If you've been finding yourself sitting on the couch or at the computer for hours on end, this post is for you. So remember last post when I spoke about muscles seldom work in insolation? The same goes true for this week's featured muscle, but we'll just bring it back in and focus on our friend:
The Transverse Abdominis
I grew up playing tennis and practicing Tae Kwon Do. Later on in college, I rowed (much to my piano teacher's dismay --- my hands were ALWAYS blistered and torn up). What is the one thing during the workouts that ALL of my coaches (but none of my music professors) talked about?
"You must strengthen the core"
The Transverse Abdominis (TrA) is one component of the system of muscles that make up your core (stay tuned for further discussions regarding the core)
The muscle is extremely broad - stretching across your torso. It attaches on the lower 6 ribs from the top, into the pubic bone on your pelvis. Medially, it attaches right down the middle of your abdomen via a facial junction and wraps around the sides and attaches into the fascia connecting to your abdominal obliques (internus).
Image Credit: Kenhub.com
If you take a look at any of the other muscle pictures that I have posted, or even ones you can find online, understand that muscles will pull parallel to the orientations of its fibers. So in this particular case, they draw your stomach inwards like this:
It's not so much of a "sucking in your belly" type of motion, which is a common misconception. This is a 3D motion that occurs around your torso. Simplest way - if you've ever worn or seen a corset like they used to wear way back when, it's that kind of cinching together motion that this muscle performs.
Now, why is this significant?
As the TrA contracts, it works in conjunction with other muscles in the back, pelvic floor in order to increase the pressure inside the abdominal cavity. That pressure will then push up against the lumbar spine to add even more stability.
Whether you're walking, standing up from a chair, or raising your arm to retrieve an object, this core stability is essential in all aspects of human movement. In fact, it is so essential, that even as you reach out your arm to pick something up, your body anticipates the task and activates this system before it even happens. This means that your body should automatically engage all of the muscles before you even consciously realize that you're going to do it.
But wait.... There's more.....
Many studies including this one and this O.G. study found that in subjects with low back pain, there was a delay in core muscle recruitment. We're not talking seconds or minutes, but even a millisecond delay can result in decreased core stability with performing a task (like a conductor starting his downbeat when no one is prepared) which ultimately can exacerbate the problem further, due to the lack of initial stabilization.
This is a type of muscle that needs endurance training more-so than brute strength. So as you're going about your daily routine or workouts, see if you can feel your core kick on. Planks are a great place to start, but so are most fully body exercises because remember - you are never working out alone.
Until next time, stay happy and healthy!
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Dr. Janice Ying is a Los Angeles-based Physical Therapist. She is board-certified Orthopedic Physical Therapy Specialist and is regarded as a leading expert in the field of Performing Arts Medicine and the development of cutting edge injury prevention and rehabilitation programs for musicians.
The information on this website is intended for educational purposes and should NOT be construed as medical advice. If you have or think you have a health-related issue which needs to be addressed, please seek the help from your local licensed medical professional.