Still trying to get a flatter stomach? How many crunches will it take? We all know diet and more cardio helps but there is another element. The missing ab muscle, the TA! Your abdominal muscles, also known as your “core” muscles, are composed of 4 layers of muscles. Let’s go through a brief anatomy lesson. The first, most superficial layer, is your Rectus Abdominus (RA), the 6 pack muscles. Under that you have two layers of obliques, the exterior and interior obliques (EO and IO), known as your side ab muscles. And the 4th, forgotten layer, is your Transversus Abdominus (TA).

Neglecting to strengthen the TA can prevent you from getting the flatter stomach you are trying to achieve. The TA basically wrap around your entire midsection from one side of the spine across your abdomen to the other side of your spine. This muscle is also known as the corset muscle. It acts as an internal corset as it compresses and pulls in the abdomen. So a stronger TA pulling in your abdomen will help flatten the stomach.

So how do we do strengthen this muscle?

  1. First, you have to wake it up! Chances are this muscle is pretty lazy. To wake it up lie on your back with knees bent and feet fat on the floor. Place your index and middle fingers of both hands on your pelvic bones on your lower abdomen. Now slide your fingers in towards your belly button just about an inch. Your fingers should be on your lower inner abdominal muscles. This is the best way to feel the TA contract. Now with your lower abdominal muscles pull your belly button straight down towards your spine. Do this slowly and you should feel the muscle under your fingers contract and become firm. This might take a little practice.

  2. Second, use it to stabilize the abdomen. Contract your TA and keeping that contraction while alternately marching your legs up and down one at a time.

  3. Now let’s get it stronger. Add the TA to your crunches. Hands behind the head, try to keep your elbows wide. Contract your TA muscle. Crunch up until your shoulder blades are just off the floor. Keep your TA tight and lower upper body down towards the floor. About a 2 count crunch up and a 4 count lower down. Try 3-5 sets of 10 for a total of 30-50 reps. Once you get better at it, you can increase the number of reps per set. Give it 3-4 days per week for about a month.

Watch as your stomach gets flatter and more toned with much fewer reps!

By Dr. Laurel Mines PT, DPT