We often hear about the importance of our core, but do you know how to activate your TA and Glutes?
From a running performance and injury prevention perspective it's possible to write a PhD thesis (I am sure somebody has!) on the relationship between the muscles of core stability and the lower body. In my opinion, the muscle groups that should be the focus of attention are:
Transversus abdominous (or TA):
Arguably the most important of the ‘core' muscles. The TA runs across the ‘belt line' and provides a corset of support to the lower back. It supports the weight of the contents of our abdomen and works in synch with the pelvic floor. In a perfect world, this muscle would remain active through every stride of every run that you go on. But can you turn your TA on?
Try this basic TA activation exercise:
- Lie on your back knees bent with your chin tucked towards your throat shoulders drawing back and down and a comfortable curve in your lower back.
- Place one hand on your abdomen just below your ribs and the other below your belly button level with your belt line. Take a deep breathe in breathe out and draw in through your pelvic floor muscles as if trying to stop yourself going to the toilet. You should feel a flat band of muscle contract under your bottom hand and ideally, your upper abs should stay soft under your top hand. Bear in mind that the coordinated contraction of your TA muscles is difficult to achieve so don't be discouraged if this takes several attempts to get this right!
Gluteus medius (Glut Med):
This muscle lies in the middle of the three layers of bottom muscles. Glut Med is very important for runners as it helps to keep the pelvis level when taking weight through one leg. It is working hardest at the moment just before your foot leaves the ground (this is called toe off) and when your foot touches the ground (this is called heel strike).
Try this basic glut med strengthening exercise:
- Lie on your side with your back straight head supported on a pillow and knees bent up to about 60 degrees. Try and keep your heels touching together.
- Place a hand on the bony part of the hip of your top leg and roll into the muscle adjacent to it. This is your Glut Med.
- Now try lifting your top knee away from your bottom knee- you should feel glut med tighten up underneath your fingertips. This exercise is called a ‘clam' it's the classic Jane Fonda bum exercise.
Written by Anthony Moore, physiotherapist and pilates instructor