Deep Core Activation For Beginners

Whether your goal is reducing chronic lower back pain or increasing functional ability, deep core activation may be just what you need.

The Basics:

The term ‘deep core’ refers to at least two key muscle groups in your trunk region.

First, the transverse abdominus (TA), running from the flanks through the entire lower abdomen. And second, the lumbar multifidus (LMF), which are connective muscles  surrounding vertebrae of the lower back.

To better understand their importance, picture the TA as a girdle keeping your whole lower tummy tucked in and the LMF as the strings that support this tension. After locating and activating the deep core muscles, you’ll wonder how you got by without training them.

Location and Activation:

Transverse Abdominus (TA):

To locate the transverse abdominus, lie flat on your back with feet on the floor. Now imagine a string running between your hips. Breathe in slowly and, as you breathe out, concentrate on increasing the tension on this ‘string’ by contracting your TA. When done correctly, the muscles of your lower abdomen will contract, pulling your stomach flat.

Once you gain proficiency while lying down, this contraction can be performed while sitting, standing, or even walking, as long as it is done with good posture and always while exhaling.

Lumbar Multifidus (LMF):

To locate the lumbar multifidus, lie on one side and place your free hand on the lower back muscles nearest the spine and directly along the waistline. That’s the LMF right there! To activate it, imagine drawing the thighbone of your top leg into your pelvis. Without actually moving your legs, you should feel the muscles under your fingers begin to lightly bulge.

After only a few activation sessions, these muscles should become much easier to activate. Like the TA, the LMF muscles can eventually be contracted nearly anywhere and as often as you have time for throughout the day.


There are many possible variations on these basic deep core contractions, often incorporating exercise balls and other common gym equipment. Once fully strengthened, the deep core will contract itself as needed to provide postural stability, decrease back pain, and increase functional ability.

For additional advice or private instruction on deep core activation, consider making an appointment with one of Karp Rehabilitation’s registered kinesiologists. Call us today: 604-420-7800