The Transverses Abdominis, simply called TVA, is the deepest of the abdominal group lying below the internal obliques. The TVA muscle runs horizontally across the abdomen and is a core muscle. It is also termed as the corset muscle or natural weight lifting belt because its basic function is stabilization. It maintains internal abdominal pressure.
Since the TVA acts as a muscular girdle, it stabilizes your pelvis and provides support to the spine. It protects against repetitive physical stresses from various motions your body makes such as twisting, bending, running, squatting, etc. The transverses abdominis helps with the breathing process by assisting in exhalation and compressing the internal organs. Importantly, it activates the core musculature and stabilizes the pelvis and lumbar spine prior to movement of the body. A strong TVA helps transfer force more efficiently through the muscles, rather than through your back and joints, thus aiding in the reduction of aches and pains (and injuries) caused by physical stresses.
Low back pain is a common complaint these days, a weak TVA being a significant cause. A drawback of a weak TVA is that the abdominal wall begins to bulge forward, causing the pelvis to rotate to the front, resulting in increased curvature of the lower back. Excess body weight and lack of exercise are equally culpable.
The key to building a strong, healthy and functional body lies in the choice of exercises and its tools.
Weight training exercises that involve the entire body done in standing is an excellent way to developing a strong core. Movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bent over rows, etc. make use of multiple joints and multiple muscles simultaneously, placing a reasonable amount of stress on the bones and connective tissue. When done with barbells and/or dumbbells, stabilizers also known as core muscles are called upon to be activated and contracted. The brain is forced to use the core in order to maintain stability. And this phenomenon is precious to us, because this mechanism makes the body functionally ready for the many physical challenges of daily life ranging from being quick, coordinated, picking up heavy objects and importantly, being independent. Make them integral to your workout. Choose barbells and/or dumbbells as tools instead of machines.
Machines in the gym are good for certain exercises but not for squats, bent over rows, deadlifts or overhead presses. The most ergonomically designed machine will demand you to move down the path that the machine has set for you. Machines are locked into a set range of motion. Consequently, all the stabilization normally required for exercises is taken out of the body and executed by the machine. The TVA, very important to preventing lower back injuries, does not get worked with these machines. Paradoxically, injury potential to the core muscles and spine is high when machines are chosen over dumbbells and barbells for these movements.
Senior Faculty (Exercise Science)
K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences
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