Are You Doing Your Abdominal Training Wrong?
By Mike Boyle
listening to a recent lecture by Mike Clark whose wisdom on
back pain is recorded elsewhere in this edition, I quickly
realized that I had fallen behind on how we train the
abdominal area of our athletes.
At his lecture Clark explains, you need to teach athletes to
use their transverse abdominus to "draw in" their abs.
The transverse abdominus had been previously regarded as a
little used, deep abdominal muscle.
It was referred to as the transversalis and was basically
ignored in Gray’s Anatomy. Now Australian researchers
have told us that the transverse abdominus and the multifidus
(another ignored muscle) were the keys to unlocking the cure
for back pain.
"OK," I wondered, "what actually is "drawing-in" and how do I
teach it to 300 athletes daily?
My answer came partly, from all places, a magazine for
pregnant women. They have been taught the concept of
"drawing-in" for much longer than those of us in the athletic
world have ever known the concept existed. Postpartum
therapists realize the importance of using and strengthening
the transverse abdominus because of its importance in the
teach the concept of "drawing-in" we began with a couple of
analogies and an exercise taken from Yoga called the Angry
Cat. In this position (See Fig. 1) the weight of the
internal organs cause the internal organs to weigh down
against the rectus abdominus.(See Fig. 2) We put our
athletes in the Angry Cat position and instruct them to
by using one of three analogies.
(1) Pull your
bellybutton through to your back.
(2) Envision trying to get through a tight area between two
at waist height.
(3) Or, for our female clients, envision trying to zip up
tightest pair of pants.
this we progress to three exercises that we simply call, Lying
Draw-In, Seated Draw-In and Standing Draw-In.
(Fig. 3) - We use an object such as two hockey pucks taped
together too visually reinforce the action of drawing-in.
is instructed to lie on the back and draw the pucks down into
the abdomen without initiating a crunching action. The
key is to learn to fire the transverse abdominus without
firing the rectus.
(Fig. 4) - Performed seated on the stability ball. Wrap
a 48" length of rope around the waist. Hold the right
end of the rope in the left hand and left end of the rope in
the right hand so that the rope is wrapped around the waist.
From this position try to "draw-in" away from the rope.
The cue here is to make yourself as tall and thin as possible.
Use the rope to reinforce the "draw-in" action.
Standing Draw-In - Perform same as seated.
Cue "tall and thin". This is the most functional
position. As you "draw-in" gently pull the rope tighter.
This will teach your athletes to understand the concept.
Try these techniques with your athletes to help them
understand a critical, but difficult concept and watch their
posture improve their back pain decrease.