Recently I had the good fortune to participate in a Biomechanics of Function workshop in America led by Dr Paul Juris, a noted kinesiologist specialising in motor skill development, sports performance enhancement and rehabilitation.
With so much misinformation regarding the muscles of the midsection (core), I asked Dr Juris straight-out, “What’s the primary role of the Transverse Abdominis?” He confirmed what I always thought and often submit to exercisers who believe they can engage the Transverse muscle through voluntary recruitment.
What is the Transverse Abdominis muscle?
Of the four abdominal muscles, the Transverse Abdominis lies innermost to your internal organs and, as the name suggests, transversely stretches across your abdominal cavity. It’s worth mentioning that, unlike the other three abdominal muscles that make up the group, the Transverse Abdominis doesn’t cross a joint. This means you have no visual cues that you’ve contracted it. For example, you know your bicep is engaged when you lift a dumbbell and see your upper arm is flexed at the elbow joint. The same goes for the knee and so forth.
What’s its primary role?
It’s not to stabilise your trunk, but rather to assist the diaphragm - a muscle used in the process of inhalation (breathing). As the transverse muscle contracts, it compresses the internal organs which causes a vacuum where the diaphragm can more easily contract and flatten out. The better that the diaphragm can fully contract (freely move), the deeper and larger the thoracic cavity becomes, drawing air into your lungs.
Does it need training?
It’s a muscle you don’t need to target and specifically train. A properly performed strength training programme - like the way we teach it here at BodyTech - will automatically engage the Transverse Abdominis through the vigour of the workout session. Properly performed, a high intensity strength training workout will have both you and your Transverse Abdominis breathing like a freight train.