4

Recently I've learned that to prevent a "bloated" stomach, you should contract the transverse abdominis when exercising. Since I've never worked the TVA specifically, I couldn't contract it and knew that I needed to improve the mind-muscle connection. I've heard all the tips -- think about walking into a pool of ice, try and draw your belly button to your spine, etc. However, I can't figure out if I'm actually doing the contraction properly. I've never worked the TVA, so I have no idea when it is being worked.

Is there any sure-fire way to feel that contraction and know that it's the transverse abdominis and not just a slight contraction of the rectus abdominis?

  • In a plank position or crunch. – user31089 Apr 30 '19 at 6:41
  • You can feel the TVA like this: first lie down and find the top of the pelvis on both sides in the front. Then move inwards about one inch, and press into that area with the fingers while the stomach is relaxed. Now pull in the stomach, and you should feel a muscle pressing against your fingers. I am not sure why you are asking though. Isolating abdominal muscles isn't something that is useful for the average person. – BKE May 4 '19 at 11:40
0

Recently I've learned that to prevent a "bloated" stomach, you should contract the transverse abdominis when exercising.

Not exactly...

You shouldn't try to activate (in isolation) transverse abdominis (TVA) directly while doing anything but direct TVA work.

Sucking in like that while trying to do squats, or lunges or deadlifts or bench press, or chin-ups or anything like that is a bad idea.

I won't get into why. Instead, I'll just link to a video by Dr. Stuart McGill (basically the world's foremost authority on back pain and the spine) on why you should brace instead of sucking the abdominals in. In short, bracing protects your spine, sucking in destabilizes the spine and increases injury potential if you're actually trying to train exercises under load.

If you're chasing prevention of a bloated look and you're trying to train TVA directly, you should train it directly either on all fours (quadruped position) or on your back (likely in a deadbug position).

However, I can't figure out if I'm actually doing the contraction properly. Is there any sure-fire way to feel that contraction and know that it's the transverse abdominis and not just a slight contraction of the rectus abdominis?

Yes, lay on your back and find the insides of your pelvic bone relatively low down. Near your crotch almost. Put your index finger and middle finger just inside the fleshy part of the pelvis. And try to vacuum in (suck in) or pull the belly button towards your spine. It's almost like kegels too (as your pelvic floor works in co-contraction with your TVA), so it will also kind of feel like you're trying not to pee.

Ultimately you should feel the contraction with your fingers, essentially behind the the Rectus Abdominis (RA, the 6 pack muscle). You should be able to feel a strong/firm contraction behind them without much activation of them, but you likely won't be able to do TVA direct work without some RA activation. They typically work together to a degree.

This is a good awareness drill before you do any other TVA focused training like vacuums or deadbugs.

All that being said, frankly I find TVA specific training outdated and overrated. I still use it from time to time, on occasion. Maybe something to revisit periodically. However, the research a lot of that TVA stuff from the 2000's was based on some faulty logic. It found that TVA was delayed in it's contraction in low back pain patients, but it was more likely that the TVA was delayed due to back pain and not the back pain being caused by the TVA being delayed.

If you are doing it, it shouldn't be much. Once you get the hang of the feeling and that fine motor control, you can likely move onto other things and drop TVA work entirely from your routine. Maybe revisit it once or twice a year, see if you still have the motor control.

| improve this answer | |
0

Perform a Stomach Vacuum

Breath out all the air in your lungs while contracting your abs as hard as you can. After all the air is gone, continue to hold the contraction of your abs while sucking your stomach in as much as possible.

The held ab contraction helps to ensure that the transverse abdominis is the primary muscle being utilized instead of sharing that honor with the diaphragm.

| improve this answer | |
  • is there a way to make sure I'm actually contracting the TVA during that and not just the rectus abdominis on top of it? – Andrew McAvoy Apr 30 '19 at 16:06
  • @AndrewMcAvoy - If you can suck your stomach in while holding the rectus abdominis contraction, then you are using your transverse abdominis. – JustSnilloc Apr 30 '19 at 16:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.