So after answering this question "Bodyweight exercise for the 'v'-muscle in the lower abdomen" I started doing some investigation into the transversus abdominis (TA).

From what I've found, while the TA provides support during any heavy weight bearing activity (squats, deadlifts, overhead press, carrying shopping), the only way to directly exercise this muscle is through abdominal vacuums. However there is really no way to make these harder as the TA acts as a girdle around the abdomen, with no way to add weight or change leverage. Although some people think doing this on all floors so the body sags more increases the difficulty, but not by much.

So the only way to really train it then is through volume. Starting a few days ago I started doing vacuums pretty much constantly, sitting at my desk if my posture lags, waiting for the bus, while cooking, etc.... Since then, I've noticed my posture is a little improved and my stomach certainly feels tighter (but that could be DOMS) and I think I look slimmer.

The question is, what physiological changes happen from exercising such a small, important muscle in this way, are there any dangers or benefits, will it interfere with other lifts?

1 Answer 1


There are no dangers of exercising the TA. By doing that you will increase spine support by your core. What this leads to is reduced injury risk when doing heavy lifting (Hodges et al. 1997). It does so by two mechanisms: 1) by reducing the pressure on the spine and 2) by compartmentalizing the viscera inside the abdomen to reduce the risk of herniation.

The physiological change that happens when doing isometric vaccuums is that the muscle will have an increased tonus due to a more active reflex arc; this is what will give you a flatter stomach (I'm assuming this is the reason why you feel tigter, not because of DOMS. On another note, DOMS is mostly induced by eccentric contractions, which are virtually nonexistent in vaccuums (the force exerted externally by the viscera is low compared to the concentric force by the TA)).

The biomechanical change that happens, on the other hand, is much more interesting. By stabilizing the spine through a stronger core, you will improve force production of the lower limbs because they will be able to exert their forces where necessary instead of also stabilizing the upper body in each movement. This is of importance in virtually all sports, but could also be of help in sedentary people to reduce spinal pain.

Finally, it will not interfere with lifts. It will only make them safer and easier to perform.

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