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Transverse Abdominis Exercises

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 kick 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.  So let’s do just that!  See our Core Principles workout below.

CORE PRINCIPLES WORKOUT: ACTIVATE THE TA

I love when Diane Lee said, “you cannot strengthen a muscle your brain does not know it has.” So often I find that individuals do not know how to accurately activate the TA. You must know how to turn these muscles on before you can train them. After you learn how to get these muscles fired up, you need to work them in unison with the rest of your core muscles (i.e.: multifidi, gluts, hip rotators, QL and PF).  We do this in our all of our core programs.

If you are struggling getting these puppies to fire correctly please contact a Women’s Health physical therapist. You may have other stuff going on in your body that is preventing the TA from effectively doing its job.

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. (found in Ab Rehab guide) will help you train your core from the inside out by strengthening the transverse abdominus (or TA).

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!

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.

 

Getting a flat belly

First let’s define the Inner Core.

Your abdominal wall is divided into four parts: the external obliques are at the top and the outside of your abdomen. The internal obliques run under the below their counterpart. What we commonly refer to as the “six pack” are the rectus abdominis, and the transverse abdominis or the TA, is the deep abdominal that run under our six pack. 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.  And since we are moms we need to include the pelvic floor since that is what keeps our bellies from falling to the floor.  It is the foundation of the core.

TA and pelvic floor

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 fact is you cannot get a flat stomach without training your inner core.  Period.  Therefore any abdominal exercise, like a crunch, will only flatten the belly if the TA is activated.

“While it is true that the TVA is vital to back and core health, the muscle also has the effect of pulling in what would otherwise be a protruding abdomen (hence its nickname, the “corset muscle”). Training the rectus abdominis muscles alone will not and can not give one a “flat” belly; this effect is achieved only through training the TVA.[3] Thus to the extent that traditional abdominal exercises (e.g. crunches) or more advanced abdominal exercises tend to “flatten” the belly, this is owed to the tangential training of the TVA inherent in such exercises.”[1]

If you like video – scroll down – and try the Transverse Abdominis Activation!

Activating the TA

Okay, take a deep breath. No, seriously, I meant it. Take a deep breath. What happened to your upper body when you did that? If your chest expanded and your shoulders rose, then you aren’t breathing properly. Don’t be ashamed: most of us don’t breathe correctly all the time. What we fail to do is to use our diaphragms to take advantage of more of our lung’s capacity.

Using proper breathing technique is important for any activity or just daily living, but it is especially important that you breathe properly when working out. Consciously using your diaphragm is the most efficient way to breathe. The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs. When you don’t use your diaphragm to breathe properly, air can get trapped in your lungs. That air pushed down on your diaphragm and can flatten the dome-shape of the muscle and weaken it. When you don’t breathe properly, the neck and muscles have to pitch in and that means the diaphragm is working even less. Think of gathering the last 10% of air in your lungs.

Diaphragmatic breathing will help you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing to:

* Strengthen the muscle

* Decrease the work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate

* Decrease oxygen demand

* Use less effort and energy to breathe

Here’s how to properly breathe through your diaphragm. It’s a simple and natural process (if you fall asleep on your back you can’t help but breathe this way) that will soon become second nature to you when you are working out.

  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should keep as still as possible.
  3. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. Keep the hand on your upper chest as still as possible.

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it’ll be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down. When you get better at it, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair. Repeat the same steps as above. You can also do this while standing and while exercising. Remember, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

 

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