How Your Abs Are Supposed To Work
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
Our bodies are designed to be reactive. Research shows that before a healthy individual goes to pick up a heavy item their abdominals turn on before the attempt to pick the item up. That means they don’t sit there thinking squeeze your belly, their brain does it for them to the amount they need to protect themselves. Our bodies were made to be incredibly efficient and work as an entire unit. Unfortunately, we have become less active and our brain to body connection is much less efficient and effective for a large majority of the population. Their is research that has also shown that individuals with low back issues have a delay in the recruitment of their abdominals before picking up the same item as an individual without back pain. This means their brains and nervous system are not communicating effectively and the message to provide proper stabilization to your spine before picking something up does not occur.
This means we are going to rely on ligaments, spinal discs and other structures that wear out over time to pick up that item, instead of having a stable support and strong lever.
How do you know if you may be at risk for this problem?
One of the tests I do for this is: place one hand about 3 inches to the side of your belly button and press in about 1.5-2 inches (do not dig in and cause pain). With the other hand grab an object you can squeeze as hard as you can without breaking it. If your abdominals don’t immediately tighten when you do this you need to address this issue. The first thing I would look to is sit or stand tall. That means press your feet into the ground, tuck your pelvis under you (or squeeze your butt muscles), and reach the top of your head toward the ceiling looking straight ahead. Re-test. Did your abdominal recruitment and time to recruitment increase? If so, this means that the posture you prefer to hangout in is: 1). not optimal and 2). not conducive to stabilizing your spine properly. If improving your posture did not improve your abdominal recruitment or timing then there is another issue going on here. Maybe an injury already taking place in the spine that you may be aware of or not aware of or it could be due to a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this article. Regardless we need to re-set your nervous system and practice actively bracing to reconnect your brain with your abdominals.
You can find my article on BRACING here: