Looking deeper…….Activating Transversus Abdominis

So, Pilates is all about tummy muscles…… right.  Well, sort of.  Pilates should be teaching you how to find, and activate, your tummy muscles, then the exercises go on and teach you how to move efficiently (most output, least effort hooray!) while these tummy muscles are happily, quietly, working away in the background. So actually, Pilates is all about whole body efficient movement, but the tummy muscles are the biggest ‘building block’ on which to base that.

Sounds good.

So – what about tummy muscles.  There are 3 layers of tummy muscles.  The top layer is your ‘6 pack’ muscle, the middle layer your obliques, then the deepest layer  – the one we are most concerned with is the Transversus Abdominis.



Have a look at these pics. The left is the muscle itself.  The right side shows something which helps visualise its job a bit better – this is the Spanx (spandex pants, or something!!) its quite similar, and does a similar job to your own trans abs muscle. It wraps all the way around from front to back and, although the elastic ribbing goes up the way in these, that means that they create tension across the way – to lengthen and flatten the tummy. Fantastic. And yours is right there!!!! Free!!

Ok, let’s activate.

Sit on a chair or stool, it’s important to have the wee curve out at the bottom of your spine, so rock right forwards onto your sitting bones, don’t tuck the bum under. Now check the ribs aren’t flaring out… Soften them down so they are sitting right above your pelvis. Don’t worry too much for now if doing that gives you a wee hunch over in your shoulders. Just notice if it does.

Ok, so now put one hand on your tummy below your belly button(towards the floor) and one hand above your belly button. Ok now the hard part. Let go of those tummies. Let them really go soft under your hands, let it all hang out… It’s ok, no one is looking!!

Now, gently….really gently pull the bit of tummy beneath your lower hand up and in. Visualise that Spanx lengthening sideways and flattening in towards your spine. Keep the top part of tummy -the bit underneath your upper hand – soft.

That’s it! trans abs is ON.  Practice it a few times, till you can do the tummy bit while still being able to breathe (always good!) and without shoulders hunching.

Well done!