A six-pack obsession is in full swing – topping the list for many well intended yogis and fitness enthusiasts is figuring out how to tame the bulge. With a smorgasbord of “magic bullet” recipes for rock hard abs, the truth of core strength can leave one perplexed, without results, or even worse with an imbalance resulting in a global deficit that expands much greater than the core. Regardless the case, I think you should brace yourself (pun intended) for what I am about to share with you will change your outlook on your core and transform your “ab-earance”.

Since the core consists of more than just the muscles that form the “washboard abs” that are reflected in the mirror, it’s critical to acknowledge what the core unit truly is. While what you see does play a key role in our core’s strength, integrity of the core comes from optimizing global muscle activation and coordination around the entirety of the spine.

Core abdominal musculature image

Learning to engage the entirety of the tubular core is ideal for maximizing spinal stability.

Canadian personal trainer John Paul Catanzaro, BSc Kin, CSEP-CEP, quotes low back specialist and lecturer, John Casler, when he admits that “the abdominals themselves cannot push out – they can only be pushed out by the forces of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP)” – this is what creates a very strong & rigid, tubular torso. Catanzaro also notes, “It’s pretty interesting, too, that kids naturally push their tummies out when lifting an object from the ground!” If you don’t believe John; go ahead and try this for yourself, stand in front of a mirror and force all the air out of your lungs and try to push your abs out…it won’t happen without compromising IAP.

This secure “life-vest” sensation occurs due to the rise in inter-abdominal pressure during abdominal bracing, which is a very good thing for the spine. Within this perspective, the muscles of respiration, the serratus group, deep spinal muscles and the famous abdominal muscles must learn how to communicate and collectively work together without deficit in order to increase stiffness of the torso and stabilize the spine.

If just one piece of the core unit’s puzzle shows a lack of participation, abnormal patterns and pain may appear in other regions of the body. Research from the Queensland Australia group showed “that the transverse abdominus (TrA) is recruited later in Low Back Pain patients, which led to speculation that it was related to an unstable or unhealthy spine” (Basu, Arijit).

Tubular Core en-CORE-ages a muscular orchestra, rather than a solo contributor experience that when done properly can be felt internally and externally palpated. It feels as though the whole torso is securely bubble wrapped from throat to pelvic floor without strain or stress. The synergy that occurs during tubular core is the same circumstance one instinctively does when bracing for impact, when lifting heavy objects, and literally any activity that requires spinal stabilization.

Stop leaving your spine vulnerable and retire the idea of hollowing out the core! Brace yourself for my next article where I will teach you how to activate your Tubular Core and when to use it.




Enjoyed this article? Read Coregeous Moves to Erase Back Pain next.
Baylea Micheli

Baylea is a student and teacher of mindful movement. Her teaching style nurturing yet playful. Her classes are inspired by her own self inquiry and fascination with the human body and it's resilient host, the individual. Teaching as a 200-hr RYT since 2009 and becoming a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant in 2014 has propelled her down a path of empowering individuals to restore the relationship with their bodies. With a trained eye in movement patterns and applicable therapeutic interventions, Baylea's intention is to awaken individuals to the reality of functional and sustainable movement as a foundation to overall health and well-being. It is Baylea's belief that your yoga practice, sport or fitness regimen should enhance your quality of life long after you've stepped off the mat or left the gym; therefore, setting a standard for quality movement and biomechanics is of upmost importance. Along with being a Yoga Tune Up Level 1 Practitioner, Baylea holds current certifications in Original Strength, and Clubbell Yoga by RMAX International.

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Kristin Kandyba

Very helpful explanation. Engaging tubular core is a game changer in many aspects of movement practices. Grateful I was thought it in YTU Level 1 training.


This was a very helpful explanation for me to understand more about the tubular core and it’s usefulness in our daily and fitness activities. Thank you!

Nancy Bernhard

I learned this movement from a trainer when I was just beginning to deadlift using a kettle bell. Gripping the handle became a signal to me to engage the tubular core and set my weight evenly across my feet.

Amanda Kreuzer

Tubular core has changed my life. I learned how to activate it almost 5 years ago now. It so natural to me I don’t even have to think about turning it on. I find it makes lifting during my workouts more controlled and improves my posture and body mechanics.

Karin Steinbach

Loved the language of the life vest visualization! Great description.

Myriam Goulet

The core! love this structure of the body. It is so complexe and interesting to learn about it. It really changed my life when my personal trainer helped me discover my transverse… had to work a lot, but now I’m gratefull I’ve discovered it.

Maureen Aitken

Found the reference to the research from Oz regarding the late recruitment of the Transverse abdominus. This is interesting and so I look forward to your next post regarding the activation of all core muscles simultaneously. It would also be interesting to identify how to isolate the Transverse abdominus alone.


As a Pilates teacher I do emphasise a lot the importance of tubular core. I like the imagery of “life vest”, “bubble wrap” and “the muscular orchestra” of your core vs. a “solo musician” like the rect. abdominis. I plan to use these in my classes! Especially the m. transversus is a very and often neglected core muscle for stabilising your pelvis in a neutral position. Now I know that also the serratus plays an important role, actually never thougt about this, thank you!

Ashley Corlis

I love the tubular core! It makes so much sense and offers a great support for our precious spine. I love thinking of how kids move in space and applying it to how we move as adults. Instincts really are amazing aren’t they?


It is refreshing to hear the deconstruct knowledge of YTU dispel the myths about abdominal muscle toning. The ochestra theory vs solo musician is a analogy I may borrow in future.


Had not really though of the serrates as a core muscle but now I get the idea of the tubular core running from the throat to the pelvis and all the muscles not just abs that provide stability for torso/spine


When I learned how to engage tubular core during my YTU teacher training, it changed movement for me! It changed my yoga practice and also daily life. I deal with back problems so learning how to engage properly and more efficiently has helped me to move with less fear. Thank you for another really interesting and informative read!

Katherine Streeton

Such a great reminder that the core is more than the rectus abdominis which people often think about when they perform crunches in order to obtain the coveted six-pack. Engaging both the anterior and posterior muscles that comprise our core is indeed imperative when lifting anything heavy or engaging in activities that require spinal stabilization. More people need to hear this message and rethink what the function of the core really is (hint: it’s so much more than spinal flexion).

Corena Purcell

I love how we can protect our spine by engaging tubular core. It makes lifting anything much more safe.

Tammy abresch

I now look at the tubular core in a different way. Thank you.


Such a great article on our tubular core. Until YTU I had never heard of it and like many others just heard navel to spine or engage your core. I love the concept of the bubble wrap effect from your throat to the pelvic floor for spine stability. Great article, looking forward to reading your follow up.


In my former dance career, I was definitely one of those people who sought “the washboard abs” and exercises that gave me visible results. It is only in the last couple years, from reading some of Jill Miller and Katy Bowman’s work, that I have started to look at my core in a multi-dimensional way. Thanks for the great article!


Thank you for this well written article. I love how your remind us that the tubular core engagement is really part of our bodies’ natural instincts. I look forward to integrating this.


This has been the easiest explanation for how to access the Thoracolumbar Fascial Gain Mechanism that I have found. Interesting to consider the different pain patterns associated with delays in the firing of the different muscle groups.


Before YTU, I had never heard of “tubular” core. I have constantly heard the queue, “engage your core,” or “naval to spine,” but had never fully understood what that meant. Learning to fire the glutes and keep neutral spine, awareness of breath, flexing, finally made me understand how to tubularise the core, and in thus doing so I have reached more mobility in every movement.


I’m always a fan of an excellent pun…. but I’m ESPECIALLY a fan of it when it also comes with really great information! Loved your analogies in the article – makes it easier to remember when it’s fun to remember. Bubble wrap – brings a whole new meaning to the joy of popping it beneath your toes, huh? 🙂

Jasmine Ellemo

I love the bubble wrap analogy you have used. Very easy for everyone to understand and remember. As a young women many decades ago with a flat tummy but without a strong, stable core, I often suffered debilitating back pain and intense spasms that would make it hard to function normally without strong pain medication. My pelvis was constantly in anterior tilt and I had very little stability. As I learned the importance of a strong , stable core everything changed and my core became stronger and the pain is no longer an issue. Now that I am really learning… Read more »

Isabelle Deschenes

I never tought about try pussing out the abs. It is a good thing for me. like the orchestra idea too!


As a Pilates and Yoga Teacher I am now also working with ” Bracing” as a protection for the spine.
This article about Tubular Core as ” Bubble Wrapping” your spine is so informative.

Anik B

Love the secure life-vest! I will use it with my wakesurfer.

Julie Cadorette

Wow! I had never thought about the fact that the abdominals themselves cannot push out! Learning to engage my tubular core will definitely change my way of moving!


Love this post Baylea! I recently completed my YTU training where I learned about Tubular Core for the first time. What a game changer! The idea behind it was not brand new to me, but YTU’s approach and cueing are so critical to, like you say, en-core-age all of these muscles to work synergistically. Your description helped to sink these concepts a lot deeper into my core 😉 and I hope you won’t mind if I borrow your metaphor of the muscular orchestra- that is a beautiful image.

Ian Armstrong

I have been working with getting my patients to understand the necessity of intra-abdominal pressure for some time, and believe it is key to “core” stabilization. The therapy paradigm called Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS), Coming out of the Prague School of Rehabilition (same school that produced Vladimir Yhonda in the late 80’s who introduced Upper Cross Syndrome) works off of this theory for rehab and PT, and is super effective.


Great reminder that this is a group effort! Thanks Baylea.

aniela eva

Well written. YTU has taught me how to engage properly the entire core. It changes everything when the core is properly engaged. My back and shoulder pain has been relieved tremendously!


Tellement important de nous sensibiliser sur le fait que le tubular core est une manière de protéger sa colonne. Nous voyons trop la santé de la colonne de manière compartimentée, mais tu as très bien imagé à quel point tout se synchronise et s’influence. À quel point le tubulaire core est comme une veste de sureté est une image qui reste et démontre très bien l’utilité de la chose.
Merci beaucoup !

Krysten Hills

Learning how important it is to have a strong tubular core for so many reasons has been really eye opening for me. Having given birth 5 months ago, I am now working towards stregthening things I had taken for granted prior to my pregnancy. I’m looking forward to reading your next post.


My observation is that many students who walk into your classroom have a limited perspective on core strength sometimes tied up in ideas about “abs of steel” and endless repetitions of traditional abdominal exercises. Usually when we think of core muscles, it’s most likely to be the rectus abdominus—the most superficial abdominal muscle that in our minds create the appearance of a six-pack and makes us want to do more of the traditional abdominal crunch. This article reminds the importance of thinking further about the deeper transverse abdominus muscle which provides more of a constant girder of strength and stability.… Read more »


Activation of the Tubular Core is great for supporting and stabilization of the spine, especially of lumbar spine, which is a big issue for many people. Thanks for article


I loved your descriptions for activating the tubular core…life vest sensation, abdominal bracing, stiffness of the torso and muscular orchestra. Total core is not only important but a requirement for movement safety.

Dominique Pelletier

J’aime bien le commentaire ” cesser de laisser votre colone vertebrale vulnérable “.

Depuis mon training YTU, j’ai compris et assimiler tout le concept et compréhension d’engager le corset tubulaire. J’y ai vue tout l’importance dans le quotidien mais aussi dans mes futurs classes de yoga

Évelyne Paquin

Un nouveau concept à appliquer dans mon cas. J’ai longtemps eu l’habitude de faire référence au nombril tiré vers la colonne, pensant atteindre une pleine stabilisation de la colonne.
L’image de la veste de sauvetage qui s’active pour faire référence à la pression intra-abdominale sera ma nouvelle référence afin de mieux guider mes clients.

Évelyne Paquin

Une belle découverte pour moi, dire que tout ce temps je créais l’effet inverse dans mon corps en tirant le nombril vers la colonne me pensant pleinement en contrôle pour stabiliser ma colonne de façon sécuritaire. L’image de la veste de sauvetage est très forte pour représenter l’effet de la pression intra-abdominale sur la stabilisation de la colonne. Je tenterai d’utiliser cette référence dans mes classes à l’avenir.


Tubular core. So much to become aware of and so much research being done! Who knew?

Janine Watson

Your metaphors are great. Bubble wrap, yes! As is the reminder that deep muscles are stabilizing ones working as an orchestra.

Michelle Pitman

Thanks for this article on moving from hollowing the belly to bracing instead. It’s something I’ve been working on myself, trying to redeem throughout the day to engage tubular core that support my spine and daily movement!


I really like the idea of “optimizing global muscle activation and coordination around the entirety of the spine”. We so often forget about the sides and back body, and from throat to pelvic floor. It’s not just the washboard abs we need to consider. I also like your clever wording.


It is remarkable how much tubular core strengthens and stabilizes every pose. It has really helped serve as a reminder to me to engage and brace myself as I breathe and move. Game changer.

Karen Stillman

Love the example with the kids, and cannot wait to see it in action. And so very true of the population wanting some quick fix without the work.


This post is entertaining and informative! This notion can’t be stressed enough. We live in a time when everyone wants great abs but has no time to work their lower back. I love the analogies you use, it helps to really get the message across.

Laura Cornish

As a pilates instructor, I am used to “pulling in” my abdominal muscles. The whole idea of bracing will take some getting used to. I’m still not clear on why Imter-abdominal pressure is so important, but I will keep reading!

Adriana Robertson

Thanks for sharing this great reminder. I love the idea of the core being a muscular orchestra, rather than a solo contributor. I look forward to reading your follow-up article.

Kayla Lee

Tubular core is something I am working with right now. My entire core is pretty much a blind spot for me. The sensation of being bubble wrapped from throat to pelvic floor is something I haven’t experienced yet but I look forward to your future articles on how to get there!

Christina Carballo

Great way of describing the core as a whole and not just those washboard abs. I like the bubble wrap description from the throat to the pelvic floor to offer stability to the spine. Very well written.


Baylea, you are so punny!! Thank you, this was really informative about how the entire core is important and how pain in the body can occur just from unwittingly neglecting certain muscles within the core. I always have focused on hollowing during core work now I’m switching to bracing.