The Transverse Abdominis: A Drastically Different Muscle

As we begin to focus on achieving goals for the New Year, we often start by looking down at our stomach region. It sticks out way too far for most of us. We often ask ourselves what happened and what can we do about it? My usual answer to my clients is, set goals. Remember the old saying, “Focus on what you want, or you’ll get what you don’t want.” This could not be any more true in trying to reduce your waistline and look good for Summer 2007.

To gain strength and support in our entire core or belly region we are going to look at and discuss the transverse abdominis. The TA is the deepest, innermost layer of all abdominal muscles. The importance of this muscle’s function has been well documented, but unfortunately has been greatly misunderstood by most fitness and medical practitioners.

It has been shown that the transverse abdominis is the first muscle to contract during any movement of the arm and legs. What this means is that, prior to arms and legs movements, there must be a preceding contraction of the TA to stabilize the spine and pelvis during extremities movement. When the spine and pelvis all are stable, the nervous system sends signals to the brain, effectively telling it tat it’s safe to recruit the extremity muscles.

This stable foundation is a prerequisite for force generation in our bodies. Force generation, simply put, is movements combined in a sequence to achieve an outcome. When the transverse abdominis is fully functional, all joints in the body receive greater neurological energy, thus allowing efficient and injury-free movement.

When the transverse abdominis is not working optimally, the brain automatically lowers the neurological impulses to the muscle, because the brain attempts to protect joints and prevent any damage. When the joints are unstable, the pressure-sensitive proprioreceptors in the joints begin to sense excessive stress during movement. The brain in turn attempts to cease muscular contraction, protecting the joints and joint structures. Due to our evolutionary adaptations in our bodies, the body will prioritize joint longevity over movement ability. In other words, the brain will attempt to shut you down before you get injured.

Now this is the way our body is arranged, but it doesn’t always work this way. If you are on painkillers for a bad back, the neurological impulse to the brain will be subdued, allowing for movement that would not normally happen.

The result of a dysfunctional transverse abdominis is poor movement quality and instability leading to early degeneration of bold bones and joints. Any person wanting to function, look, and feel better must maintain function of this important muscle. In many cases, because of surgeries (cutting the abdominal wall, C-sections, hysterectomies, hernias, and other operations), communication goes awry. Communication must be reestablished through specific isolation exercise techniques. These techniques are outlined in more detail in my e-book Firm and Flatten Your Abs.

The most common cause of transverse abdominis dysfunction is? What’s your guess?

That’s right-disuse!

Through inactivity, poor body awareness, respiratory dysfunction, and neglect of physical and emotional health the end result most often is physiological dysfunction. Many quality movement patterns and skills will be lost including effective function of the transverse abdominis. Without a good functional TA you increase your chances of injury.

There are few tricks you can do to get your transverse abdominis functioning properly. This exercise will help you gain communication with this often overlooked muscle. If you have my Firm and Flatten Your Abs ebook, it is on page 51.

So here you go…

Four-Point Transverse Abdominis Tuck

This exercise is great for isolating the transverse abdominis, for correcting “pooch belly,” and reconnecting with the nervous system. It is particularly valuable for pre-surgery preparation and post-surgery rehabilitation. In surgical procedures such as caesarean section and hernia, the muscles, nerves, and tissues are cut, causing a loss of neurological impulse (your brain tries to call your muscles to wake them up, but the muscles don’t answer!). Lack of neural drive to the core muscles is one reason for the belly hanging out. Certain exercises can help reconnect the nervous and muscular systems so your “pooch belly” gets the message from the brain loud and clear and pulls those muscles in.

Note: Using a dowel rod can help you keep good neutral exercise posture and provide biofeedback. (As the rod touches different parts of your body, it makes you aware of your body position.) If you use the dowel technique, place the rod along your spine, making sure the back of your head, upper back, and tailbone are in contact with the rod.

Position: Get down on all fours as though you were going to crawl. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips.

Movement: 1. Inhale and let the transverse abdominis hang out toward the floor. 2. Exhale, drawing the belly button in toward the spine.

Avoid any spinal movement during this exercise such as contracting the glutes, hamstrings, or external rotators.

Do this exercise using a 10-second hold and 10-second rest cycle for three minutes. Do this two or three times a day and you will see your belly getting a little smaller.

I hope you take advantage of this exercise to begin your own quest for a firm and flatter abdominal region.

Till next week…

Copyright (c) 2007 Personal Fitness Developement