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“The Internal Corset” – Transversus Abdominis (TVA)


by  Christa Bache Personal Training

This month, I would like to continue our discussion of the “core”.  In June, we focused on the Glutes, but now I would like us to look at the Transversus Abdominis, TVA for short or my favorite name “The Internal Corset”.  These exercises can be combined into a circuit in which you alternate the exercises for the TVA with the work for the buttocks.


The Transversus Abdominis is the deepest layer of our abdominals.  The TVA starts in the front of our body and wraps around to the back and covers the distance from the pelvis to the ribs.  It acts as a corset for our internal organs and helps to stabilize the spine.  When you forcefully exhale, cough or sneeze you feel this muscle activated.  Hundreds of crunches will not make your waist smaller, but working on your TVA can make your waistline tighter, your belly flatter and your measurements smaller when performed in conjunction with a healthy diet.  Also, these exercises have a great effect on posture too!


Helpful Hints:

*When you perform these exercises, the main goal is to keep everything in your trunk – the area from your pelvis to your ribs – as still as possible.

*Also, you want to focus on the area between your pelvis and belly button.  Work to draw this area in towards your spine and not push this area or your ribs out through the duration of the exercise.  If you have trouble keeping these areas engaged, then just adjust the intensity of the exercise.


Modified Pilates Hundred


* Lie on your back and place your heels on a couch or stable surface.  Pick the height that is comfortable to you.

* Have your legs straight with heels together and toes apart.  Your knees can be slightly bent if straight legs don’t feel right to you.

* Lift your head and upper back off the floor and reach your arms forward towards the couch.  Your arms should remain still, rather than pumping with the breath.

* Hold this position for 10 breaths.  With each inhale look at the area between your belly button and pelvis. With each exhale maintain the height of your upper body and draw this area in even further. After 10 breaths relax to the ground.



* To make this exercise tougher, perform it without support for your legs.




* Lie on your back, with your arms and legs extended to the ceiling.  Palms are facing in and legs can be straight or slightly bent.

* Focus on which areas are touching the mat.  The back of your pelvis and ribs should be really heavy into the mat, but there should be a slight curve in your lower back – just your normal curve and nothing excessive.

* Your shoulders and head should be heavy into the mat as well. You may need to place a small towel under your head for greater comfort.

* Hold this position for anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 minute.  Keep your torso still as possibly, the area below your belly button engaged and breathe as normal as possible.



* To go to the next level, you can extend the opposing arm and leg into a straight line, pause and return to start. Then repeat on the other side.  Perform 10 slow reps alternating sides (right arm and left leg, then left arm and right leg).






* Find a stable flat surface such as a sturdy chair.

* Place your forearms on the chair with your elbows under your shoulders and your eyes over your thumbs.

* Keep your torso as still as possible then step the legs back into a hip width position and the weight on the balls of your feet.

* Hold your body as still as possible and in a straight diagonal line from the top of your head to your heels.  Keep the area below your belly button engaged to the spine and breathe normally for 20 seconds to 1 minute.




* To make this exercise more challenging, perform it on the floor for 20 seconds to 1 minute versus on a chair.









* Rest between each set based on how your body feels.  Your rest period shouldn’t exceed 1 minute.  Decrease your rest time as you progress.

* Begin with 1 circuit of all 3 exercises then progress to 2 circuits.  Perform all 3 exercises in a row then rest for 1 minute.

* For a more challenging circuit, alternate these 3 exercises with the 3 Glute exercises. Perform all 6 exercises in a row and then rest for 1 minute.  You can then perform this circuit 1 to 2 times.