The deepest of our four abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominus muscle, or TVA, wraps around the spine and is sometimes referred to as the “natural corset” of the body.
Personal trainers and fitness instructors will often use exercises that work the TVA to help clients develop their core stability. Having a strong core can reduce the likelihood of injuries and alleviate back pain, as well as allowing for better movement, posture and balance (see our blogs on Lower back pain, Personal Training: Exercises for the coreand Defining core strength).
THE ORIGIN AND INSERTION OF THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS
Located under the external and internal abdominal oblique muscles, the TVA acts as one muscle but is actually two, joined together by fascial tissue.
It runs up the anterior and lateral abdominal wall, from the navel up to the lower rib cage, attaching on the rib cage and the iliac crest.
THE ACTION AND BASIC FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT OF THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS
The TVA is involved with functions relating to breathing and straining, for example:
- Deep exhalation during exercise and sport
- Coughing, vomiting or defecating
- Blowing into a wind instrument or blowing up a balloon
It also helps the abdominal organs remain in place, and stabilises the pelvis and lower part of the spine, in particular when moving the limbs.
COMMON EXERCISES FOR THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS
There are a wide range of exercises that a personal trainer might recommend to help work the TVA and improve core strength.
- Plank, side plank, push up to plank row, plank with medicine ball knee tuck
- Bicycle kicks, flutter kicks, bicyle crunch, vertical leg crunch
- Abdominal crunch or roll forward using an exercise ball
All of these exercises should be carried out following advice from or under the supervision of a fully qualified fitness professional, in order to avoid injury and ensure the best results.
PROBLEMS RELATING TO THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS
If the TVA is not sufficiently toned, the abdominal organs will not be held in place as effectively, which can affect posture and put stress on the lower back. In more severe cases, sometimes following pregnancy, this can lead to lordosis of the spine (see our blog on Lordosis, kyphosis and scoliosis).
While it is rare, overworking this muscle can lead to problems with digestion, as well as a hernia or haemorrhoids.
Considering how important core stability is to good posture and safe, easy movement, it makes sense to spend time developing the core through following an exercise regime that includes working the Transverse Abdominus muscle.
While a well-toned TVA can reduce the likelihood of back injuries, anyone who is suffering from lower back pain should consult a medical professional before embarking on a new exercise regime, and work only with qualified personal trainers.