The transverse abdominis is one of the core muscles that make up the anterolateral abdominal wall and sits just below the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle). The fibers of this muscle are arranged horizontally. It helps maintain normal abdominal pressure and assists with forced exhalation. Forced exhalation happens when you cough or sneeze, are exercising, or perform a deep exhalation.
When both sides work together, the transverse abdominis performs abdominal compression and helps with exhalation in breathing techniques. When only one side contacts, the transverse abdominis performs trunk rotation. Since the transverse abdominis helps to hold the internal organs in place, having a weak TA increases the risk of an abdominal hernia.
The transverse abdominis can be difficult to activate, but with some guidance and practice you’ll have it down in no time. You can try this from standing or on your back.
If you are standing, place your fingers on either side of your bellybutton about 2 inches away. Take an inhale and on your exhale, bear down, while breathing and try to feel your abdominal wall get harder. Try to hold this while breathing for about 3 seconds. Repeat this 15 times.
The next way to activate the transverse abdominis is on your back. Start with your knees bent and feet flat on the table or floor. Make sure you are breathing throughout this exercise. Take an inhale and on your exhale, draw your belly button in and flatten your spine. You should be able to breathe and talk through this exercise, otherwise you’re doing it wrong.
There isn’t a great way to stretch the this muscle, but because of it’s orientation there is not really any need to stretch it.
This information is only meant as a recommendation and should not be substituted for a consultation with a physical therapist.