Written by: Lori Kirwan, PhD in Exercise Physiology
What can Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree teach us about core activation and stabilization of the lower back?
Teaching clients how to activate their core can sometimes be a big challenge for trainers and fitness instructors. The reason I think it’s so difficult, is that there isn’t a lot of visible movement to doing core activation and since many of us have an easier time learning when we’re able to see a movement, we struggle with understanding this activation.
Core activation happens deep inside the abdomen and pelvic floor; it can be such a subtle manoeuvre that we can’t really see anything happen at all. For trainers and instructors to teach this activation, we rely more on how it feels, which can be really difficult to describe.
I like using the Charlie Brown Christmas tree to try and teach core activation. You see how the tree droops over? Linus takes his blanket and wraps it around the tree’s lower trunk, thus helping the tree to stand up taller and offering it more support.
We all have our own “blanket” inside of our body. The transversus abdominis muscle (TVA) is a deep muscle layer of the front and side abdominal wall. When this muscle is activated, it acts as a support belt or corset around the waist, just like the blanket around the Christmas tree!
The function of the transversus abdominis is to stabilize the lower back and pelvis, both at rest and before movement of the arms and/or legs occur. Our ability to activate, strengthen, and train this muscle, is important so we can prevent the wear and tear of the joints in our lower back and pelvis.
If you’re looking to improve your core, Lori teaches core conditioning classes at the Adelaide Club on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Fridays at 6:30am and also integrates a lot of core activation into her yoga classes on Monday (at 12:00pm) and Thursday (at 1:15pm). She also teaches a Power Pump class at the Toronto Athletic Club on Tuesdays (12:45pm) which incorporates core intervals. To learn more about how to activate, train, and strengthen your core muscles come to Lori’s classes or email me.
Lori Kirwan, PhD in Exercise Physiology
Group Exercise Instructor & Personal Trainer, Adelaide Club & Toronto Athletic Club