Transverse Abs and Crunches

When performing a traditional crunch, the usual focus is on the rectus abdominis, which is a great muscle to work … but it will not flatten your belly. We tend to “dome” our abs or “bread loaf” (as I like to call it) in the concentric contraction of a crunch. Incorporating the transverse abdominis (TVA or TA) is essential for eliminating this. The TA is responsible for stabilizing the spine and the pelvis, but it is also what will help you flatten your belly.

The transverse abdominal muscle wraps around the torso from front to back, hip to hip. The muscle fibers of the TA run horizontally, similar to a corset or a weight belt. The transverse abdominis is often overlooked, under-cued, and under-recruited. Try these 5 core exercises that focus on the TA. For the full workout with auditory cues, check it out in the Studio.

*Note for my pregnant moms out there — the muscle action is the same during pregnancy, there is just a baby under your muscles! For more on TA core activation during pregnancy, download our Prenatal & Postnatal Guide.


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.


Similar to the dead bug, lift your legs off the ground, keeping your knees bent. Engage your core by pulling your navel in — don’t arch your back. Run your legs and work your toes closer toward the floor with each switch.


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 without moving the pelvis. With every breath, tighten the TA.


Begin lying on your back with legs bent. Lift your legs so your shins are parallel to the ceiling. Place your hands under your hips. Engage your core and lift your legs back toward your face, allowing your low back to lift off the floor. Use your abs to do the lift rather than momentum.


Stand with your navel pulled in, rib cage closed. Push on your standing leg and use your abdominal muscles to lift the opposite hip and lower with control. Do 30 seconds on each side. It’s a very subtle movement.

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