Transversus abdominis is located around the front and sides of the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis. It is the innermost abdominal muscle, and functions like a girdle or the body’s natural weight lifting belt.
When it contracts the waist narrows slightly and the lower abdomen flattens. The function of the transverses is to stabilize the body as we move. This function is critical in order to reduce the wear and tear on the joints that would occur daily if they were unstabilized. Normally the transversus pre-contracts prior to extremity movement in order to stabilize the torso.
Changes in our Transversus Abdominis
Changes in recruitment of the transversus can occur. For example, a person with low back pain can experience a delay in the onset of transversus contraction, muscle atrophy, and a change in the structure of the muscle fibers which makes them less effective at their job of stabilization.
If this muscle inhibition is not corrected, this dysfunction will remain even after a person has recovered. Dysfunctional stabilization muscles contribute to re-injury and new injuries.
Retraining The Muscles
Retraining our core muscles takes focus and practice. In order to retrain and condition transversus, follow these steps.
- Learn to contract transversus without contracting other muscles.
- Perform transversus exercises to increase the endurance of this muscle.
- Incorporate transversus contraction into daily life activities.
We can teach you the following techniques:
Step 1: Learning to contract Transversus
This requires lying on your back or in a 4-point kneeling position. Let your abdomen relax and breathe normally through your belly. This contraction exercise helps you learn how to contract transversus without contracting other muscles.
Step 2: Performing Transversus Exercises
When performing transversus exercises we need to follow very specific guidelines.
- Slowly generate force in the muscle
- Continue to breathe, and strive to breathe through the abdomen rather than through the chest
- Hold the contraction for 10 seconds
- Focus on maintaining the contraction and avoid rotation of the pelvis
- Use a low load (using small, slow movements of the arms or legs instead of large fast movements or weights)
Step 3: Exercise Progression
Once the basic transversus contraction has been mastered, certain exercises are used for optimal recovery. Each progression begins with a transverses contraction, which is held throughout the movement.
Step 4: Incorporate into other Activities
The final step is using our transversus contraction when we do regular life activities. Each time we get out of our chair, lift, bend or reach we should first contract transversus. The goal is to teach the body to resume its normal stabilization strategy of contracting transversus prior to movement.