by www.formulaoz.com A lot of people yearn for a smaller and tighter waist or a flatter stomach. This seems to be a very important goal especially for women who embark on a weight loss initiative.
Unfortunately, a lot of people have very weak abdominal and core muscles. Your core muscles consist of all the muscles within the trunk of your body. This includes the muscles in the abdomen, mid and lower back, hips and neck. Strong core muscles are essential for most balance and movement. The most obvious effect of weak core muscles is a hunched posture and back problems.
Off interest for a tighter waist or a flat stomach are the abdominal muscles. A lot of people could be having protruding stomachs attributed to weak abdominal muscles. This is simply a problem of the abdominal core muscles not being able to hold the entire contents of the abdomen firmly enough. The contents of the abdomen include your organs and intestines. Its just like a flimsy plastic bag bulging in all directions when trying to hold the contents that are within it. One may not even have excess fat and yet the stomach protrusion can be very obvious.
The Transverse Abdominis Muscle
The transverse abdominis or TVA, is an abdominal muscle whose function amongst others, is to stabilize the spine and firmly hold the contents of your abdomen in place. This is the innermost muscle in the group of flat abdominal muscles. It is placed beneath the internal oblique muscles. This is a deep layer of muscle supporting the internal structure and organs of the abdomen. The TVA helps to provide provide stability in the thoracic and pelvic areas, it helps flatten the stomach, is used in forced breathing out, and in urination, defecation and childbirth . . The TA also assists in supporting the spine in some exercises, like lifting.
As mentioned earlier, it also helps to keep the waist nicely tucked in which is the main interest of this article. It is important to emphasize that this muscle is below the fatty layer of the stomach. All this muscle helps to do is to prevent your organs and intestines from bulging out due to lax muscles. It does not do anything for the fatty layer under the skin. Fat must still be burnt via a caloric deficit.
How to Strengthen the TVA and Flattening Your Stomach
While the TVA works in unison with other core muscles for any core exercise, it is difficult to target as it is an internal muscle. As such one needs to perform a more targeted exercise. This is an exercise that you can do anytime or anywhere, even as you read this article.
The most well known and effective method of strengthening the TVA is the vacuum exercise. The TVA also (involuntarily) contracts during lifts; it is the body’s natural weight-lifting belt, stabilizing the spine and pelvis during lifting movements. It has been estimated that the contraction of the TVA and other muscles reduces the vertical pressure on the intervertebral discs by as much as 40%. Failure to engage the TVA during higher intensity lifts is dangerous and encourages injury to the spine. The TVA acts as a girdle or corset by creating hoop tension around the midsection.
Without a stable spine, one aided by proper contraction of the TVA, the nervous system fails to recruit the muscles in the extremities efficiently, and functional movements cannot be properly performed. The transversus abdominis and the segmental stabilizers of the spine are designed to work in tandem.
While it is true that the TVA is vital to back and core health, the muscle also has the effect of pulling in what would otherwise be a protruding abdomen (hence its nickname, the “corset muscle”). Training the rectus abdominis muscles alone will not and can not give one a “flat” belly; this effect is achieved only through training the TVA. Thus to the extent that traditional abdominal exercises (e.g. crunches) or more advanced abdominal exercises tend to “flatten” the belly, this is owed to the tangential training of the TVA inherent in such exercises.
3 steps to train the TVA with the vacuum exercise;
- SUCK your stomach in by exhaling all the air out of your lungs and bringing your navel as close as possible to your spine,
- Hold each contraction for up to 30 seconds.
- Do at least 3 contractions up to 3 times a day
That’s all it takes. Because the nature of this muscle, it can be trained every day at any time. If you are religious in doing this day in day out, your waist will shrink, because of the tighter TVA muscles.
A lot of people that I talk to have not heard of this exercise. That is not surprising considering that there is no incentive by any industry to teach this exercise. You don’t need any special ab-exercisers nor do you need any special guidance or training. All you need to do is to diligently perform the 3 steps above. I am not a believer of spot training as fat is stored in layers and can only be burnt off. This exercise certainly can help to strengthen lax TVA muscles which help to firmly keep the contents of the abdomen in.
Problem with other abdominal exercises
Traditional exercises that work the rectus abdominis muscles or your 6/8pack muscles cannot ultimately give you a flat stomach as these muscles don’t have the function of holding the contents of your abdomen. A strong and firm TVA will firmly keep all the abdominal contents within the abdomen and thus giving the appearance of a flat stomach. For a firm stomach one needs to train the rectus abdominis via the various abdominal exercises and the TVA with the vacuum exercise.
And more: Protection of the joints.
The TvA has been targeted as a muscle group that has influence on the stability of the spine and thus has been promoted as important for back protection; and, the advice goes, that if you develop this muscle and train it to work subliminally for you, the spine will get protected from injury as you exercise. Pilates and yoga in particular has a lot to say about the use of the TvA.
And back to flat stomach : If you have a whole layer of fat in your abdominals, don’t expect this exercise to get rid of it. While it may shrink the waist slightly, it will not burn fat. The only way to get fat out of the body is by burning it by a proper regime of exercise and nutrition.
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