Essentrics always start with gentle spine stretches to loosen the joints and muscles in the back. My earlier blog (Sept 12, 2015) explored how that could help the brain to better register our movements. In other words, those spine stretches facilitate brain-body connection. Yet by loosening the back, these spinal movements also help to tone our abdominal muscles more effectively.
Many people focus on their “six packs” or the rectus abdomimis. But our abdominals also include the obliques as well as the transversus abdomimis. The transversus abdominis is the deepest core muscle that is very large and wraps around our body like a corset, starting from the fascia (connective tissues) in the lower back and inserts in front, below the rib cage. If we are sedentary or regularly lift heavy weights, the spinal discs and the fascia in the lower back can get compressed and tight.
When this compression occurs it creates a negative muscle chain effect. Muscles connecting to that lower back fascia including the transversus abdominis can become restricted in movements. Even if we tone them we won't achieve optimal results. The filaments in the muscle fibers are simply “locked” and can’t slide and move freely. We will be working hard for nothing!
The abs and the lower back are connected and are also the yin and yang of each other. They function as agonist / antagonist muscles. To strengthen the entire abs more effectively, therefore, it is important to loosen and rebalance our lower back, so the deep abdominal muscle can contract and extend freely. This is why the gentle spine movements in the beginning of Essentrics workouts are so beneficial. To be strong we have to first be loose!