Alongside the rectus abdominis and obliques, the transverse abdominis completes the core region commonly known as the abs. This muscle group, also known as the “inner” or “deep” abs, lies under the “six pack” of the rectus abdominis. To get that coveted abdominal definition, you'll need a balanced diet, regular cardiovascular exercise and toning exercises that target each core group.
Many exercises engage the transverse abs as secondary muscles, but few target this muscle directly. Most that do focus on the transverse abs, however, are easy-to-perform body-weight exercises, such as the abdominal vacuum. This exercise requires you to kneel, sit or stand straight-backed, pull your navel into your spine as far as you can, and hold for 20 to 60 seconds. “Fitness” magazine recommends the scrabble ball. From a plank position with your feet on a stability ball, roll the ball under your feet for up to about 30 reps, or as many as you can to begin with. Other transverse-targeting exercises include the equipment-free single-leg stand, the stability ball dumbbell overhead triceps extension and the medicine-ball assisted hay bailer.
In Your Regimen
How and when you perform transverse abs exercises is just as important as which exercises you choose. ISAA-certified personal trainer Hugo Rivera advises working your abs three times weekly for about 20 minutes at a time. Allow yourself one day of recovery between ab workouts – never work your abs if they are still sore from your last workout. Rotate specific abdominal muscle groups. For instance, focus on the rectus abdominis one day, the transverse abdominis the next and the obliques for your third day. During transverse or other types of ab exercises, focus on abdominal engagement, slow, controlled motion and regular breathing, exhaling on the exertion phase of the exercise.
Because the transverse abdominis plays an essential role in childbirth, working this muscle group is key during postpartum exercise. Along with pelvic floor exercises, working the transverse abs helps restore the core muscles and ligaments to their per-pregnancy strength and shape. NASM-certified personal trainer Leslie McNabb recommends performing the abdominal vacuum in the seated, side-lying, supine and all-fours position, with about 10 repetitions in each position. McNabb recommends starting this transverse ab regimen two weeks after pregnancy, but because childbirth procedures vary, consult your doctor before beginning a postpartum regimen.
Those who suffer from recurring back pain often exhibit signs of weakened transverse abdominis muscles, which serve the key purpose of helping to stabilize the spine during everyday movements. As such, transverse abdominis exercise forms an integral part of lumbar stabilization programs meant to strengthen the lower back and increase flexibility. Starting a transverse ab exercise program may serve as a preventive measure to reduce recurring lower-back pain.
- ExRx.net: Transverse Abdominis
- BodyBuilding.com: The Stomach Vacuum
- ExRx.net: Abdominal Vacuum
- “Fitness” Magazine: 4 Weeks to Gorgeous Abs
- BodyBuilding.com: Abs Q & A
- DaveyWaveyFitness.com: How Often Should You Exercise Your Abs?
- Healthy Women: Postpartum Exercises
- NISMAT: Physical Therapy Corner: Low Back Pain and Lumbar Stabilization Exercises
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images