide balanced and controlled movement with just the right amount of effort to meet the task. When exercising, targeting the superficial muscles can result in them becoming chronically overactive and increasingly resistant to letting go. Research shows that people with chronic lower back pain struggle with the ability to turn off or relax the more superficial muscles. This leads to inhibition of the deep stabilizing muscles. Often, individuals who experience pain or chronic tightness with simple activities like sitting, standing or walking are using more effort than required from the superficial muscles that results in tension, over tightness and too much tone.
Stability is the body's ability to use the right amount of effort for the task at hand. The body displays efficient control of posture and movement without bracing or rigidity. Stabilization is a complex interaction between your muscular system, your nervous system and your skeletal system. It requires balancing intra-abdominal pressure to insure your body can resist compressive forces and protect your joints.
An exercise program to address stability will include whole body movements that incorporates balanced activation of both the deep and superficial core muscles. This type of work requires attention on breath which is key in regulating intra-abdominal pressure. Exercises should include focus, concentration and control through precise movement patterns and flowing movement that can stimulate the deep myofascial system and improve its ability to segmentally control the individual levels of the spine.
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure." - Joseph Pilates