Do you know where your Transverse Abs are?
Do you know how to activate your TVA?
If not, you are not alone! Many people have no idea where this muscle is or how important the TVA actually is. You can’t talk about “stabilizers” without mentioning the Transverse Abdominis.
The abs behind the curtain… a.k.a. the “transverse abdominis”
I like to think about the TVA like the wizard behind the curtain. He’s the one who is doing all the real work behind the scenes while the superficial muscles get all the credit. For instance, anytime you move your arms and legs like walking or running, the TVA is behind the curtain doing his thing keeping you safe.
The TVA is an important core stabilizing muscle that works to support your spine while you move. If this muscle is weak, it can lead to back pain. For those that sit or stand all day, new moms or anyone dealing with chronic back pain, training this muscle will make such a difference in not only how you look, but also how you feel. The TVA is so “mysterious” that we really aren’t aware when this muscle is engaged unless we are actively training it.
As the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles, the TVA literally is the girdle that runs between the ribs and the pelvis horizontally from the front to the back. When this muscle is activated, it creates a natural corset around the internal organs and spine.
Hello small waist!
The action of the TVA when engaged flattens the tummy and aids in forced exhalation. When you make the “SHHHH” sound, the TVA is helping you to force that air out.
“Sexy” posture is not a “healthy” posture!
Getting A Strong TVA
If the TVA is weak, the abdominal wall will begin to bulge forward and the pelvis may rotate forward and increase lordosis in the spine. For years women have been taught that this posture (chest up and butt out) is “sexy” but actually ladies, it isn’t helpful and may actually be harmful if done all the time.
How to Activate the Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
Bracing. This method refers to contracting the abs and holding tight without movement. When bracing, think of someone punching you in the gut.
Hollowing. This refers to a technique when you suck in and compress the abdomen. Often times you will hear teachers say “pull navel to spine”. The idea is to make your waist tiny and hold the compression.
Which One Is Better For Me?
Both techniques have their benefits and it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to isolate the TVA then hollowing is a better technique in my opinion. If you are trying to work all the “core” muscles, then bracing will do the trick! In Pilates, we use both techniques to stabilize the spine while we move through class.
How To Identify Your TVA
Find your TVA by walking your finger in an inch from your hip bones.
Lay on your back, find your hip bones.
Then, walk your fingers in about an inch or so. Let out a simple cough. You will feel your TVA pop up.
Now, using the bracing or hollowing method, engage the TVA.
Next, try to cough. If your TVA is activated, then you won’t feel it pop up.
Trying To Squeeze It But You Just Can’t?
Don’t worry! You are normal. A lot of people have trouble identifying and isolating this magic girdle. Some people will click with it immediately while others will take time. There are many different exercises you can do to help you train this muscle.
Using Props For The Win!
Using a Stability Ball, exhale with sound as you press forearms into the ball.
The TVA is a “magic” because when you learn how to identify it, engage it, and use it when doing yoga, Pilates or any kind of physical discipline, you will protect your back, have more stability in yoga postures that require balance & as a bonus, get a smaller, flatter waist line. Ummm…. yay!
Core Work = Less Stress
And if that wasn’t enough incentive to train this muscle, according to the study done by a team of Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh, they discovered direct connections from the areas of the brain that control movement, strength, and stability (A.K.A. our “core”) to the adrenal glands which mediate the stress response hormone.
So what does that mean?
It means, more core work = less stress hormones. I like to think of core work as “burning off the crazy!” 🙂
Moral of the story… Next time you are all stressed out, try doing a little core work. I promise you will notice a shift in your mood and your back will love you for it!
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