Core Training Cognitive Dissonance by Mel Siff

Published: 11th March 2010
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Now that more and more scientific evidence is emerging to show that deliberate attempts to activate transversus abdominis, to "suck in the abs" or to use various related tricks to enhance "core stability", balance and strength, it is interesting to note how some disciples are starting to defend the long-promoted beliefs of their gurus.

In psychology, the action of defending or believing in something that you know or sense to be uncorroborated or untrue is called "cognitive dissonance". Increasing numbers of folk are beginning to hear or read the evidence of scientists such as those on our list and Dr Stuart McGill that these ideas about enhancing core performance and abdominal control are incorrect or misleading at best, so the gurus and their followers are now being called upon to respond and answer for their educational misdemeanours.

So far, what I have heard from these sources does not include any acknowledgment of error or possible misinterpretation. Instead, I have heard nothing more than an unhealthy abundance of cognitive dissonance, smoke-screening and evasions, which is not all unexpected, since whole empires of fitness courses, lectures, products and advertising have been built on these fragile foundations and the egos creating these misbeliefs have been too vast to admit error.

Thus, we hear remarks like the following:

"When we advise sucking in the abs, we really mean tightening the abs, bearing down and not really out or pulling in a little just to activate the TVA, but not enough to promote trunk flexion."

"We mean that you must just suck in the abs a little at the beginning of the exercise, because correcting the initial posture will set up the circumstances for correct activation of the trunk muscles later in the movement, which may include a little bulging of the abs."

"Most people do not reflexively activate their TVA in starting a lift, so that this TVA activation method reprograms these people so that the TVA becomes more automatic in reacting correctly in future lifts or later stages of the exercise."

"When we advise activating TVA, it is because it automatically also activates the diaphragm, which really is just as important in stabilising the core. We just cure the TVA because many other muscles are involved and this cue integrates activity of all the muscles need to stabilise the core."

"What Dr McGill's research has shown is not really at odds with what we teach; it is just another way of achieving the same ends. Science and practice don't always have the same language or way of describing events. In fact, we are just saying the same thing in different ways. Both of us are right."

As the King of Siam said in the "King and I" movie, "etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.." ! Have some folk been attending courses by a latter day Dr Spock (not the Star movie hero) of politically correct child fitness gurus upbringing, where they have learned that it can be very damaging to tell a child that it is wrong? Egos are to be preserved above all - if they are not, we could be ruining the child forever and society will pay the price!

Maybe others would like to share their experiences regarding this issue and how the guru gang is coping with the rising tide of critical analysis and disproof of their fitness and rehabilitation legends. Over to you!

Dr Mel Siff
Author of Supertraining

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