The TA

For those who haven’t heard the transverse abdominis (TA) plays a crucial role in core stability.

Most athletes do not know how to effectively active this muscle.

What you may have heard is someone saying “draw the belly to the spine” or “engage the core” or “turn on your core”. This generally means contract your TA and hold the contraction while you complete whatever exercise your are currently attempting.

The TA is located deep in the abdomen below the outer six pack muscles it is used to stabilize the spine. It acts like a girdle and holds the torso of the body together tight, stabilized and controlled.

When a person injures their lower back often a dysfunction TA will result. It is important that control and activation is regained to reduce pressure and instability in the spine.

Very often a torn hamstring occurs as a result of an issue with the lower back or can lead to an issue with the lower back. If so, it is likely that the TA will be dysfunctional as a result.

If the athlete can learn to retrain this muscle and improve their pelvic stability, they will reduce the chance of re-injuring the hamstrings and back in the future.

Turning on the TA is a process which is not easy if you are not used to it. Start by lying on your back, with knees bent at a 45 degree angle. At first, the natural and most common reaction is to tense the rectus abdominis (six pack muscles). Or alternatively suck in the belly by holding your breath. It is important that you continue to breath normally and that the six pack muscles are relaxed.

Place you fingers just inside the hips:

find the transverse abdominis

Start by contracting your pelvic floor muscle, the muscle you use to go to the toilet, then slowly breathe out. You should feel a muscle under your fingers contract, if not keep going until you feel it. This can take some practice and getting used to. You should be able to hold the contraction and breathe normally.

It is important to understand that the TA is not a power muscle. It is a muscle that is designed for endurance, control and longevity and should be trained that way. When training the TA it is important to keep this in mind. You should not contract it as hard as you can, instead try to tense between 50% and 70% and learn to hold it for long and extended periods of time.

You should eventually get to the point that you can contract this muscle easily and should so before carrying out any exercise at the gym or at training.

There is an old adage says that when learning a new skill there are 4 stages:

1. Unconsciously – Incompetent
2. Consciously – Incompetent
3. Consciously – Competent
4. Unconsciously – Competent

Always continue to practice contracting the TA and eventually you will reach a point when you contract it without even thinking about it. When this point is reached you will have developed a more stable inner core and will be better prepared to deal with the challenges and force that is put on the body when competing on the sporting field.