transversus abdominis exercises

23 Transverse Abdominis Exercises & Stretches to Strengthen the Inner Core

July 12, 2021

The transverse abdominis muscle is the deepest muscle in the abdomen. It won't give you the much desired six pack look but this unsung hero of the abdominal muscles, acts as a natural lifting belt keeping our internal organs protected and giving support to the pelvic and lumbar region. Perhaps even more importantly, the transverse abdominis muscle is recruited every time we move our limbs. This post covers 20 of the best transverse abdominis exercises and stretches that will strengthen your core.

WHAT IS THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS?

The transverse abdominis is a lesser-known muscle found in the front side abdominal wall under the internal oblique muscle. This muscle is referred to as the transverse abdominal muscle, transversus abdominis muscle, transversalis muscle and abbreviated as the TVA.

Transverse abdominis muscle gets its name from the direction of its muscle fibers, as they are laid out in a horizontal fashion in the abdominal region. These flat muscles have more than one origin, arising from the front two-thirds of the iliac crest and lateral third of the inguinal ligament and iliac fascia, thoracolumbar fascia and finally the inner surface of the lower six costal cartilage of the lower six ribs.

To save you time and an anatomy lesson, the transverse abdominis ends in the midline of the abdomen. If you’re not familiar with some of these body parts you can think of the transverse abdominis as a muscle under your obliques that stretches from your ribs to your pelvis.

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FUNCTION OF THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS

The transverse abdominis is an essential muscle in the core that provides stabilization to the spine and pelvis so that movement of the limbs is possible by supporting the torso thus maintaining abdominal wall tension. This muscle also protects internal organs and holds them in place. Sometimes mentioned as the “corset muscle” the transverse abdominis supports our body’s core by wrapping around our sides. Transverse rotation is a part of daily life as we twist and turn constantly a strong and healthy transverse abdominis is paramount.

How to activate the transverse abdominis muscle?

Transverse abdominis muscle activation isn’t straight forward because of the deep location in the abdomen. To get an idea of how to activate it you can lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Take your hands and feel the area of the lower abdomen by your pelvic bone. From here you can contract your transverse abdominis slowly draw in the area of your lower abdomen. Try to breathe normally in this position as you keep your muscles contracted.

Another method of activating and engaging the transverse abdominis is by bracing your core. To do this take a deep breath then tighten your abdomen region like you are bracing for impact. You should be able to continue to breathe normally with your muscles contracted.

WHAT EXERCISES WORK THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS?

The transverse abdominis muscle can be exercised in a number of ways including breathing exercises, transverse plane exercises, core exercises and even leg exercises that engage the core. Having strong core muscles can help prevent injuries, make you look better and perform better.

19 Best Transverse Abdominis Strengthening Exercises

Here are the 19 best transverse abdominis exercises that will help to strengthen your core. These exercises can be performed daily as almost all of them are bodyweight transverse ab exercises. As always you should consult with your doctor before beginning any new fitness routines.

However, if you're in good health and you're up for a challenge try to run through each of these exercises twice. For all exercises shoot for 10 repetitions for each leg if single leg exercise or 20 repetitions if it you don't have to switch sides. If it is a timed exercise try for 30-60 seconds.

Ready, set, go!

    1. Hollow Body Hold

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      • Lie on your back with arms and legs extended
      • Squeeze your abs and glutes lifting your legs off the ground
      • Lift your shoulders off the ground keeping your arms straight (at this point you should look like a banana)
      • Hold this position as long as you can

      2. Bird Dog

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      • Get on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under your hips
      • Extend your left arm up in front of you while simultaneously lifting your right leg up behind you, keeping your back straight
      • Hold this position for a few seconds
      • Switch sides
      • Repeat for desired reps

      3. Bird Dog Knee to Elbow

      • Get on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under your hips
      • Extend your left arm up in front of you while simultaneously lifting your right leg up behind you keeping your back straight
      • Contract your abs to bring your left elbow to your right knee, meeting in the center of your body
      • Reverse the movement, extending your arm and leg
      • Switch sides
      • Repeat for desired reps

      4. Dead Bug

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      • Get on your back and extend your arms towards the ceiling with your legs up, keeping your knees bent so that your calves are parallel with the floor
      • Slowly extend your left leg out while lowering your right arm overhead until both are a few inches off of the ground
      • Keeping your core engaged throughout the movement bring both arm and leg back to starting position
      • Repeat with the other side
      • Complete desired reps

      5. Forearm Plank

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      • Get on the floor into plank position with your legs extended behind you and your hands stacked under your shoulders
      • Lower down onto your forearms keeping your body straight by engaging your core, glutes and quads
      • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds

      6. Shoulder Tap Plank

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      • Get on the floor into plank position with your legs extended behind you and your hands slightly wider than your shoulders
      • Keep your body straight by engaging your core, glutes and quads
      • Reach up and across your body to touch your opposite shoulder then place your hand back on the floor
      • Switch sides with your other hand and shoulder
      • Repeat for desired reps

      7. Knee Tap Plank

      • Get on the floor into plank position with your legs extended behind you and your hands stacked under your shoulders
      • Keep your body straight by engaging your core, glutes and quads
      • Slowly lower one knee at a time to touch the ground then extend it back up
      • Switch sides with your other leg
      • Repeat for desired reps

      8. Plank to Side Plank

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      • Get on the floor into plank position with your legs extended behind you and your hands stacked under your shoulders
      • Keep your body straight by engaging your core, glutes and quads
      • Slowly rotate your body into a side plank bringing your arm up towards the ceiling, hold for a brief second
      • Switch sides with the other arm
      • Repeat for desired reps

      9. Up and Down Planks

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      • Get into plank position
      • Slowly lower one arm placing your forearm on the ground
      • Then lower your other arm placing your other forearm on the ground
      • Press up one arm at a time bringing you back to plank position
      • Repeat for desired reps

      10. Front Plank with Arm/Leg Lift

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      • Get into plank position with hands stacked under your shoulders
      • Lift opposite leg and arm straight in front/back of you
      • Slowly lower to starting position
      • Switch sides
      • Repeat for desired reps

      11. Air Bike

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      • Lie down on your back then bring your legs up with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your hands behind your head
      • Extend one leg while curling up touching your elbow to your bent knee
      • Then bring your leg back and extend the other while touching your other elbow to the opposite knee. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the movement
      • Repeat for desired reps

      12. Corkscrew

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      • Lie down on your back with your hands at your sides
      • Extend legs up off the ground at 90 degrees
      • Lift lower back off the ground bringing your feet over your head then swing your legs in a circular motion keeping your core engaged throughout the movement
      • Repeat for desired reps
      • Switch directions of the movement and complete same amount of reps

      13. Wipers

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      • Lie down on your back
      • Bring your legs up so that your feet are pointing to the ceiling
      • Brace yourself with your arms on the floor to your sides
      • Slowly lower your legs to the side of your body keeping your lower back in contact with the floor. Touch your feet to the floor then swing your legs to the other side touching the floor (that’s one rep)
      • Repeat for desired reps

      14. Hundred

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      • Lie down on your back, your legs extended with your arms over your head
      • Lift your legs up to a 45-degree angle
      • Curl up and bring your arms towards your toes also at 45 degrees
      • Bring your arms back to over your head
      • Repeat this for desired reps

      15. Leg Raises

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      • Lie on your back with your legs extended
      • Engage your core and bring your legs up towards the ceiling as far as you can
      • Slowly lower your legs back towards the floor
      • Repeat for desired reps

      16. Alternating Leg Raises

      • Lie down on your back
      • Extend your legs, engage your core and bring one leg up off the floor as far as possible
      • Slowly lower your leg back to the floor then raise your other leg up
      • Keep your core engaged throughout the movements
      • Repeat for desired reps

      17. Pallof Press

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      • Using a resistance band or cable machine in the gym stand at a distance and where the band/cable is taut at chest height
      • The anchor point should be to your side while you grab the band/cable with both hands then press straight out in front of you
      • Keep your core engaged throughout the movement as you pause for 1-2 seconds while your arms are out straight before bringing back to your chest
      • Repeat for desired reps

      Related: Best 14 Transverse Plane Exercises

      18. Heel Touches

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      • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
      • Keeping your back on the ground, crunch up bringing your shoulders up off the floor
      • Alternate side by side reaching down to touch your heels making sure to keep your abs contracted throughout the movement
      • Repeat for desired reps

      19. Posterior Pelvic Tilts

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      • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
      • Gently draw your navel toward the spine to contracting your lower abdominal muscles (the one used when laughing/coughing)
      • Tilt your pelvis, slightly lifting your glutes off the floor and press your upper back into the ground without holding your breath
      • Hold this position for 5 seconds
      • Repeat for desired reps

      4 Transverse Abdominis Stretches

      To keep your transverse abdominis muscle healthy and free from cramps or trigger points stretching is necessary. This muscle is involved in moving our limbs so keeping it warmed up and properly stretched can help avoid potential muscle strains. Just like any other muscle, stretching increases blood and oxygen circulation to the muscle tissue.

      Try these four transverse abdominis stretches to get you prepared for whatever life has ready to throw at you.

      1. Cat Cow

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      • Get on hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips
      • Inhale into the cat pose by rounding your spine upward while tucking in your tailbone and bring your pubic bone forward. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds
      • Release back to starting position the move into cow pose by pressing your chest forward, lowering your stomach and lifting your head up. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds
      • Repeat for desired reps

      2. Supine Stretch

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      • Lie on down with a cushion under your lower back with your legs and arms extended
      • Stretch as far as you can with your arms
      • Hold this position for up to 30 seconds
      • Repeat for desired reps

      3. Lying Prone Abdominal Stretch

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      • Lie on down on your stomach
      • Put your hands on the ground under your shoulder and push up as far as comfortable
      • Hold at the top for 30-60 seconds
      • Repeat for desired reps

      4. Lying Knee Roll Over Stretch

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      • Lie down on your back with your hands out to your sides and legs extended
      • Bring your legs up bending at the knees at 90 degrees
      • Lower knees to the side of your body
      • Hold for 30-60 seconds
      • Repeat on the opposite side

      Related: 30 Best Bodyweight Core Exercises from Beginner to Advanced

      Benefits of Transverse Abdominis Exercises

      The transverse abdominis muscle plays a major role in most movements our bodies make. It’s important to train this muscle just as you would any other major muscle. We often get hung up on focusing on our visible abs and obliques forgetting about the real workhorse hiding underneath.

      • Reduced Risk of Injury: A weak transverse abdominis can lead to lower back pain. By strengthening this muscle, you can improve your posture and make your lower back more stable. This is especially important when performing lifts like deadlifts or squats.
      • Look Better: Even though the transverse abdominis is hidden under other abdominal muscles it can improve our core’s look by straightening posture and making you stronger in certain movements.
      • Improved Performance: Because many sports involve bracing our core a strong transverse abdominis can enhance performance by improving stability. The transverse abdominis is also involved with moving our limbs so working out this muscle can translate to better execution of full body movements.
      • Faster Recovery from Pregnancy: Performing transverse abdominis exercises can help decrease the risk of suffering from diastasis recti (a condition where there’s ab separation along the mid line of the body). Strengthening the transverse abdominis can also help to deliver a baby better as these muscles aid in giving birth.

      How do you do TVA breathing?

      Breathing exercises such as diaphragmetic breathing are extremely beneficial for the transverse abdominis. An excellent way of strengthening the TVA is through deep breathing techniques. Follow the steps below to target the transverse abdominis without doing any planks or crunches!

      • Lie down on your back
      • Place one hand on your upper chest close to your heart and the other hand just below your rib cage
      • Inhale through your nose to expand your belly starting from the pubic bone up to the rib cage. Don’t arch your back or bring your chest off the ground
      • Exhale through the mouth while squeezing your abdominal muscles. Keep contracting your abdominal muscles even when you feel you’ve exhaled all the air
      • Repeat for up to 30 breaths

      Transverse Abdominis Pain

      Transverse abdominis pain can be the result of muscle strain. Trigger points can also develop in the muscle which can be treated with myofascial release. Another cause can be from the elongation of the muscle during pregnancy which can lead to lower back and core muscle problems. The common symptoms of transverse abdominis pain are:

      • Pain when coughing, laughing or deep breathing
      • Pain with trunk rotation
      • Pain traveling to legs

      How do you know if you have a weak transverse abdominis?

      A strong core allows you to perform daily activities with reduced risk of injury. To gauge your core’s strength, you can do a few easy self-tests to determine if you transverse abdominis. Try to do some exercises like glute bridges or leg raises and if you have any pain in the lower back area you might have weak transverse abdominis muscles.

      Here are four signs that your core might be weak:

      • You need to use your arms or hands to help getting out of a chair or bed
      • When walking you sway back and forth
      • You hold your breath when doing core exercises
      • You lower back is arched when standing or walking

      Why is it important to have a strong transverse abdominis?

      Being the deepest layer of abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis plays an major role in preventing our bodies from moving in improper ways. It’s important to have a strong transverse abdominis because if this muscle is weak then it can’t properly support the pelvis and spine thus leading to lower back pain. By keeping your pelvis in a neutral position and your lumbar spine supported, a strong transverse abdominis muscle can actually prevent back pain.

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      CONCLUSION

      Hopefully you have a better understanding of the often forgotten transverse abdominis muscle now. Time to start focusing on the ab muscle you can't see. You will have to put in the hard work and consistent effort to strengthen your entire core not just the beach muscles. A stronger core equates to a stronger you!

      More Resources to Build a Stronger Core:



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