How to activate the transverse abdominis (and what it looks like so you know what to aim for)
I talk about the anatomy and physiology of proper post natal recovery a lot to the women I work with. I do it because I believe in empowering them with the knowledge to look after their own bodies long after they have worked with me. A lot of time though – these terms are just words to people – gobbledygook if you will (yes I used that word) – until I bring pictures.
Here’s what the muscles in this key stabiliser loop for the core actually look like :
STABILITY TRAINING EXERCISE PROGRESSIONS
1. CORRECT ACTIVATION
CORRECT ACTIVATION SEQUENCE FOR TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS (TVA/TA) –
1 – Lie on your belly, head resting on your arms, relaxed
2 – Bring your attention to the lower part of your belly – from the belly button down to the pubic bone
3 – Draw this lower part of your belly gently towards your spine, as though you are trying to unweight the tummy from the floor (it will still touch the floor)
4 – Hold gently for 3 counts, you should still be able to breathe easily and the upper part of the belly is pretty relaxed
5 – Let it all release, and do a complete diaphragmatic breath – ribs expand and belly pushes into floor as you inhale
Tips for better activation
- Avoid bracing – which is a clenching and pushing out sensation
- Avoid sucking in at the belly button like you are trying to make your waist thinner – it’s just a gentle draw in of the lower belly only
Once you have the hang of activation in this face down (prone) position, try it lying on your back and integrating your pelvic floor – the steps are in this post here
Once proper activation of each of the 4 muscles has been entrained into the nervous system, we can move onto co-ordination and strength. Without entraining proper activation first, these muscles rarely work in more complex movements such as lifting weights or running – which is where injury happens.