However, there’s another part of your abs that’s never trained and for that reason a real weakness among a lot of people interested in fitness. This muscle is called the ‘transverse abdominis’ and is actually located directly behind the rectus abdominis so isn’t able to be seen. Yet, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you should neglect it. In fact, a good transverse abdominis can help you develop not only a stronger core but a better-looking six-pack.
Firstly, what is the transverse abdominis? Well, the TVA is the deepest layer of muscle tissue that makes up the abdominal wall. It wraps around the entire front of your stomach, originating from the lower six ribs and the top part of your hip bone before connecting on to the base of your sternum, pubic tubercle, and linea alba. The linea alba is a bunch of fibers that run directly down the midline of the abdomen and separate each side of the six pack/rectus abdominis.
The TVA is responsible for compressing the abdomen and maintaining stability in the spine. If you were to completely relax your TVA then you’d look fat or as though you had a bloated, distended stomach. If you’ve done any research into old bodybuilders then you may be familiar with the act of ‘vacuuming’ the stomach so that you look thinner around the waist. This is all centered around the transverse abdominis by sucking your stomach in to appear more aesthetic.
Now, how does this help with getting a better six pack? Well, imagine trying to flex your abs if you’re bloated. You really aren’t going to be looking your best. If you’re lean then you’ll be able to see the outline but without the ability to fully suck your stomach in you’ll never look as good as you could. If you can strength your TVA for a better vacuuming effect whilst flexing your abs then you’ll look incredible. Training the TVA means that you’ll have better endurance to hold your stomach in for periods of time where it’s necessary, such as on the beach or going swimming. Anywhere where your top is off for an extended period of time relies on the TVA to be able to hold your stomach in so your six pack really pops.
Obviously, there are more benefits to training the TVA than just aesthetics. As mentioned before, the TVA aids with core and spinal stability and if you have a more stable core then you’ll be stronger across all of your big, compound movements. A strong core is the key to a stronger body and it all starts with the TVA. The muscle fibers that make up the TVA are mostly slow-twitch which means that it’s more suited to endurance styles of training opposed to the usual strength training for skeletal muscle.
Therefore, one of the best exercises is the plank. The plank causes gravity to drag your stomach to the floor and it’s down to your TVA to pull it back up. If you can hold a plank for a solid 45 seconds straight then add weight on to your lower back to make it harder.
The TVA will become naturally stronger through compound movements. That’s why it’s always important to make sure that these are a staple in your gym routines. It can be easy to just get your sets of bent over rows over and done with in the first part of your session before you eagerly rush to do bicep curls, bent over flyes, and other easier exercises. Yet, these single-joint exercises don’t develop your entire body in the same way compound movements do.
Compound movements require balance, synergy, and a lot of strength across your entire body to pull-off. That’s why they’re so good for you as they improve a lot of fitness aspects. As you go through these compound movements you need to focus on compressing and holding the abdomen in so that it’s secure. Really breathe in, breathe out and lock your torso into place so that your TVA is getting worked effectively.
There are some specific TVA exercises that you can do to target this muscle in particular:
The first of these is standing vacuums where you stand upright and try to suck your belly button towards your spine. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
The next exercise is a slight variation on the standing vacuum and involves doing it in a plank position. The directions are the exactly the same except it’s a little bit harder as gravity is working against you.
The third exercise is a swiss-ball roll-out. You start by placing your shins on an exercise ball and then roll the ball towards your chest whilst contracting your abs. Remember, focus on drawing your abdomen in to really boost the stimulus in the TVA.
If you follow these guidelines and implement these exercises into your gym routine then your core will kick up to the next level.