The TVA Muscle
The Transverse Abdominus or TVA is a core muscle which runs deep inside the front and side abdominal walls.
It is the body’s natural weight-lifting belt as when we go to lift something it contracts to protect the back by keeping the spine and pelvis stable. If it doesn’t “switch on” however it can cause back injuries.
Why would a cyclist want a “stable spine”? Well, if you’re rocking all over the place whilst pedalling then, due to the fact that your nervous system isn’t able to recruit all your muscles efficiently, some energy is lost whereas you’d actually like that energy going (via your legs) to those pedals!
So How Do I Engage My TVA?
Imagine you have belt around your waist at the level of your belly button. Tighten the belt as much as you can, drawing the belly button inwards and upwards as much as you possibly can to allow the belt to tighten. Now relax and let it go – or stay like that and call an ambulance!
Now tighten the belt to about 50% of its maximum tightness, once again drawing the belly button inwards and upwards to accommodate this. Relax and let it go.
Now tighten the belt to about 30% of its maximum tightness, once again drawing the belly button inwards and upwards to accommodate this. Relax and let it go.
This 30% is what we want. Eventually we’d like to be able to hold it at 30% all the time.
Try holding the 30% effort for 3 x 30 seconds whilst you’re brushing your teeth BUT you must keep breathing during the holds.
If you don’t brush your teeth we’ve got a whole load of other problems!