Transversus Abdominis (“TVA”) Exercise
Try standing first. Once you’ve mastered that, do the exercise on all fours for greater resistance.
Towards the end of your exhale, clench your abdominal muscles such that your belly button moves towards your spine (i.e. backwards) a half inch or so. Do not suck in your gut; that’s a diaphragm exercise.
Here’s a video displaying the exercise. Note the “advanced” exercise they talk about is stupid---it’s just a diaphragm “suck in” along with a TVA contraction.
You know you’re contracting your TVA if it’s difficult to talk without sounding like you’re suffocating (kind of like the Godfather).
You know you’re contracting your TVA if you mainly feel a burn after 45 seconds or so in band about an inch below your belly button, a foot wide and maybe 4 inches tall (i.e. above your pubic region).
Don’t “suck in.” That’s contracting your diaphragm, which is a different muscle altogether.
If you want to make this transversus abdominis exercise more difficult, do it on the ground on all fours. That way the transversus abdominis muscle is fighting against gravity.
I know, what is a transversus abdominis exercise doing on a website about chronic muscle pain? As explained on the Abdominal Dysfunction Test page, strong, activated abdominal muscles are an important factor in maintaining a healthy spine and recovering from a back injury. This transversus abdominis exercise is sometimes referred to as the “vacuum exercise,” though I think that’s a misnomer because it’s not about sucking in air.
Fat? Did you know that doing regular crunches is a terrible way to get rid of a protruding belly (in fact, it will make your belly slightly larger)? First of all, you can’t “spot reduce” fat (research the “spot reduction myth” if you’re interested). Second of all, there are two components to a “pot belly,” the fatty deposits on the belly, and the actual protrusion of the abdomen. The second component (abdominal protrusion, often accompanied by a FUPA) of a pot belly is due to the weakness of the transversus abdominis (“TVA”), sometimes called the “girdle muscle,” not to weakness of the rectus abdominis muscles (i.e. your “six-pack” or lack thereof). Strengthening the transversus abdominis will “suck in your gut.”
The awesome thing about this transversus abdominis exercise is that you can do it anywhere and nobody has a clue. You can do it at work in your chair, you can do it while you’re waiting for the subway, you can do it at a cocktail party. The only thing about this transversus abdominis exercise is that you can’t really talk while you’re doing it, so forget that whole thing about doing it at a cocktail party. Think about trying to talk when you’re carrying a couch or a piano. Your voice would not be normal.
I’m sure you’re thinking right now, “How come I don’t know this already?” Well, there’s really no financial incentive for anyone to tell you about the transversus abdominis. Think about it. Why would the purveyor of the Ab Max 2000 say “Hey you know what, you can just slim your stomach by contracting some muscle deep in your belly. You really don’t need some ab product for this?” There’s no profit to be made in that.
For an even more challenging exercise, be sure to check out transversus abdominis exercise #2, the plank exercise.
Further Reading: Related Floota.com Articles
- Vacuum Exercise @ Wikipedia.org
- Transverse Abdominis @ exrx.net
- Importance of TVA @ t-nation.com (excellent)
- “Bracing” vs. “Sucking” @ Dragondoor.com
- Zip and Hollow @ easyvigour.net
- Abdominal Support for the Diaphragm @ enduringresults.com
Originally Posted: 4/7/2008