Slim Your Waist by Working Your Transverse Abdominis

In this post: The transverse abdominis is a magical muscle. If it’s weak, it can give you low back pain, vertebral instability, and dysfunctional muscle movement. But, if you strengthen it, you can slim your waistline.

a pin for a post about the transverse abdominis muscle

The transverse abdominis, also known as the transversus, is the deepest of your abdominal muscles. It bridges the gap between your ribs and pelvis, trying its best to keep all of your organs inside your body cavity.

Many people think of the transversus 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 stuffing sausages than think about stuffing myself into a corset.

In addition to holding your organs internally, people don’t realize the transverse abdominis is also an important muscle for breathing, keeping a healthy spine, and creating a smaller waistline.

That’s why this is my favorite abdominal muscle to focus on and work.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your transverse abdominis strong and healthy.

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Where Is the Transverse Abdominis?

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

According to the Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards, the origin of the transverse abdominis is the “lateral one-third of the inquinal 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.”

Your aponeurosis is a fibrous tissue that takes the place of a tendon. It works similarly to a tendon, but they’re not the same thing. You may remember that tendons attach muscles to bones. However, in this case, the transverse abdominis is connected to the linea alba by the aponeurosis.

If all of that looked like a whole lot of medical blah,blah,blah don’t worry. In plain English, here’s where your transverse abdominis is.

It runs from each side of your spine in the space between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis to your linea alba.

The linea alba is the line down the middle of your rectus abdominis that makes your three-pack a six-pack. (And, believe it or not, we ALL have six-pack abs underneath a fatty layer.)

What Does It Do?

The transverse abdominis has been called “your body’s natural corset,” but holding your body’s organs internally is not its only function. This helpful muscle also helps stabilize your torse.

It connects to the ribs, pelvis, and (indirectly) the spine, so it is a stabilizing structure for the other abdominal muscles. Muscles such as the internal obliques and external obliques can work correctly because of the stability from the transverse abdominis.

Also, the transversus is used in forced expiration. When you blow out candles or cough, that is your transverse abdominis working.

But What If It 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 can tug on the lumbar spine (low back) and cause instability. Instability can mean dislocation of vertebrae and injury to muscles.

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How to Keep the Transverse Abdominis Healthy

The transverse abdominis is a tricky muscle to restore. Its jobs are supportive or ballistic (like coughing).

Normally, I say that you should do the opposite of whatever the muscle does. Well, I’m not sure what the opposite of coughing is, and I sure don’t advocate for you to let the transversus get lax, allowing your organs to spill forward out of your body.

The best advice I have to restore function to the transverse abdominis is to mindfully breathe. The traditional Pilates style of breathing incorporates a forced exhale, similar to blowing out candles. This is a perfect activity to strengthen this stabilizing muscle.

Likewise, yoga uses ujjayi breathing. Although this breath is a forced exhale through the nose and not the mouth, the principle and the activated muscles are the same.

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

To Learn More…

I consulted The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. Recently, the book was revised and is in its third edition.

Also, I consulted my Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. If you really enjoy anatomy and want a tool to help you locate specific muscles correctly, I highly recommend these flash cards. I turn to them any time a client comes in with pain.

Also, Kenhub.com is a great resource to learn anatomy. Here is the link to their information about the anterior abdominal muscles (such as the transverse abdominis).

If you have hip or back pain that’s preventing you from living the life your dreams, I have great news for you–I have created a course to teach you how to permanently ditch your pain. Enrollment for Spinal Rejuvenation is currently open!

How else can you activate your transverse abdominis? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. When I'm not working with clients, I'm researching the best ways to get rid of pain. Do you want to learn how to practice yoga and Pilates safely in your own home? Or, do you want to know all my tips and tricks for pain relief? Join my mailing list and receive free goodies to help you.

2 Comments

  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!



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