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. We need train all four of our abdominal muscles (TA, rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique), but the TA is essential for getting a flatter tummy and eliminating the “bread loaf” or “ab doming”.
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. It’s not just about the 30 minutes of exercise we do, but the other 23.5 hours of the day.
The problem is that we are not taught how to correctly and selectively strengthen the TA.
The transverse abdominis supports your baby during pregnancy. The fibers act just like a corset, pulling the core in from all angles (front and back). They are the most important of the muscle groups of the abdomen. The pelvic floor and TA keep your belly from dropping to your toes. The TA and PF, together with the uterus, work to push your baby out during delivery. Having those muscles be as strong and flexible as possible during labor while greatly ease your baby’s entry into the world and you’ll be grateful for that.
Core muscles are not only important in labor and delivery, but also, they are important in the pregnant woman’s changing center of gravity, postural changes and muscle imbalances. Keeping the core muscles pliable and strong will decrease common pregnancy discomforts. The TA is responsible for stabilizing your spine and pelvis. So doesn’t it make sense to focus a few ab exercises to strengthen them?
Transverse abdominis exercises approximate the recti bellies and strengthens 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. It also helps to close an abdominal separation or gap, otherwise known as diastasis recti!
TRANSVERSE ABDOMINAL ACTIVATION
In order to fully engage your abdominals, and in particular your transverse abdominis (TA), you have to pull your navel in toward your spine “hugging your baby”, without shifting the pelvis. This engages the TA, and also works on the other muscles that run along your spine. 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 to think about “hugging you baby” or saying “ssssssss” as you exhale. Core stability takes time and consistency. It’s not a form of traditional training, be patient!
TRANSVERSE ABS: ARM SWITCH
Setup: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor
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
Setup: 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
Setup: Begin lying on your back with legs bent
*Beginners — start with only the legs. If you do not feel it in your back you can add your arms. Stronger muscles like the back extensors can take over in this exercise. Starting with the legs only should prevent that.
Lift your legs and arms off the ground, keeping your knees bent. 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.
TRANSVERSE ABS: QUADRUPED TA BRACING
Setup: Begin on all fours
Let your stomach relax down towards the ground, keeping your spine in neutral. Tighten your abdominals by drawing your belly button up towards your spine and away from the floor. Hold this position, then relax and repeat. Breathe.
When performing a crunch, the usual focus is on the rectus abdominis, which is great, but it will not flatten your belly. The TVA or TA (transverse abdominis) is what will help you flatten your belly. The TA is a thick layer of muscle that runs from hip to hip. The transverse abdominal muscle wraps around the torso from front to back, and the muscle fibers of the TA run horizontally, similar to a corset or a weight belt. *Note for my prego moms out there — the muscle action is the same during pregnancy, there is just a baby under your muscles!
The transverse abdominis is often overlooked, under cued and under recruited. The best core exercise recruits not only the TA, but the pelvic floor as well!
A series of core-specific workouts (found in our Diastasis Recti and 30 Day Restore programs) combined with the cues for scar tissue, fascia, c-section, etc. will help you train your core from the inside out by strengthening the transverse abdominis (or TA).
Not only will you learn how to cue the TA, 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 belly tissues safe and slowly add traditional exercises as the condition gets better.