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Fact Check: Do the Deep Abdominal Muscles Need Strengthening?

Deep abdominal muscles are crucial for core strength. (Image via Unsplash/Andre Taissin)
Deep abdominal muscles are crucial for core strength. (Image via Unsplash/Andre Taissin)
Soniya Y

Strengthening the abdominal muscles, especially the rectus abdominis and the external obliques, is an essential part of core strength.

However, when most people exercise their abs or try to strengthen their core, they focus on their rectus abdominis without activating their transversus abdominis.

When this muscle is weak, it can lead to poor posture and pain in your lower back and hips. To strengthen this muscle, you need to get familiar with its anatomy and function, as well as the benefits of strengthening it.

Let's explore the anatomy, function, and benefits of the transversus abdominis muscle and offer five exercises to strengthen this essential core muscle.


What is transverse abdominis?

The transversus abdominis, also known as your β€œcorset muscle,” is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle. It sits below the internal and external obliques and rectus abdominis, spanning from the lower ribs (costal cartilage of ribs 7–12) down to the pelvis.

As its name suggests, it sits transversely around your abdomen like a corset. In fact, it’s the only abdominal muscle in which the muscle fibers run side to side, rather than vertically or horizontally.


Benefits of strengthening the deep abdominal muscle

1) Reduces lower back pain

A strong core makes regular tasks and workouts safer and easier to do. It also provides lumbar spine dynamic stability or stabilization during movement.

The transversus abdominis, multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques are all muscles that help stabilize the lower spine.


2) Lower risk of injury

A strong core, particularly the transversus abdominis, can help preserve your back during powerful compound activities like deadlifts and squats.

Additionally, learning to brace your core during lifting activities (e.g., lifting a large box off the floor) helps to stabilize your spine. It also prevents your spine from shifting in a way that could cause back damage.


3) It could make your waist appear smaller

Transversus abdominis, often known as the corset muscle, can help you slim down your waist. This muscle creates a "cinching" effect by wrapping around the abdomen like a corset.

While there is little research on the subject, many anecdotal tales, particularly from the bodybuilding and physique industries, tout the benefits of transversus abdominis training.


Exercises to strengthen your deep abdominal muscle

While it's difficult to isolate the transversus abdominis on its own, various exercises can help you engage it to help you create a strong core.

You can try some of these workouts to strengthen your deep abdominal muscle.

1) Hollow Body Hold

The hollow body hold is an excellent workout for strengthening your core and targeting your transversus abdominis.

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Here are the steps you can follow to do the hollow body hold correctly:

  • Lie down on the floor with your arms straight over your head and your legs touching.
  • Point your toes and elevate your legs 12–18 inches (30–46 cm) off the ground with your core engaged and legs together.
  • Slowly raise your shoulders off the ground until only your lower back and hips are in contact with the ground. To avoid tension, keep your neck in a neutral position with your chin slightly tucked in.
  • Hold this pose for 15–30 seconds or as long as you can keep your core engaged and maintain perfect form.

2) Dead Bug

The dead bug exercise is excellent for core engagement, strengthening the deep muscle and balance for individuals who have trouble with it.

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Here are the steps you can follow to do the dead bug correctly:

  • Lie down on your back, arms extended toward the ceiling and knees bent in a tabletop position (knees bent at a 90-degree angle and shins parallel to the ground).
  • Straighten your left leg (toes pointing out) and lower your right arm to reach behind your head, parallel to the floor, with your core engaged. Keep your arms and legs at a distance of 6 inches (15 cm) from the ground.
  • Alternate sides by returning your arm and leg to the beginning position.
  • Repeat for 30–60 seconds, or as long as you can keep good form.

3) Bird Dog

When you move your arms and legs, the transversus abdominis is activated. The bird dog works your deep core by requiring you to elevate your opposite arm and leg while maintaining balance.

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Here are the steps you can follow to do the bird dog correctly:

  • Begin on all fours with your knees and hips aligned and your shoulders and hands aligned. Make sure your back is straight and your neck is relaxed.
  • Extend your left arm forward and your right leg back while supporting yourself with your other arm and leg.
  • Hold for 2–3 seconds, ensuring that your core is engaged the entire time. After that, switch sides.
  • Repeat 8–12 times more.

Bottom Line

Many core-strengthening exercises focus largely on the rectus abdominis, which is often referred to as the six-pack muscle.

However, it is important to remember that there are deeper abdominal muscles as well, such as the two that run beneath the obliques and the rectus abdominis.

If you want a smaller waist and a flatter stomach, then strengthening more than just your six-pack muscle is crucial.


live poll LIVE POLL

Q. How often do you work on core muscles?

1-2 times a week

I only do cardio

36 votes so far

Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh

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