Whether you’re searching for a cure for back pain or an easy way to appear inches thinner immediately, transverse abdominis activation will do the trick. Keep reading to find out how to work this magical muscle.

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The transverse abdominis, also known as the transversus, bridges the gap between your ribs and pelvis. This deep muscle helps support the ribs, pelvis, and vertebrae while serving as an anchor for your other abdominals muscles.

Because of its connection to the ribs, pelvis, and vertebrae; the transverse abdominis is one of many muscles determining whether or not you have back pain.

Many people think of the transverse abdominis muscle as the body’s natural corset. I, however, think of it as more like a sausage casing for three reasons:

  1. It keeps all the good stuff (your organs) inside.
  2. Like sausage casings, this thin muscle can be ripped or develop holes. When this happens, your internal organs can start to spill out through an umbilical hernia.
  3. I would much rather think about eating sausages than think about stuffing myself into a corset.

Aside from helping keep the right amount of space between ribs and hips and keeping your internal organs inside you, the transverse abdominis is an important muscle for breathing.

In fact, breathing is the main form of transverse abdominis activation. This means it’s the main way to work this crucial muscle.

So, whether you’re wanting to relieve back pain ASAP or whether you’re wanting a trimmer waist immediately, take a deep breath and keep reading to find out exactly what to do.

But, before you start practicing transverse abdominis activation, you’ll want to find out a little bit more about where this muscle is, what it does when it’s working correctly, and what it’s like when it’s not really working. This will be extremely helpful when you start practicing your exercises later.

You don’t have to wonder what you need to do to get rid of your pain. Download your free copy of The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief (No Matter Which Muscle Hurts) and learn this simple pain-relieving activity.

Where Is the Transverse Abdominis?

a drawing of the transverse abdominis muscle
Thanks to Kenhub for the image.

Every muscle has an origin (starting point) and insertion (ending point).

According to the Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards, the origin of the transverse abdominis is the “lateral one-third of the inguinal ligament, anterior two-thirds of inner lip of the iliac crest, thoracolumbar fascia and from the inner edges of the lower 6 costal cartilages.”

It inserts on “the linea alba by its aponeurosis.”

If all of that looked like a whole lot of medical blah, blah, blah don’t worry.

In plain English, your transverse abdominis runs from the sides of your low back vertebrae in the space between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis to your linea alba, which is that line that divides you right down the middle of your abdomen to give you six-pack abs.

What Does the Transversus Do?

The transverse abdominis connects to the ribs, pelvis, and (indirectly) the spine. This means it helps stabilize the bony structure in your torso.

However, it also serves as a stabilizing structure for the other abdominal muscles. Muscles such as the internal obliques and external obliques (which lay on top of the transversus) can work correctly because of the stability from the transverse abdominis.

Because of the stability it provides and because of this muscle’s type of movement, the transverse abdominis has been called “your body’s natural corset.”

When the transversus contracts, it helps force air out through your nose or mouth. Mind you, I’m not talking about your average run-of-the-mill exhale here.

I’m talking about forced exhalation—the type you use when you cough or blow out candles. This is the amount of force required for transverse abdominis activation, and that’s why a simple exhale isn’t going to cut it.

But What If This Muscle Doesn’t Work…

When the transverse abdominis is weak or dysfunctional, it does not correctly hold your organs inside your body cavity or support your other abdominal muscles. This dysfunction has a two-fold effect.

First, a weak transversus can tug on the lumbar spine (low back) and cause back pain. Second, when your internal organs spill out of your body, you look poochy and doughy.

Having a weak transverse abdominis can hurt your low back and your ego, but luckily, it’s a really easy muscle to strengthen.

The Best Exercise for Transverse Abdominis Activation

Since we already know the transverse abdominis is activated by breathing, it’s no surprise that breathing is the very best way to engage this important muscle. In my opinion, Pilates breathing is the best way to strengthen this deep muscle.

It’s incredibly important for you to pay attention to what you are doing as you breathe. Notice the muscles you’re using and make sure you don’t feel any pain in the bottom of your pelvis. If you do feel pain, you need to stop immediately.

Pilates Breathing

The traditional Pilates style of breathing incorporates a forced exhale, similar to blowing out candles. Here’s how to practice this Pilates exercise staple.

  1. Sit comfortably next to a wall. Feel yourself connect down to the floor beneath you. Sit up tall.
  2. Make sure to relax the front of your hips. Let your shoulder blades sit on the back of your rib cage like a superhero cape resting on your back.
  3. Inhale through your nose and feel your rib cage expand to the front, sides, and back.
  4. Make sure your rib cage didn’t open forward like it’s spilling out your internal organs. (Not sure what the heck I just said? Check out this post about rib cage placement.)
  5. Exhale through pursed lips and feel your muscles between your ribs and hips evenly draw toward the center of your abdomen.
  6. Inhale and exhale, feeling how your muscles move away from and toward a central point in the middle of your abdomen.

Feel your waist constrict as you exhale, and you’re doing it right!

Ready to Permanently Relieve Your Back Pain?

Practicing transverse abdominis activation is just one of several steps to permanently relieve back pain. It’s not hard, but it does take commitment to yourself.

If you’re ready to learn the exercises your body needs to permanently relieve your aches + pains and make you feel younger, check out Spinal Rejuvenation.

You don’t have to wonder what you need to do to get rid of your pain. Download your free copy of The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief (No Matter Which Muscle Hurts) and learn this simple pain-relieving activity.

Thank you to Kenhub.com for the above image and information about the anterior abdominal muscles (such as the transverse abdominis).

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.


  1. Anna on January 27, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Very useful text. Thank you!

    • Sarah Stockett on January 27, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you, Anna!