Abs Series Part 2 – Transverse Abdominis

Last week we discussed the challenges of training the lower section of the rectus abdominis, better known as the “lower abs.” Trained effectively, and supported by a clean diet and sufficient cardio, improvements in this area can have a powerful impact on the appearance of your physique. Today we’re going to take a look at an abdominal muscle group that is often underestimated in importance, and undertrained in the gym – the Transverse Abdominis (TA).

Unlike the obliques and rectus abdominis (6 pack), which run linearly up and down the torso, the transverse abdominis is a cumber bun-like band of muscle that runs horizontally along the midsection. Arguably, the most important function of the TA is to serve as a retaining wall for the organs housed in the abdominal cavity. In serving that function however, it also acts as an internal “girdle”. In a relaxed or under trained state, the weight and pressure of the organs can expand the midsection. It’s actually quite possible to have a well-trained rectus abdominis, but still carry more girth in the core than desired because of an under trained TA.

When trained properly however, the TA pulls everything in tight, in effect reducing the circumference of the core in general, thus creating a flat canvas upon which to present your rectus abdominis and obliques. Think of it this way: doesn’t it make sense that a sculptor would achieve a better work of art from carving flat abs out of flat slab of marble than one shaped like a bowling ball? Then, by all means, why not be a smart sculptor! Start with a quality canvas…

So, how do we get here? Rotational movements. These include any exercises that mobilize the torso to pivot on an axis in a motion that is contrary to the lower half of the body, and vice versa. For instance, something as simple as standing with your feet planted and hips square, then extending your arms laterally on each side and twisting back and forth is an example of a rotational movement. The torso is rotating contrary to your lower half. Another example would be to lie on your back, extending your legs in the air and waving them back and forth (windshield wipers). In this variation, the torso is stationary while the lower half is in motion contrary to the top half.

Rotational movements are not new to many of you. In fact, most of you already incorporate them into your core training. However, a good number of you believe that rotational movements serve only the obliques. Once you hit a movement for the obliques, you likely move on to another group. It’s true, the obliques are stimulated by rotational movements that target the TA. However, the converse is not true: the TA is not stimulated by non-rotational oblique moves. It’s imperative that you include a dedicated rotation motion in each ab session, as well as an oblique move. Of course, these can be either weighted or gravity based, according to which meets your fitness goals. This topic will be addressed individually in future discussions. Until then,

Happy Lifting!

Michael Anderson
CPT NCSF, IFBB Physique Pro

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1 comment for “Abs Series Part 2 – Transverse Abdominis

  1. David
    December 11, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I always hear that planks are the best TA core builder. Is this not true?

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