by Joni Hyde, The Workout Barre
One of the most frustrating challenges that we experience as women is a waistline that expands as we age. Even women at their perfect weight can deal with this same struggle. In spite of an abundance of cardiovascular exercise and crunches into the 100’s, without focused core engagement, most women will experience an expanding waistline as an unavoidable part of getting older.
Ready for the good news? You can shrink your waistline! Not only that, but the same exercises that cinch your waistline will also strengthen your entire midsection providing you with a strong back and the power to deal with other forces placed on your body during exercise and during routine daily activities.
Understand, if we are overweight, the extra pounds will be distributed throughout the entire body, including the waist area. Therefore, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a part of the solution.
But a larger part of the equations is strengthening your core. The first step is to recognize what it feels like to engage your core. Deep inside you, there is a muscle called the Transverse Abdominis (The TA). It’s your body’s natural corset! Picture this muscle encircling your torso 360 degrees supporting your spine and pelvis. This muscle is virtually ignored in the majority of exercise programs, when in reality it should be the central focus of exercise, since without a strong core, the entire chain of our body will eventually break down.
Just like a girdle that is tied up very loosely or a back brace worn slack, The TA becomes saggy, rendering it ineffective at it’s main responsibility of being the snug natural corset providing support around our midriff, shrinking the waistline and protecting the back.
Steps to a Smaller Waistline and Stronger Back and Core
In order to successfully strengthen The TA you must first make that neuromuscular connection from your brain down to your muscles, also known as the mind-body connection. In more basic terms this means you must be able to activate that muscle and know that you have it engaged, while consciously thinking about it as you hold the muscle contraction. The goal is to get to the point that your brain instinctively sends the message through neuropathways telling the core to tighten up.
Make the Connection With Your Core
Stand comfortably and relax all the muscles in your body. Imagine that you have a corset around your torso and that you are slowly tying it tighter and tighter, pulling your waist in from the sides. As you perform this action, your torso will draw in 360 degrees and you will feel some light pressure in your lower back. Without holding your breath, hold that contraction for 5 seconds, then release and relax for for 5 seconds. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions of this.
TIP- If you only feel pressure in your abdomen, then you are most likely just drawing in your stomach. Concentrating on drawing in from the sides of your waist is most effective at creating that 360 contraction of The TA.
Now that you have made that connection, here are two moves to practice daily.
This exercise is the expression of static spine stabilization.
To perform this move, come down onto your knees and forearms.
First start by finding neutral pelvis by slightly tensing up the glute muscles. You will feel a slight forward rotation of your pelvis inward toward your torso.
Next, lock your ribs and pelvis together creating a brace between the upper and lower body.
Hold this position and while taking small sips of air. When you get tired, come down to your knees while still holding the braced position. Work up to being able to hold The Plank for 2 minutes a day.
Hollow Body Roll
Similar to The Plank, this exercise is a static position.
To set up, lie flat with knees bent, lifting them up into tabletop position. Tuck your chin and bring your head up off the ground making sure your lower back is still on the floor. Extend both arms forward away from the body.
Key point – don’t bring shoulders up too high – this is not a crunch.
Basic position: Once you are comfortable with your back flat on the floor, extend legs away from the body, stopping before the lower back comes off the floor – gradually extending the legs straight.
If you need more of a challenge, keep legs straight and lower back on the floor while gradually lowering your legs toward the floor.
If you need less, keep the legs higher up off the floor.
Hold this position and take small sips of air. When you get tired, bend your knees and lower your feet to the floor and relax your head on the floor. Work up to being able to hold The Hollow Body Roll for 1 to 2 minutes a day.
Joni Hyde has been helping women get and stay fit for over 30 years. She has written two fitness training manuals, produced one workout DVD, and she is the studio owner of The Workout Barre in Spring, Texas. Find her at www.linkedin.com/in/jonihyde or www.theworkoutbarre.com