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October 12, 2021 5 min read

When you think of your core, you likely think of the muscles responsible for the six-pack. Although these visible muscles are important, those aren’t the only muscles in your core. 

Also known as your body’s natural “corset”, the transverse abdominis is the muscle that lies deep inside your abdomen.

What is the Transverse Abdominis?

Located on either side of the rectus abdominis on the innermost part of your abdomen is the transverse abdominis. 

To activate this muscle, think about pulling your belly button into your spine and squeezing your abs. 

This action is important for performing core exercises properly but also for bracing during moves like the squat and deadlift. If you don’t brace your core during heavy lifts, you can put yourself at a higher risk of an inefficient lift or an injury. 

This 3d illustration shows a view of the transverse abdominis muscles on xray musculature


What’s in a Name?

It may be a mouthful to say, but there’s a reason the transverse abdominis is named so. The word transverse means “across”, which is important for a couple different reasons. The first being the muscle fibers themselves run horizontally across the abdomen. The second being it lies across the transverse plane. 

The transverse plane is one of four planes that divides the body into top and bottom, and the movements in this plane include rotating or twisting. 

Flexibility in the transverse plane  can be important for sports like golf, but trunk flexibility in general can be crucial for mobility. 

The movement in the transverse plane include: rotation, pronation and supination, and horizontal flexion and extension. So if you're looking to work the transverse abdominis, you must do exercises that move through this plane. 

The word abdominis may be more obvious, but it originates from the Latin word meaning  “of the abdomen”.

Why is it Important?

The transverse abdominis is just one of six abdominal muscles, and it’s responsible for supporting and stabilizing the spine and the pelvis, as well as helping protect your internal organs. 

This muscle helps to flex the spine, twist the torso, and even assist in breathing.

As the central core stabilizer, strengthening this muscle can help in the reduction of the global health issue of low back pain.

Bigger compound lifts can benefit from a well-rounded core, but it’s not just in the gym where this muscle group is important. 

The transverse abdominis helps maintain tension in the abdominal wall, which can play a crucial role in opening a door, carrying groceries, or even walking down the street.  

Training this specific area of the body can help build a stronger core, reduce low back pain, lower your risk of injury, and contribute to a more sculpted midsection. Choosing exercises that target the transverse abdominis can be important for overall strength and stability.

7 Transverse Abdominis Exercises

In order to work the transverse abdominis, you must do exercises that move through the transverse plane. Below are seven exercises to help increase your core strength. 

1. Hollow Hold

    How to do the Hollow Hold: 

    • Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat for comfort.
    • Engage your core by pressing your belly button into your spine. The goal here is to eliminate the space between your low back and the floor. 
    • Extend your arms above your head and lift your heels off the ground.
    • Hold this position until fatigued.

    2. Side Plank with Rotation 

     How to do the Side Plank with Rotation:

    • Lie on side with your elbow on the ground.
    • Lift your hips off the floor, so one foot is grounded, and your body is in a straight line.  
    • Hold this position as you prepare to rotate.
    • With your top arm, reach towards the sky then rotate your core to reach your arm under your ribs.
    • Continue to repeat this movement pattern. 

    3. Cable Woodchopper 

    How to do the Cable Woodchopper:

    • Set the handle of the cable so you need to reach up and grab it.
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart next to the cable machine.
    • With your arms extended, grab the handle and pull it diagonally across your body until it passes your opposite leg. You'll need to twist your core to make this happen.
    • Once you've reached a full range of motion, return to the starting position using the same path.

    4. Russian Twists  

    How to do Russian Twists:

    • Sit on your tailbone with your knees bent, chest tall, and hands held at about rib height.
    • Squeeze your core as you begin to twist to the right side.
    • Twist until your hands touch the floor, then return to the middle.
    • Right away, twist to the left side until your hands reach the floor. 
    • Continue to repeat for reps

    5. Plank Pull Through  

    How to do the Plank Pull Through: 

    • Place a dumbbell on the floor and get into a plank position next to it.
    • Make sure your hands are under your shoulders, and your back is flat.
    • Whichever side the dumbbell is on, reach your opposite hand under your body to grab it.
    • Pick it up off the floor and pull it to the other side.

    6. Bicycle Crunch

    How to do the Bicycle Crunch:

    • Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat for comfort.
    • Put your hands behind your head and keep your elbows wide.
    • Lift your heels off the ground and extend your legs.
    • Squeeze your core as you begin to twist and bring one knee to your chest.
    • Bring your opposite elbow to your opposite knee and hold for 1-2 seconds
    • Switch right to the other side and continue to repeat. 

    7. V-up

    How to do the V-up:

    • Lie flat on your back on a mat for comfort.
    • Squeeze your core, so your low back is flat on the ground.
    • Lift your heels and extend your arms above your head.
    • At the same time, lift your legs and your back off the ground, reaching your hands towards your feet. Your body should resemble a "V"
    • Slowly return to the starting position.

    Wrapping Up

    The transverse abdominis is crucial for core strength and stability. Although many people think about beach bod abs when they think of core work, the importance of core training for gym performance and everyday life shouldn't be overlooked. Anytime you move or twist, your core is at work, and by practicing these exercises in the gym, you can help prevent an injury. 

    We all want abs, but training them right goes further than just looks. Get a stronger and more sculpted core by incorporating these seven transverse abdominis exercise. To maximize results, try the  Ripped Stack  now and watch your muscles grow like never before.