Bodybuilders used to be judged superior if they had smaller waists. And because of this, they trained using special exercises to “tighten” their waist. This was done using the transverse abdominis or TVA. It runs across your midsection, like a belt. In fact, the TVA works like a natural weight belt. This muscle also has a role in helping back pain.
Science of the TVA
Before we get to that, lets take a moment to talk about the science underlying this vacuum-thing.
The TVA lies right under your rectus abdominis and your obliques, it is the deepest of the ab muscles. It’s unique because it doesn’t move bones like other muscles. Many of its tissues do not even connect to a bone at all. Instead, it runs across your midsection.
One of the roles of your TVA is to increase your intra-abdominal pressure and stiffen your spine. Another is to hold your organs up and inside your abdomen. Think of the TVA as your distended abdomen prevention muscle. And that is why you need to work on it!
Training Your TVA
The easiest of these vacuum exercises is also called the “abdominal drawing-in exercise” or ADIM for short.
Sine you will get the help of gravity, the face up (supine) version is where we will start.
1 — Lay on your back with knees and hips bent so your feet are flat.
3 — Pull your navel in like you are trying to touch it to your spine. The more your navels goes in, the more your TVA is contracting.
To start, hold this for around 15 seconds. You should progress over time. Working your way up to a vacuum of 60 seconds.
Take small breaths if you need to to keep going. Do three sets and then work your way to five sets.
Once you are able to do five, 60-second face-up (supine) vacuums, it is time to start making things harder with the quadruped vacuum.
This vacuum is more difficult because you will be working against gravity.
1 — Start on your hands and knees, with your shoulders vertical over your wrists and elbows, hips over your knees, and your neck neutral.
2 — At this point, the execution is the same as the supine variation. Exhale and pull your navel in as close to your spine as you can.
Again, work your way up 60 seconds, and at least three sets.
With only gravity into account, the quadruped vacuum should be harder, but because of spinal stabilizing muscles, this seated variation is actually harder.
Begin by sitting without leaning on anything. Just as before, exhale and pull your navel in. Again get yourself up to 60-second vacuums over time.
To speed your progress even more, do these vacuums using an unstable surface such as a Swiss ball.
The next step on the ladder is what we have named the real life functional vacuum. Do not stop doing the above versions. Instead, do one or more in addition to the following functional version.
Now we are reaching a variation of the vacuum that is essentially using your transverse abdominis through your day. Simply bring your navel in while you are sitting down at anytime during the day.
The difference is that you are holding it in indefinitely. It’s just a matter of staying conscious and not allowing your TVA to relax when seated.
Sadly, most people sit more than stand. So getting used to activating your TVA while being seated will help boost your neurological tone and will eventually make it easy to maintain while standing or seated.
TVA And Rectus Abdominis Combo Exercises
To bring the intensity up even more, do some exercises while contracting your TVA muscle and your rectus abdominus muscle. Do a vacuum first, then a crunch-type spinal flexion. This pulldown exercise is perfect for this: