I’ve been trying to regain awareness and control over my core since cancer treatment 4 years ago that involved several abdominal/pelvic surgeries. I’m struggling with basic core exercises like Pelvic Tilts and Bridges. I can do the movements but I can’t seem to figure out what sensation is “activating” my core. I guess I just don’t understand what the actual mover is or what the sensation is supposed to feel like. The motion always seems to come from my belly (rectus abdominis) and I don’t think I'm actually learning to control my core/pelvis. Almost like I'm cheesing it or just vaguely pressing my back into a hard surface. The movements just don’t seem to translate into actual, real-world activities. Deadbugs, supine marching, and the hollow body hold don’t make ANY sense and I'm guessing that’s because I can’t control my core properly.

What should activating my core feel like and what should I focus on to, say, tuck my tailbone during a pelvic tilt or bridge?

  • 2
    Lying flat on the floor with legs bent, you can try to feel your TVA with your fingers. Put your fingers on both sides just slightly inwards in line with the top of the hip (pelvic) bone. When relaxed, it should be soft, when the TVA is engaged, it hardens and pushes out. The usual cue for engaging the TVA is to pull the belly button inwards. So you can try that, while getting tactile feedback from your fingers. Hope this helps, I don't think I can give a more complete answer, you should probably ask a PT.
    – BKE
    Nov 21, 2020 at 20:58
  • @BKE this could be added as an Answer, yes? Dec 22, 2020 at 22:52

2 Answers 2


There are two things to be aware of. One is your rectus transverse abdominus, which the best way to think of it is as a corset around your stomach.. that's how the muscle works. The other is tilting your pelvis. Your TA muscle gets activated by clenching your corset and bracing your abs--act as if someone is about to punch you, you'd tighten and contract them, not push them out, right? So get in a deadbug position and forget about the pelvic tilt for now, and act like someone is stepping on your stomach, clench your stomach! Now think about how your lower back isn't touching the floor. Try to get your lower back to touch the floor, and to remain touching it. This requires a pelvic tilt, and if you can touch the floor, then you did it. The act of keeping your back on the floor is the key to a deadbug. I noticed it is much easier to do with your knees at a bent angle, to activate your pelvic tilt. Another way is to practice on a stability ball. Roll the ball forward and back using only your butt/abs. The forward position is a pelvic tilt.

Another way is to act like you are trying to defecate (don't actually do this!). The muscles used to have a bowel movement kind of force you into a pelvic tilt position, which is what you're doing on the toilet. So remember to brace your abs as you try to tilt your pelvis. Practice with a bent knee position and practice using your abs and pelvis with leaving your back on the floor to bring your legs up (leg raise) enter image description here

Try looking in a mirror while using the ball to practice the movement. It takes lots of practice before you can do it on command; it's really a mind/muscle awareness connection. Try bracing your abs and tilting your pelvis during an "exhale" of breath, this will help ensure you're only moving the right muscles, not your diaphragm or something. Keep in mind, if these are weak muscles you may have to start out just lying down and practicing these before your muscles can tighten well.

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    Hey, rectus abdominis is the "6 pack muscle" muscle, and not really a "corset around your stomach". I assume you were mean to say transversus abdominis?
    – BKE
    Nov 21, 2020 at 9:23
  • Thats correct mustve been a typo
    – user32213
    Dec 1, 2020 at 16:58

For posterior pelvic tilt or crunches, I happened to imagine crushing walnuts between my abs muscles. Alternatively, I place my index finger in between my abs muscles (rectus abdominis) and try to squeeze my finger. The finger can also gently poke the muscles to help create that mind-body connection and activate the area.

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