I want to use the acronym TAP as a way of discussing how to train and coordinate the TA. It really is a programming concept. The goal is to get the TA to become instinctive and habitual. It will know when to tighten up and be able to anticipate movement patterns that might need a more support for the low back.
Note the red line in the photo below. The TA is activated by moving the belly button inward and slightly downward at the same time, but without moving the chest. IT'S NOT SUCKING YOUR GUT IN! This makes you think of taking a breath in. When done correctly,your belly button will move in and slightly down, but without chest movement. The TA has nothing to do with breathing.
The best way to practice and TAP is to be standing and look at your chest. Tuck the belly button in trying to follow the imaginary red line. As your looking down or at the side of the mirror, make sure that the chest does not move. Another important point is not to have the curvature in the lower back be reduced. In other words, if you stand up straight with your back against the wall, place your hand between the wall and the lower back. The curvature should not change as you begin the TAP. If the curvature does reduce, then the transverse abdominus is not engaging properly.
Keep the chest from moving and have belly button tucked in as tight as you can for 5-15 sec. After relaxing, you will should feel as sense of fatigue or some kind of awareness at the mid abdominal area.
As you get better with TAPing, hold the activation longer than the 15 sec and try it in various position. It's even more challenging to try and activate the other core muscles and big breath in and out at the same time.
Remember, the TA is not attached to the chest and does not need any help from it. If the chest starts to move then you are accommodating and have to really focus on the belly button-chest movement. Look down at you chest or stand sideways in the mirror to see chest movement.
Once you gain confidence then you'll be able to activate the TA in all positions and engage your naturally intended lumbar brace. It's important to have the control so you can tighten up the belt whenever and wherever. With intentional effort on your part, the TA will start to activate on its own and provide that unconscious activation and protection.
How to TAP
TAP: Transverse Abdominus Programming
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