I know....this sounds like one of those "lose 5 lbs in 5 minutes" ads you see on the internet with a banana on it. (And why the banana? That's weird...)
Seriously, adding this one move to your daily routine can alleviate back pain AND shave inches off your stomach at the same time.
And nope, we're not talking about crunches. Hoorah!
I like to call it "the transverse draw."
First, let's talk about the muscles involved.
In your core, there are 4 sets of muscles:
- Rectus abdominus (the six-pack muscles that get overworked in crunches)
- Internal obliques
- External obliques (both responsible for rotation of the trunk)
- Transversus abdominus (the 'corset' muscle that wraps around the entire torso, from the front to the back, also known as TVA)
The transverse is the most overlooked, yet most important, muscle in the core. It 'sucks in' the core, and you can feel it contract when you sneeze, cough, and also when you're trying to suck in to button those tight jeans.
These muscles wrap from the front of your torso with strong
connective tissue, all the way around to your
back where they connect directly to your spine.
It's this connection that creates stability in your lower back. When the TVA is strong, you have a strong 'corset' holding your spine in perfect alignment, and your spinal disks have room to breathe!
Unfortunately, our posture tends to create a slack transverse core, creating back pain right along with it.
Maybe you've heard someone say they 'threw out their back' just by sneezing. Sounds crazy right? It's more common than you might think, and it's caused by a week transversus abdominus.
If your TVA is weak, the force of a sneeze can be enough to overwork your (weak) TVA and pull directly on the nerves and discs of your spine. Voila, a pulled or herniated disk. From sneezing.
And the best part about this exercise? Besides the fact that you can do it anywhere - standing, sitting, laying down - it can literally whittle inches off your stomach.
By tightening the corset muscles of your core, you're cinching your waist every time you work them. Eventually, the muscles get so toned that your waist is naturally smaller! Now that's a nice little side effect, huh?
So now that you really want to know how to strengthen these muscles, it's super simple:
- With your hands wrapped around your belly (really wrap them!) take a deep breath in
- Purse your lips and exhale fully through your mouth, like you were blowing out a candle across the room.
- Blow all the air out and at the bottom of the exhale, you'll feel your core muscles engage, even around to your back.
- Repeat the exhales 20-40 times, focusing more on a forceful exhale and letting the inhale come in naturally.
- You should feel your transverse abdominals contract every single time you exhale. Think about blowing out the candle across the room.
- Repeat this exercise 3-4 times (20-40 reps per set), or as often as you'd like during the day. You can also just pull the TVA in without coordinating the breath, in case you want to do it on the subway without strange stares...
Give it a try, and leave a comment below to let us know how it feels, and when you see results!