As a fitness trainer, I intimately know the importance and role of each muscle. That’s why I always include exercises for deep core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, in my client’s core workouts.
Unfortunately, many people still neglect the transverse abdominis muscle even when focusing on their core.
By combining research and my experience with clients, I came up with a list of the most effective exercises for the transverse abdominis muscle that can be easily integrated into your regular fitness routines.
Let’s dive in.
- Hitting the transverse abdominis muscle properly requires you to first engage it and then perform exercises in slow and steady movements.
- This deep abdominal muscle is crucial for stabilizing the body, making it possible to perform daily activities without the risk of back injury.
- A solid transverse abdominis can provide benefits such as reducing back pain, improving posture, and enhancing athletic performance.
5 Exercises for a Strong Transverse Abdominis
position for a set time (stabilization exercises) or moving limbs in a controlled and slow manner .
However, targeting this muscle can get tricky and hence require preparation.
Activating the Muscle
Before performing these exercises, it’s crucial to learn how to activate and engage the transverse abdominis.
It’s not visible as a rectus abdominis muscle; thus, hitting it can differ from traditional ab exercises.
There are two ways to engage transverse abdominis: by bracing your core or through the abdominal draw-in maneuver.
Let’s quickly break down these.
Bracing Your Core
To brace your core, you should pull in your pelvic floor as if trying to stop the urine flow.
Then, tense your abs as if expecting to be punched in the stomach. Finally, inhale without letting your abs bow out.
If done correctly, your entire midsection should stiffen with a regular breathing pattern.
Abdominal Draw-in Maneuver
This technique, sometimes called “stomach vacuuming,” begins by lying on the floor with bent knees and flat feet .
- Take your hands and locate the lower abdomen area next to your pelvic bone.
- From here, slowly contract your transverse abdominis and draw in your lower abdomen (engage your pelvic floor muscles).
- Continue normal breathing while keeping your muscles contracted.
The Best Workouts for Transverse Abdominis
With your muscle-mind connection established and your transverse abdominis engaged, you’re now ready to perform exercises targeting this specific muscle.
Based on my experience, the following 5 exercises have proven to be the most effective.
1. Hollow Body Hold
- Lie on your back with your legs and arms extended.
- Keeping your core engaged, lift your legs off the floor.
- Slowly raise your shoulders while keeping your arms straight, creating a “banana” shape with your body.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
2. Toe Taps
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent in a tabletop position and your arms to the side.
- While exhaling, lower your left toe to tap the ground while keeping your core braced.
- Return your left leg to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat the same with your right leg.
- Continue for 30-60 seconds.
- Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips.
- Extend your right arm forward and your right leg back, keeping the other pair on the ground (make sure your neck is in a neutral position).
- Keep your core engaged and hold for 2-3 seconds.
- Alternate sides and repeat 8-12 times.
4. Dead Bug
- Lie on your back with your arms toward the ceiling, and your knees bent in a tabletop position (calves on the floor).
- Straighten your right leg while lowering your left arm overhead, keeping both a few inches off the ground.
- Return your leg and arm to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
- Continue for 30-60 seconds.
- Get into a pushup position with your hands stacked under your shoulders and palms facing down (plank position).
- Keeping your core, glutes, and quads engaged, lower onto your forearms while keeping your body straight.
- Maintain this plank position posture for as long as possible.
A stronger transverse abdominis can be simply achieved through these exercises, contributing to better core stability.
What Exactly Is the Transverse Abdominis?
The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of the abdominal wall, located on the lateral sides and under the internal oblique muscle .
The muscle is also referred to as the transversus abdominis muscle, transversal muscle, or simply the TVA.
Because it spans from the lower ribs to the pelvis, it is also known as the “corset muscle”.
Its fibers are arranged horizontally, like a corset, wrapping around the abdomen. Thus, it might even be considered a natural weightlifting belt.
Why Is This Core Muscle So Important?
The core muscle is so important because it is involved in almost every movement our body makes, providing stability and support to our spine.
It is especially crucial during compound movements like bodyweight squats and deadlifts as they require full engagement of all core muscles to maintain spine stiffness .
Additionally, the transverse abdominis helps maintain proper tension in the abdominal wall and increases intra-abdominal pressure, which supports internal organs and enhances expulsive forces.
Despite its importance, many people overlook the transverse abdominis and focus solely on developing the visible rectus abdominis.
This commonly known muscle overshadows other abdominal muscles, including the transverse abdominis, resulting in a lack of understanding of its crucial role.
What Benefits Does Strengthening This Muscle Bring?
Strengthening the transverse abdominis muscle brings numerous benefits for both athletic and daily activities.
One of the primary benefits of strengthening the transverse abdominis is improved stability.
This muscle compresses the abdomen, providing support to the spine and trunk, which can reduce the risk of injury and lower back pain, especially during exercises such as CrossFit deadlift workouts and squats .
In other words, it provides dynamic stabilization of the lumbar spine.
“It’s a main stabilizer of the core, so when the transversus abdominis is strong and working properly, it helps maintain proper spine support. It also has been shown to help decrease back pain, improve pelvic floor function, and help with posture.”
- Marcy Crouch, a Physical Therapist
In addition to improved stability, a solid transverse abdominis plays a role in enhancing athletic performance as it’s involved in almost all sports.
A strong core improves stability, coordination, and ease of movement, providing a potential edge over the competition.
It also improves breathing, as it plays a role in controlling pressure in the abdominal cavity, which can aid proper breathing techniques and benefit conditions related to breathing.
Finally, a strong transverse abdominis can give the appearance of a smaller waist by creating a “cinching” effect, similar to a corset. It also enhances the overall appearance of the core by improving posture and the shape of visible rectus abdominis muscles.
What Does a Weak Transverse Abdominis Look Like?
A weak transverse abdominis looks like a protruding belly, leading to poor posture and a lack of stability in the trunk. It can increase the risk of injury during physical activity and difficulty performing expulsive activities, such as coughing and lifting. Symptoms may also include poor breathing mechanics.
Can You Overwork Your Transverse Abdominis?
Yes, it is possible to overwork your transverse abdominis muscle. Overworking this muscle can lead to fatigue, discomfort, and even injury. Performing transverse abdominis exercises in moderation and incorporating rest days in your workout routine is crucial. Additionally, engaging in various core exercises that target different muscles can help prevent overuse of the transverse abdominis.
Don’t Neglect Your Hidden Muscles
While appearance is often a motivator for exercise, muscles like the transverse abdominis play a critical role in daily movements and athletic performance.
To improve the appearance and functionality of your abdominal muscles, consider incorporating protein powders into your diet to nourish your core while maintaining a low-fat percentage:
When creating these lists, we included only the products that have proven to be the most effective during our testing phase, so make sure to check them out.
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