How To Contract Your Deep Abdominal Muscles
What are the deep abdominal muscles and why are they important?
It’s so common that I hear from clients that they have a weak core or even closer to what I hear all that time is “I have no abs”. This is not true! Your abs are there you just need to teach them how to work again.
Your deepest abdominal muscle is called the transverse abdominis. It’s located underneath the rectus abdominis (the “six pack muscle”) and the obliques. Being able to properly contract the transverse abdominis is the first step towards improving your abdominal strength.
Importance of the deep abdominal muscles
The transverse abdominis (TA) is one of the major muscles of our “core”.
Due to the TA’s location, it’s a stabilizing muscle and is very important in maintaining stability of the spine and pelvis. Weakness in the TA increases risk of lower back injury. It’s also closely related to the pelvic floor, so weakness in the TA can also impact the pelvic muscles.
It’s super important to be able to activate the TA properly when performing other ab exercises. Adequate strength in this muscle makes your ab exercises more effective and decreases risk of injury.
It’s entirely possible and probably more common than you think that someone with a six pack could have weakness in their deep abdominal muscles. This happens when someone only focuses on ab exercises such as sit ups, crunches, and twisting type exercises and never takes the time to work on abdominal stability.
He could have a weak transverse abdominis! lol —>
Let’s go over how to activate this deep abdominal muscle.
The easiest way to start finding this muscle is by lying on your back and working with the breath. (This exercise can be performed in any position but lying on your back is the easiest.) I also suggest bending your knees and placing your feet on the ground while lying down for this exercise.
Place your hands on your lower abdomen.
Inhale and let your stomach expand and fill with air, on your exhale try to pull your belly button in towards your spine. This engages the transverse abdominis. NEVER hold your breath when performing this exercise. A common mistake is that people hold their breath at the end of the exhale when contracting this muscle, don’t do this!
Make sure you are NOT tilting your pelvis. Keep your spine in neutral and DON’T let the spine squish into the floor. You want to keep a slight space between the floor and your spine.
You should be able to contract this muscle and breathe at the same time.
Now I know this sounds super simple, but this can be difficult for many people.
If you’re having trouble doing the contraction and breathing at the same time, then continue to work on coordinating the breath with the contraction (meaning as you exhale, contract and gently pull the belly in).
As you get stronger, it will get easier to keep this muscle activated while breathing in and out.
For people new to this exercise or who are finding weakness here, I recommend starting with a 5 second hold and repeating for 10 reps. If 5 seconds feels too challenging, you can always start with less of a hold and work your way up to 5 seconds.