December 07, 2021 9 min read
The transverse abdominis muscle is located on the interior sides of the abdomen. Although you can’t see it from the outside, building strength in your TVA is critical for a high-functioning core.
Targeting abdominal muscles can be done with a few classic moves like planks but you’ll need more exercises than that to formulate a well-rounded routine. Read on to find out what the transverse abdominis muscle is, how it functions, and 7 of the best TVA exercises for building a killer core.
Unlike superficial muscles like the rectus abdominis, the transverse or transversus abdominis lies deep within the body’s muscular structure. Your goal in a TVA workout won’t be to sculpt chiseled muscle but rather to build functional and supportive strength. The role of the TVA is to support the spine (especially your lower back), establish the abdominal wall, and compress internal organs to keep them in place.
It’s a fundamental muscle that wraps around the entire abdomen like a corset and covers the area between the ribs and the pelvis. A core stability exercise program will improve the activation of the TVA and other important muscles regardless of the presence of low back pain.
Intra-abdominal pressure is maintained by the transverse abdominis. When that pressure is out of whack, you could experience serious abdominal pain. Targeting your TVA helps your body stay in good working order.
What kind of movement is your transverse abdominis involved in?Mostly, it comes into play when your abs are clenching or your lower back is under pressure.
Squats, for instance, are a great dynamic isotonic exercise that activates the TVA. But ab exercises like crunches don’t activate deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis because the brunt of the move is performed with more superficial muscles like the rectus abdominis and obliques.
Great for getting a six pack but not so much for strengthening the TVA.Isometric exercises such as planks also improve the strength of the transverse abdominis. Contracting the abdomen by sucking in your stomach and flexing as if you were bracing for a punch both rely on the power of the transverse abdominis.
Isometric holds call for continuous short reps of these flexes and contractions. Your TVA is readily targeted with both bodyweight and strength training exercises. As one of the most important abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis is activated whenever your torso is powering movement. So sitting, standing, and bending all work the TVA.
Alright, even if it is an important muscle that helps with certain actions, isn’t it better to focus on other abdominal muscles and let the TVA get its workout incendatally? Deadlifts illustrate the answer to this question perfectly. While deadlifts do work on the TVA and will also build muscle mass in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and other important lower-body muscle groups, there are simpler exercises that will isolate the TVA and build more strength in that muscle in particular.
This is helpful for anyone who doesn’t have tons of deadlift strength already. Every lifter can get something out of exercises that target the transverse abdominis itself.
When you do whole-body compound lifts, other large muscle groups can bear most of the weight and rob your target muscle of the workout it needs to build strength.You can isolate or target the transverse abdominis with several great exercises that we’ll go into more detail about a bit later on. If you want to locate your transverse abdominis, you can with this easy method:
Manipulate the tension on your TVA by sliding your feet out, lifting your knees, or raising your arms.
Remember how this flexion feels and get good at flexing this way so you can increase your gains with abdominal bracing during the exercises in this guide.
A weak TVA muscle has certain telltale signs and creates a few functional inabilities that are good indicators you need to put more transverse abdominal exercises in your routine. The jury is still out on low back pain. While there appears to be some relation between low back pain and the transverse abdominis muscle, LBP is one of those problems that has too many potential causes to single out the TVA as one of them in every scenario.
Luckily, this problem is a bit easier to solve for lifters and fitness enthusiasts because form errors in certain exercises show that your TVA muscle is underperforming.
Look out for some of the following mistakes in your workout routine:
Poor or slumping posture in a seated position may also be a sign of a weak transverse abdominis.
Some experts are against vilifying the TVA as the sole cause of lower back pain and recommend including approaches that address other aspects of the problem.
They also mention that focusing on unrealistic movements like “hollowing” could do more harm than good in the long run. Look for some of the workout effects mentioned above for a better indication of the condition of your transverse abdominis.
The TVA muscle works in tandem with the glutes, paraspinal muscles, hip flexors, lats, and three other abdominal muscles: the internal obliques, external obliques, and rectus abdominis. Although isolating the TVA can build more strength per rep, it’s also important to build strength in these other muscles as well.Exercises abound for targeting these various areas of the body.
You need an even mixture of abdominal, glute, lat, hip flexor, and transverse abdominis exercises for maximum core stability and well-rounded core strength. Add one or two of the following TVA isolation exercises on your back and core day. They also make great additions to a morning or bodyweight workout routine.
This plank exercise will incorporate a bit of your upper body along with core muscles such as the transverse abdominis.
Follow these steps for the perfect forearm plank:
Although isometric exercises like the forearm plank are great for the TVA and other core muscles, they also have the potential to aggravate lower back pain. If pain in the lumbar spine is an issue for you, consider using the next exercise in your routine instead.
Although it seems like a very easy exercise, getting the form right during a bird dog is surprisingly difficult. It’s easier on the lower back when performed correctly, but if you don’t keep your arms and legs aligned with your shoulders and hips, respectively, then you’re just wasting your time.
Here’s how you can perform bird dog reps that will build core muscle and target the TVA:
Perhaps one of the most famous core exercises alongside sit-ups, leg raises are ideal for a warm-up or as part of your routine. The abdominal muscles are challenged to resist a pelvic tilt during this exercise so you want to make sure you aren’t supporting your pelvis with your hands.
Here’s how to do leg raises to strengthen your TVA and other core muscles:
Another deceptively simple exercise, the dead bug is a great workout for the ab muscles and a particularly good core workout if you want to train your transverse abdominis to be better at the pelvic tilt that would normally lift your tailbone off the floor in a dead bug position.
Follow these steps to execute a flawless dead bug exercise:
Research shows that the transverse abdominis muscle is activated more during a posterior pelvic tilt than during an anterior pelvic tilt. You can take advantage of that fact with this easy workout.
Follow these steps to do a supine pelvic tilt the right way:
A resistance band or a cable machine is needed to complete this exercise, but it’s a great way to take your ab workout and TVA exercises a bit further.
Here’s how you can do a standing Pallof Press for a strong core:
Get your TVA muscle working in a different direction with this variation of the standard plank. You’re going to go from a raised push-up position to a one-armed side plank here, so make sure you practice the movement before you try to do it at top speed.
Working out your deeper core muscles will help stabilize the back and better prepare your core for bracing and avoiding tilts during heavier lifts. The transverse abdominis is the largest of these core muscles and is incredibly important for support and stability.
Use the exercises in this TVA workout guide throughout your ab routine to ensure your core has well-rounded functional strength.