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Transverse Abdominis…Where are you? Here I am. Here I am. How do you do?

That song is so freaking annoying, isn’t it? My kids listen to it all the time.  Did you know they have a variety of finger types.  Shark families, fish families, super hero families, bug families.  The list goes on. The twins love them all.  Enough about bad nursery rhymes.  Let’s talk about our transverse abdominis.  (I hear you clapping and shouting “hooray.”)

Your transverse abdominis is your inner most abdominal muscles.  They act like a corset to hold your innards…in.  After we have babies, it is very common for the linea alba tissue (the line between the six-pack) to get stretched. Linea alba means white line, and it is white because it is  composed mostly of collagen connective tissue.  Because it is connective tissue, and our bodies stretch with pregnancy, that rubber band sometimes doesn’t want to snap back (my boobs didn’t either, as it turns out).  The result is often diastasis recti, an abdominial separation experienced by one in three moms.  It is important to heal these overtaxed muscles by strengthening our transverse abdominis and tightening that corset. Even if you don’t have an abdominal separation, it is super beneficial to learn how to use these muscles.  It will help tone and flatten your core, give you added strength, and protect your back.  I wish I had known about my TA years earlier.  Oh, and how I wish I knew about them while pregnant.  I would have been training these giant abdominal muscles.

These two exercises can help you get in touch with your TA.  Once you understand how to engage your core, you will find that you feel stronger and that you abs look more toned even though you aren’t doing crunches (gasp).  Check it out. Let me know if you have questions.  It can be very confusing to learn, and the whole breath timing bit takes some getting used to!

Protect yourself!

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2 Comment

  1. Jessica says: Reply

    Hi Ashley! First of all, I have to say thank you for creating a website that is a breath of fresh air in the realm of postpartum fitness! I always find myself nodding along and laughing with your writing and really appreciate your down-to-earth tone and excellent advice. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in a way that is so enjoyable to read!

    I have a question about trying to activate the transverse abs. When I follow all of the cues, it feels like nothing is happening. Like I’m trying to pull in and lift but my abs just stay in place. (My belly button won’t pop the balloon!) I have diastasis recti (3 finger separation at and above navel with only 1 finger below) and am currently 6 months postpartum after big baby number two did a number on my short-waisted abs.

    Is it possible that I’m so weak in the core that I’m just not recruiting the transverse abdominis? How is it supposed to feel when activated? Any advice would be appreciated. I’m currently on wait lists to see pelvic floor physical therapists because there are so few in my area, and I want to work on healing so I can get back to running and lifting. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind feedback. Let’s talk transverse abdominis. It is a difficult muscle to find if you are unaware. First of all, if your pelvic floor PT turns out to be good at his/her job, you will find it for sure on your first visit. In what city do you live? In the meantime, try watching this: This can be a good “drill” that helps you to feel it. The next step is learning to use your breath with those muscles and the pelvic floor. Last tip is to lay flat on your back when you are doing the vacuum move. Place your hands on your public bones–one on each side. You should actually be able to feel your pubic bones pull in more toward the center of the body. Also, doing the vacuum in a mirror can be helpful. Again, if activated properly, you will see your belly button rise up an inch or so.

      Really last tip–your breath is opposite of what we think. We are so used to sucking in–i.e. holding our breath and sucking in our tummy. You fill belly with air on the inhale, and use an audible “haaahhh” to release the air. As you exhale, and draw in, you should feel your core activate. I’d be happy to FaceTime you and help you try to get it!

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