By Julian Theriault
Being a personal trainer, I’ve heard all sorts of desires and goals. No matter what the end result may be for that client, I always start the same way: Posture and Core Stability.
Now, I might not spend session upon session focused solely on posture and stability, but I will assign homework and I will implement both these things into my sessions. Why might you ask? These are the foundation for all human movement. Sure, you can become stronger with poor posture and a weak core, but you will never become even close to your strongest possible self.
The two common red flags I see in many clients is a heavy anterior tilt in the pelvis and a weak Transversal Abdominal (TVA). Having one or both of these isn’t reason to drop your workout plan and start rehab, but rather become aware and add some corrective exercises to your plan.
Because these are so closely related I always recommend being aware of both. You may not stand with an anterior tilt, but as soon as you bend to lift, or squat, your back over-arches due to a weak core, as well as weak hamstrings and glutes. That’s right, work that booty.
Correcting Anterior Tilt
So let’s take a look at the first of two common deviations, the Anterior Tilt.
Image Credit: Gray Chiropractic
The middle image is a fantastic example of proper posture. As humans we’ve deviated away from this neutral posture. Sitting extended periods of time at a desk or in a car causes us to fall into a Posterior Tilt and standing with your backsides poked out, leaning on one hip and overuse of your frontal chain muscles is the cause for Anterior Tilt.
The most common postural position for both men and female is the Anterior Tilt, by a long shot. If this is you, fear not, it was also me and is most of my clients. Yes, there is hope! In fact, let’s start right now.
Wherever you may be reading this, I want you to stand. Take your hands, and find your hip. Put your index fingers on the top of your hip bone pointing forward. Now, I want you to think of that hip bone as the top of a bucket. Moving only your hips, can you, pour the bucket on your toes? Can you pour the bucket on your heels? When you are moving through these positions, do you feel a pull on any of the muscles surrounding your hips, thighs or bottom?
Some main causes for this tilt are weak hamstring and gluteus muscles, and tight lower back muscles. Also, a big factor is simply being aware.
Takeaway: Become familiar with what Neutral Spine Posture is. This is where you should be when you stand, sit, press, pull, squat, and bend-and-lift. In pretty much any and all movement, you should be in a neutral spine position. Strengthen your hamstrings and your glutes, and stretch your lower back.
Strengthening Transversal Abdominal Muscles
Now, let’s talk about Transversal Abdominal (TVA). If you’re like most clients you’re probably asking, “What exactly is your TVA”?
Image Credit: The Balanced Life
Your TVA is the inner-most core muscle. Under your obliques and your six-pack and unseen by the eye is the TVA. There are several reasons this may be weak. When you’re too mentally focused on working your “show muscles”, you fail to activate them when training. Tightening only your big core muscles when training leaves the small guys turned off.
So why is it so important? Much like your rotator cuff in your shoulder, your TVA braces your core completely around the midsection and protects your spine as well as other bones and joints. You’ve seen the lifters wearing belts while lifting heavy weight. In most cases, it’s a smart precaution—especially if you’re doing many reps at an excess of weight (usually when exceeding that 300lb mark). Much like the belt holds everything in place, your TVA does the same.
In many cases, people can go their entire life without learning and grasping the full potential of their inner core. This would be the main reason that people suffer from back pain. Also if you want to perform and do your best in a physical sense, your inner core is a tool that can push you into another league.
Let’s use an example before moving forward. If I asked you to do 50 air squats right now (GO!), you’d eventually get tired. As you got tired, your form would begin to go—and it would start crumbling at the core. You’d lose that Neutral spine position I talked about earlier.
Don’t believe me? Try this: Tighten your core! As tight as you can! You’re probably in Neutral spine, good for you! HOLD IT! Now, take three deep breaths! Deep into your lungs. As you exhale, are you as tight in the midsection as you were before you took those breaths? No! Probably not.
This is why the TVA and inner core are so important. As you become fatigued you will lose the tight contraction in your core, until the point of it completely shutting off. The TVA however, doesn’t take much to keep tight.
Lastly, tapping into your TVA will cause you to remain in Neutral spine more easily. Not only is this important for everyday posture, but it’s even more important for someone who wants to develop exponential strength and power. Your lifts, presses and squats will never reach potential without a full-functioning core and stable neutral spine.
- Be aware of your breathing and contraction of inner core.
- Practice bodyweight movements that steadily increase your breathing and intensity.
- While doing this, focus on how your core is functioning and if it’s keeping you in a neutral position. You want to be able to breathe while your core is holding a stable position.