Because the transverse abdominis (TA) is known as the corset muscle, it is the one we want to hit up to get those pre-mommy tummies back. The TA runs horizontally across the front of the abdomen and acts like a corset. The main job of the TA is to stabilize the spine and pelvis before you move your arms or legs. These guys need to work all day, every day. Every time you take a step, climb a stair, reach overhead, cough or laugh so hard you cry, these lovely little muscles are kicking in.
The problem is that we are not taught how to correctly and selectively strengthen the TA. Traditional ab training focuses on the rectus abdominis, the outermost layer. The exercises you see below target the transverse abs to create core health and integrity. As Diane Lee says in her research, “you cannot strengthen a muscle your brain doesn’t know it has.”
TA exercises approximate the recti bellies and strengthen the integrity of the linea alba, which in turn helps to get rid of the muffin top, mommy belly, or whatever ugly name you have for it. These help to close an abdominal separation or gap, otherwise knows as diastasis recti. This muscle also plays an important role in core exercises during pregnancy.
First things first, you need to be able to engage the TA. This video walks through an activation exercise. Here’s the setup: Lie on your back. You can slightly tuck your pelvis to help you target the TA rather than the rectus abdominis or the hip flexors. Inhale then exhale making a “sssssss” sound. You should feel the corset action happening. This is your transverse abdominis activating.
TRANSVERSE ABS: ACTIVATION
Pulling your navel toward your spine is not the same thing as sucking in your gut. What do you when you suck in your gut? You hold your breath, you tuck your hips. You don’t want to do that. A great cue is saying “ssssssss” as you exhale. Core stability takes time and consistency. It’s not a form of traditional training, be patient!
TRANSVERSE ABS: QUADRUPED TA BREATH
Begin on all fours. Let your stomach relax down towards the ground, keeping your spine in neutral. As you exhale, tighten your abdominals by drawing your belly button up towards your spine and away from the floor. Hold this position without moving the pelvis. With every breath, tighten the TA.
TRANSVERSE ABS: ARM SWITCH
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor. On the exhale, tighten your abdominals, drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Your pelvis should not tilt. Hold this position, as you switch your arms overhead. Repeat.
TRANSVERSE ABS: BENT KNEE FALL OUTS
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominals. Without letting your hip bones move, slowly lower one knee out towards the floor — only as far as you can without your pelvis moving. Slowly return to starting position. Alternate with other leg. Do not let your pelvis move.
TRANSVERSE ABS: DEAD BUG SWITCH
Begin lying on your back with legs bent. Lift your legs and arms off the ground, keeping your knees bent. Keep your spine neutral, core braced. Lower one arm to the ground and lower your opposite leg at the same time. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue to alternate. Maintain your low back on the floor and keep abdominals drawn down towards your spine. If you cannot maintain lower back, start by alternating arms. As you become stronger, alternate legs only. Then progress to opposite arm and leg.
A series of core-specific workouts — found in our Diastasis Recti and Core Challenge programs — combined with the cues for scar tissue, fascia, C-section, etc. will help you train your core from the inside out.
Not only will you learn how to cue the tranverse abdomonis, you will strengthen the TA, creating a healthy core. It will teach you how to use these inner core muscles, how to do arm and leg exercises while keeping the core engaged, then add traditional exercises safely and effectively.
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Moms Into Fitness was founded by mom of three Lindsay Brin, BSE in exercise science and certified personal trainer. She is passionate about helping moms achieve optimal health without going to extremes — loving yourself from the inside out one day at a time.