Is Your TVA On?
No, it’s not a typo.
We weren’t referring to the boob tube, but rather your transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle. This muscle is an important part of your core.
Your TVA serves a variety of functions that include (but are not limited to) helping you move safely and providing support for your internal organs. So keeping your TVA on is highly beneficial.
If you’ve taken a Pilates class, then you probably know how critical the core is. Recognizing the core is the origin for all movement is key in keeping the muscles and joints stable and efficient. But besides the TVA, what other muscles make up the core? We’ll take a look.
1. Rectus Abdominis
The most superficial of the abdominal muscles is the rectus abdominis. You’re probably familiar with this muscle as the six-pack muscle – hence it being so superficial. (Little joke there.)
Along with providing that washboard look, it also serves to flex and stabilize the spine though. So it’s not just a pretty face.
2. External Obliques
On either side of the rectus abdominis are the external obliques. They also serve in flexing the spine. Yet, they have an added responsibility for sideway bending and rotating the torso.
3. Internal Obliques
Moving in a little deeper, the internal obliques are just below the external. (You probably could have guessed that.) As such, they serve essentially the same function as their more extroverted siblings.
The Nitty Gritty on the TVA
The transverse abdominis is one of the innermost of the core muscles. It’s also more complex than the other abdominal muscles. For the anatomically inclined, it’s located just inside the internal oblique muscle where it rises from the inguinal ligament, iliac crest, the interior surfaces of the lower six ribs, and the thoracolumbar fascia.
If that all sounds too technical, we’ll explain it this way: the TVA starts on either side of spine, snakes around the torso, connects to the bottom ribs of the rib cage, and completes smack-dab in the middle of your abdomen.
So What Does the TVA Do?
As mentioned above, the TVA has multiple functions. Much if this has to do with functional core movement. There are two types of functional core movement where the TVA has tremendous value.
The first is static core functionality. In this sort of movement, the TVA serves to align your skeleton to resist an unchanging force. So, for example, this would be the way the TVA and other core muscles engage to align your body while in a pose like plank.
Dynamic core functionality, by contrast, is required when the body is in movement and using several parts in multiple planes of motion. In this situation, the TVA absorbs resistance and adjusts itself to the changing planes. One example would be when you’re trying to stay centered while carrying heavy bags on each arm. Another is the way your posture constantly changes while trying to climb a slope.
Why You Want Your TVA On
When we talk about having your TVA on, we’re talking engaging it to provide more support for your body.
Think of your TVA as a metaphorical lifting belt such as those worn by weightlifters. A lifting belt helps stabilize and protect the lower back. So too does the TVA. When you have it “on”, it keeps your lumbar spine from flexing or extending too much while maintaining your neck in a neutral position.
Your TVA also transfers load or force away from the lower back whenever you run, bend, squat, etc. so it’s essential to keep it strong.
Some Exercises to Strengthen Your TVA
There are countless ways to strengthen your transversus abdominis, as well as other core muscles. Three of the most effective ways are as follows:
1. Squirming Heel Touch
These are essentially “sideway crunches.” Just lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your head and shoulders as you would for a crunch, but rather than lifting and lowering, you’ll reach for your right heel with your right hand. Move back to resting and then do the same thing on the left side.
Move with some speed and continue as long a you can.
2. Hollow Hold
You also start laying on your back for the hollow hold. However, legs are straight and it’s important you engage your abs to press your lower back into the floor. Work to maintain that.
From there, lift your legs from the floor – keeping them as low as you can without the lower back rolling up from the floor. Extend your arms over your head. Hold for as long as possible and release. Repeat.
3. The Planks
You probably know regular plank as the top of a pushup. It’s also great for building your core. Engage the core and hangout there as long as possible – working toward a minimum of a minute.
Lower down to the forearms for a variation on regular plank and do the same thing. You can also transition to side plank from regular plank by transferring your weight to one arm and lifting the other arm skyward while you turn sideways. Alternate every 30 seconds or so.
Strengthen Your Transverse Abdominis
Ready to see how a strong TVA can make moving through your whole life a lot easier? Then contact us today.
Our highly trained Pilates instructors will help you get a deeper understanding of how to turn your TVA on while strengthening your entire core through safe and stabilizing movements.
Your lower back will thank you!