Did you know your body has a natural “corset like” muscle that wraps around your trunk stabilizing your core and spine? Well, now you know. So, if you have a waist trainer or some other sh!t like it this is a sign to throw that out.
The transverse abdominis, or transverse abdominal muscle, is one of the lesser-known abdominal muscles. With all that it is responsible for, including stabilization, you should get acquainted with it. Today, we go over what the transverse abdominis is as well as ways to strengthen this muscle so take notes.
What Is the Transverse Abdominis?
The transverse abdominis is the deepest of your five abdominal muscles and acts as an intrinsic core stabilizer. It extends between your ribs and pelvis and wraps around your trunk from front to back. The muscle’s function is to stabilize your core and spine to ensure your body can move properly. Along with your other abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis also helps:
Maintain abdominal tension and support your abdominal organs
Increase intraabdominal pressure that is helpful in forceful expiration, coughing, and/or defecation
Support the lumbar spine and pelvis during movement
Transverse Abdominis Exercises
The easiest way to activate your transverse abdominis is by hollowing out your belly and drawing your belly button in towards your spine. If that seems difficult, try out these other exercises:
This exercise is meant to help you activate your transverse abdominis through breathwork. It can look a little crazy as your ribs flair out while doing it but trust us this technique works wonders on your core.
Step 1: Stand with your feet hips width apart and your knees bent. Place your hands on your thighs, tucks your chin, and look down at your belly button (you can also sit down if you prefer).
Step 2: Relax and then take a deep breath in, exhale completely, and then hold (you are not breathing at this point) your breath. Don’t pass out. We’re kidding, that won’t happen.
Step 3: Do an apnea breath or fake an inhale. Draw your navel in towards your spine as well as up. Note, your ribs will flair out. Check yourself out.
This is another technique that will help you contract your transverse abdominis without needing to do abdominal vacuuming.
Step 1: Stand upright in a neutral position. Inhale and then exhale with force drawing your navel into your spine as far back as possible. Hold.
Step 2: Release. Then inhale and exhale drawing your navel into your spine as far back as possible and hold.
Challenge yourself and try the above techniques and test out your strength, (how strong of a contraction you can get out of your transverse abdominis) pulse (how fast you can contract your transverse abdominis and snap it in), and endurance (how long you can hold the snap technique). Do note that shrugging your shoulders up and down is not the snap technique so be aware of that.
Check in: To check to see if you are doing the snap technique right, finger your belly button and feel the texture of your core. When you "snap your belly in" you should feel your core harden through your belly button.
How Do You Know if You Have a Weak Transverse Abdominis Muscle?
We strongly feel that you will know if you have a weak transverse abdominis; however, if you need some signs, we will give them to you. Some signs of a weak transverse abdominis muscle are having toned abdominal muscles above your navel but a bulge beneath it. You might also have a difficult time holding in your stomach after eating a meal or have low back fatigue and pain after prolonged exercise, standing, or walking.
Eight Exercises to Help You Engage Your Transverse Abdominis Muscle
These exercises target your transverse abdominis muscle and require maximum core engagement:
Step 1: Lie down face up with your arms lifted and your legs in a tabletop position, like a dead bug. Get it?
Step 2: Extend your right leg out straight while dropping your left arm overhead parallel to the floor. Keep both your leg and arm a few inches above the ground.
Step 3: Ensure your core is engaged and keep your low back pressed into the floor.
Step 4: Bring your arms and back to the original position and repeat on the other side.
Step 1: Start in a tabletop position. Place your hand under your shoulders.
Step 2: Walk your legs back, ground your toes down, and squeeze your glutes. Draw your belly button up towards your spine.
Step 3: Neutralize your head and neck by gazing at a spot on the floor beyond your hands. Your head should be in line with your neck and spine.
Step 4: Hold for as long as you can! Try to avoid letting your hips sink (or as Dr. Mike says "pretend theirs an open flame under your navel, don't sink and get burned!")
Step 1: Start in a plank pose with your hands under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Try not to let your hips drop or your lower back arch. Draw your belly button in towards your spine and engage your glutes.
Step 3: Keep your core engaged and drive your hips up and back into what looks like an upside down “V” shape. Keep your head in line with your arms and gaze past your legs. Now, wait for the shakes.
Step 4: Lower back down to a plank position.
Step 1: Lie down on the floor with your legs extended and your arms next to your sides.
Step 2: Keep your abs engaged and lift your legs 2 to 3 inches above the floor. Keep your lower back pressed against the floor (if this is too difficult you can lift your legs a little higher).
Step 3: Draw your belly button in towards your spine.
Step 4: Lift your head off the floor and extend your arms overhead behind you (this is optional).
Step 5: Hold for as long as you can without sacrificing your form. Watch your body shake!
Step 1: Lie face down on the floor with your legs extended and your arms over your head close to your ears.
Step 2: Engage your transverse abdominis, think about drawing your navel up and in.
Step 3: Activate your thighs and glutes and lift your legs off the ground.
Step 4: Lift your shoulders off the ground and keep your head in a neutral position.
Step 5: Hold.
Step 1: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
Step 2: Engage your core, keep your chest lifted, and shift your weight into your heels. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat.
Step 3: Drive back up through your heels to stand and squeeze your glute muscles at the top.
Step 1: Lie down on your back and engage your transverse abdominis.
Step 2: Press your lower back into the ground and lift your legs up towards the ceiling.
Step 3: Maintain your core engagement and slowly lower your legs until they hover a few inches above the ground (you can hover earlier if needed). See the shake!
Step 4: Bring your legs back to the starting position.
Step 1: Sit down with your chest lifted, knees bent, and feet placed on the floor.
Step 2: Bring your hands behind your knees and draw your navel in towards your spine.
Step 3: Shift back onto your sitting bones and lift your feet up off the ground.
Step 4: Lift your arms up parallel to the ground. Here’s a fun option: straighten your legs for a greater challenge.
Step 5: Hold.
Learn how to properly engage your core muscles and so much more by heading over to the MoveU membership online.