22 Transverse Abdominis Exercises For A Rock Solid Core

Do you want to improve your core strength? When it comes to working the abdominals, most people tend to focus more on the rectus abdominis.

This muscle is what gives you those visible abs. However, most people tend to overlook training another crucial abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis.

Continue reading to learn more about the transverse abdominis and its benefits.

The transverse abdominis is a deep abdominal muscle (the deepest muscle) that acts as your body’s own weightlifting belt.

Its primary function is to protect the organs, support the torso, and stabilize the spine and pelvis.

If you’d like to improve your core strength, alleviate back pain, or just make daily tasks easier, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the best transverse abdominis exercises for improving core stability and strength.

1. Hollow Body Hold

The hollow body hold is an isometric exercise that requires you to contract your core muscles while remaining in a stationary position.

The benefits of this exercise include increasing core strength (including the transverse abdominis). Additionally, you won't need any equipment, making them accessible for anyone to do.

How To Do A Hollow Body Hold:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your arms above your head and legs extended.
  2. 2
    Keeping your legs straight, lift them around 15 inches off the ground. Ensure that your core and glutes are engaged
  3. 3
    Next, keeping your arms straight, lift your shoulders off the ground. At this point, your body should form the shape of a banana.
  4. 4
    Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
  5. 5
    Aim for 3 sets.
Hollow Body Hold

2. Bird Dog

The bird dog knee to elbow is a bodyweight exercise that trains the abdominal muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis and the obliques.

Additionally, you’ll also be training your erector spinae, gluteus maximus, traps, and deltoids too.

The hamstrings, gluteus medius and minimus, piriformis, obturator externus, pecs, serratus, and triceps all assist as stabilizer muscles throughout the movement.

How To Do A Bird Dog:

  1. 1
    Start in the tabletop position on all fours.
  2. 2
    Ensure that your knees are in line with your hips and your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  3. 3
    While keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor, raise your right arm and left leg.
  4. 4
    Hold this position for 2-3 seconds before lowering back down to the starting position.
  5. 5
    Repeat the movement, this time raising your left arm and right leg.
  6. 6
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Bird Dog

3. Donkey Kicks

The technical term for the donkey kick is a quadruped bent-knee hip extension.

However, it derives its common name from the infamous movement it resembles. Donkey kicks are excellent for both stabilization and conditioning.

This exercise focuses on the bulk of your glutes, the gluteus maximus.

Additionally, since your entire body must remain stable while your leg is lifted, it also works your core and shoulder muscles.

If you want more options for training your glutes, head over to our guide on the best gym machines for glute growth.

How To Do Donkey Kicks:

  1. 1
    Start in the tabletop position on all fours.
  2. 2
    Ensure that your knees are in line with your hips and your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  3. 3
    Keeping your one knee bent at a 90-degree angle, steadily raise your leg straight back and upwards. Stop before your back begins to arch.
  4. 4
    Return to the starting position.
  5. 5
    Repeat the movement with your other leg.
  6. 6
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Donkey Kicks

4. Scissor Kicks

One exercise you can use to build and strengthen your deep muscles is scissor kicks. Also called flutter kicks, this exercise works your core muscles, glutes, quads, and adductors.

The rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and hip flexors are among the core muscles worked.

How To Do Scissor Kicks:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and raise your legs off the ground. Ensure that your lower back remains flat against the floor.
  3. 3
    Begin the “scissor” motion by lowering one foot while lifting the other in an alternating pattern.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Scissor Kicks

5. Dead Bug

The dead bug is a great exercise for improving contra-lateral limb engagement and overall core stability.

Put simply, it teaches you to move your opposing limbs together while maintaining core stability and back safety.[1]

Ideal for beginners or as part of physical therapy, the dead bug engages the deep core muscles.

It’s a great alternative to side planks for people who lack the core strength and stability needed for those types of exercises.

In addition, this exercise is suitable for seniors, during pregnancy, as well as after pregnancy/ postpartum.

How To Do A Dead Bug:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your arms straight out in front of you.
  2. 2
    Bring your knees up to a 90-degree bend, as if you were sitting on an invisible chair. This is the starting position.
  3. 3
    Engage your core and ensure that your lower back remains against the floor throughout the movement.
  4. 4
    Keeping your arm straight, slowly reach your left arm back and toward the floor.
  5. 5
    At the same time, slowly extend your right knee until it’s straight.
  6. 6
    Return to the starting position and repeat the movement using the opposite arm/leg.
  7. 7
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Dead Bug Exercise

6. Forearm Plank

The forearm plank position (also called a prone plank or low plank) is similar to a regular plank exercise, except that you’ll be supporting your upper body using your forearms.

Forearm planks target the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, as well as internal and external obliques. Additionally, your upper back and shoulders are worked too.

You're going to want something to rest your elbows on for this exercise.

Also See -  Best Gym Mats On The Market

How To Do A Forearm Plank:

  1. 1
    Assume a plank position, with your legs extended behind you and your forearms flat on the floor.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and ensure that your body is in a straight line. Avoid dropping your hips.
  3. 3
    Hold the position, ensuring proper form throughout the movement.
  4. 4
    Aim for 1-3 sets of 30-60 second reps.
Forearm Plank

7. Shoulder Tap Plank

Although it appears similar to a standard plank exercise, shoulder tap planks are a challenging exercise in and of themselves.

While a standard plank is an isometric exercise, shoulder taps are an isotonic exercise.

Since they are an anti-rotation exercise, shoulder taps are one of the most functional exercises you can perform.

This exercise targets the obliques and transverse abdominis, and you'll also build arm and shoulder strength too.

How To Do A Shoulder Tap Plank:

  1. 1
    Starting in a kneeling plank position, cross your ankles and form a straight line with your body.
  2. 2
    Maintaining control and keeping your hips/shoulders squared, lift one hand off the ground and tap your opposite shoulder.
  3. 3
    Return your hand to the floor and repeat the movement with the other hand to complete a rep.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Plank Shoulder Taps

8. Plank Knee Taps

Next up, we have another plank variation, plank knee taps. Although a simple alternative, the knee taps make it more difficult and will intensify your core workouts.

The benefits of this exercise include improving core, chest, and glute strength.

How To Do A Knee Tap Plank:

  1. 1
    Start in a high plank position with your body in a straight line and your hands under your shoulders.
  2. 2
    Keep your abs tight and bend your knees until they are just a few inches above the floor.
  3. 3
    Hold this position for 3 seconds and return to the starting position. Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Plank Knee Taps

9. Alternating Knee Pull Ins

Mainly targeting the iliopsoas muscle, lying alternating knee raises are also a great exercise to feel your transverse abdominis working.

This exercise offers an excellent carryover for improved heavy squats and deadlifts.

How To Do Alternating Knee Pull-Ins:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your legs extended.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and lift your legs off the floor until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  3. 3
    Bring one knee in towards your chest while simultaneously extending the other leg until straight.
  4. 4
    Reverse the motion and continue this movement for the desired amount of reps.
  5. 5
    Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Alternating Knee Pull Ins

10. Plank To Side Plank

Few exercises are as effective at strengthening your core as a plank-to-side plank is. By rotating your body while in a plank, you’ll increase the difficulty and engage more muscle groups.

This exercise, also called plank rotations, works the core, triceps, shoulders, quads, lower back, and abs.

How To Do A Plank To Side Plank:

  1. 1
    Assume a high plank/ standard plank position, ensuring that your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you shift your weight over to one hand.
  3. 3
    Twist your upper body as you reach up and extend your one arm straight up.
  4. 4
    Return to the high plank position and repeat this movement with the other arm.
  5. 5
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Plank To Side Plank

11. Up & Down Plank

Also called a moving plank, the up & down plan targets the core as well as the arms.

As you transition between the up and down motion, you’ll also be working your triceps, shoulders, abs, and lower back too.

Albeit a challenging exercise, you can perform it almost anywhere with just your body weight and an exercise mat.

How To Do An Up & Down Plank:

  1. 1
    Assume a high plank/ standard plank position, ensuring that your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you lower into a forearm plank position.
  3. 3
    Keeping your core engaged, press back up into the high plank position to complete the rep.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Up & Down Plank

12. Russian Twists

If you’re specifically looking for transverse abdominis exercises for men, Russian twists should definitely be on your list!

This exercise is well-liked by athletes as it promotes rotational movement, which is prevalent in most sports.

Although it might seem like a straightforward exercise, it requires a fair amount of strength and endurance.

How To Do Russian Twists:

  1. 1
    While sitting on the floor with your legs bent, bring your feet off the ground.
  2. 2
    Lean back slightly to achieve a 45-degree angle.
  3. 3
    With your hands clasped or interlocked, extend your arms straight in front of you.
  4. 4
    Engage your abs and twist to the right. Return back to the center position.
  5. 5
    Next, twist to the left and return to the center to complete the rep.
  6. 6
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-16 reps.
Russian Twists

13. Front Plank With Arm/Leg Lift

Adding arm and leg raises into a front plank exercise helps work your abs more than regular planks would.

This exercise will get your core burning in no time! In addition, it works the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and shoulders too.

How To Do A Front Plank With Arm/ Leg Lift:

  1. 1
    Assume a high plank/ standard plank position, ensuring that your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  2. 2
    With your core engaged, lift your right hand out in front of you while lifting your left leg off the ground at the same time.
  3. 3
    Return to the starting position and repeat using the opposite arm and leg.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Front Plank With Arm & Leg Lift

14. Air Bike Ab Exercises

Air bike ab exercises are an excellent choice that targets the entire abdominal section and continuously stretches the stomach muscles throughout the motion.

This more challenging version of a standard crunch can either be performed with a fixed rep range or for speed with timed sets.

Benefits of this exercise include working the transverse abdominis, obliques, abs, and hip flexors. Additionally, improved core stability helps daily tasks as well as athletic performance.

How To Do An Air Bike Ab Exercise:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your knees and place your hands behind your head like you would when doing a crunch.
  2. 2
    Drive your left knee in towards your right elbow while extending your right foot out.
  3. 3
    Then, reverse the movement by bringing your right foot in towards your left elbow and straightening your left leg.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 20-30 reps.
Air Bike Ab Exercises

15. Corkscrew

The corkscrew provides a wonderful challenge for shoulder stability and abdominal training. With this exercise, you'll be targeting the obliques in particular.

In addition, it stretches the lower back and hip flexors while also working your adductor muscle.

Although this is already an intermediate exercise, it can be modified to further increase the intensity.

How To Do A Corkscrew:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your feet pointed toward the ceiling. Bend your knees slightly.
  2. 2
    Keep your feet together and lift your hips off the ground by rotating your feet to the right in a small circular motion.
  3. 3
    Lower your hips back to the floor and repeat the movement, this time rotating your feet to the left.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Corkscrew ab exercise

16. Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are one of the best workouts for building and strengthening your core. The primary muscles worked include the rectus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, and hip flexors.

This exercise is best suited for people with advanced fitness levels.

Since it's easy to do the exercise incorrectly, beginners or people with limited mobility are more prone to straining or injuring their back.

How To Do Windshield Wipers:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with feet in the air and hands beside you. Use your hands to stabilize yourself during the exercise.
  2. 2
    With your core engaged, keep your feet together, and slowly lower your legs to the right. Go only as far as feels comfortable.
  3. 3
    Bring your legs back to the starting position and repeat the movement, this time lowering your legs to the left.
  4. 4
    Continue alternating each side throughout the set.
  5. 5
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Windshield Wipers

17. Barbell Rollout

If you’re looking for exercises with weights, the barbell rollout is a great choice. This exercise primarily targets the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis muscle.

In addition, you’ll also work your forearms, lateral obliques, delts, lats, and other back muscles. The barbell rollout is ideal for back pain relief as well as for improving core strength.

How To Do A Barbell Rollout:

  1. 1
    Attach light weights to a barbell and kneel on the ground with the barbell in front of you.
  2. 2
    Hold onto the barbell with an overhand grip and keep your core tight. Pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your core.
  3. 3
    Keeping your arms straight, roll out as far as you can without arching your back.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Barbell Rollout

18. Leg Raises

Leg raises, also called straight leg or lying leg raises, are an excellent core-focused exercise.

When done correctly, leg raises target the rectus abdominis, hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.

In addition, you can add ankle weights or attempt a hanging leg raise variation to make the exercise even more challenging.

This exercise is a fantastic alternative to hanging leg and knee raises since you can do it from the floor without a pull up bar or any other exercise equipment.

How To Do Leg Raises:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your hands beside your body.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and raise your legs until your knees are in line with your hips. Your body should form an L-shape.
  3. 3
    Pause at the top for a moment before lowering your legs in a slow and controlled movement.
  4. 4
    Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  5. 5
    Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Lying Leg Raises

19. Alternating Leg Raises

This exercise is exactly the same as the standard leg raise, except that you’ll be lifting one leg up at a time, alternating between each leg during the set.

The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the hip flexors independently and stabilize the pelvis.

How To Do Alternating Leg Raises:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your hands beside your body.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and raise one leg up until your knee is in line with your hips.
  3. 3
    As you lower your leg, bring the opposite leg up. Similar to scissor kicks but with a wider range of motion.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 20-30 reps.
Alternating Leg Raises

20. Pallof Press

If you want a strong core, this exercise is an excellent choice! The Pallof press is an anti-rotation exercise that strengthens the major and minor muscles surrounding the spine.

With this exercise, you’ll be working a number of both upper body and lower body muscles.

These include the internal and external obliques, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, glutes, pecs, triceps, rotator cuff, and upper back muscles.

How To Do A Pallof Press:

  1. 1
    Holding the handle of a cable machine or a resistance band with both hands, stand parallel to the machine or anchor point of the resistance band.
  2. 2
    With the machine or anchor point at your side, bring your hands to the center of your chest.
  3. 3
    Press straight out in front of you, holding the movement for 2 seconds before returning your hands to your chest.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Pallof Press

21. Heel Touches

Heel touches, also sometimes referred to as ankle taps or alternate heel touches, are a great deep core exercise.

Most of your abdominal muscles, including your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and abs, are all targeted.

Additionally, this exercise helps to improve the stability of your lower back and increase the flexibility of the hip flexors.

How To Do Heel Touches:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your spine and pelvis should be in a neutral position.
  2. 2
    With your glutes engaged, ensure that you properly engage your core throughout the movement.
  3. 3
    Lift your shoulders off the ground and use your hands to tap the heel of each foot. Alternate sides by first reaching for your left foot before moving to the right foot.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 20-30 reps.
Heel Touches

22. Single-Leg Slow Lowers

Another anti-extension-based ab exercise, single-leg slow lowers, utilizes a slow eccentric motion to increase tension on the core as you try to stabilize your body throughout the range of motion.

While similar to the alternating leg raise exercise, this one entails the movement of only one leg during each rep.

How To Do Single-Leg Slow Lowers:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your feet pointed toward the ceiling. Your body should be in an L-shape.
  2. 2
    With your core engaged, slowly lower one leg down, stopping right before you touch the ground.
  3. 3
    Bring your leg back up before repeating the movement with the opposite leg.
  4. 4
    Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Single-Leg Slow Lowers

What and Where Is The Transverse Abdominis?

The transverse abdominis, also called the transversus abdominis, is the deepest layer of muscle within the abdomen.

Situated below the obliques and rectus abdominis, it originates from the edge of the chest (the thorax) and extends down to the pelvis.[2]

It's the only abdominal muscle in which the muscle fibers run side to side, rather than up and down.

Function Of The Transverse Abdominis

The primary function of the transverse abdominis is to stabilize the abdominal region, including the spine and pelvis.

This, in turn, enables limb movement by supporting the torso and maintaining the tension of the abdominal wall.

Additionally, it holds the internal organs in place and protects them. Since we twist and turn our torso in daily life, the function and strength of the transverse abdominis are crucial.

How Is Transverse Abdominis Activated?

There are two ways in which you can activate the transverse abdominis. The first option is to take a deep breath in and brace your core as if you were anticipating being punched in the gut.

With your muscles still engaged, you should be able to maintain normal breathing.

The other method involves laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Position your fingers in the region of your lower abdomen by your pelvic bone to feel when the muscles contract.

Slowly contract your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.

As with the first method, you should be able to continue to maintain normal breathing while your core is engaged.

man flexing his transverse abdominis

Benefits of Regular Transverse Abdominis Workouts

Performing regular transverse abdominis workouts provide several benefits.

Since the transversus abdominis is a key stabilizer muscle for your core, ensuring that it is strong and functioning properly aids in maintaining good support of the spine.

Additionally, regular transverse abdominis training has been shown to improve posture and pelvic floor function and help reduce lower back pain.[3] It’s great for diastasis recti too.

Injury Prevention

When doing strenuous compound movements like a deadlift or squat, having a strong core can help to protect your back against injury.

Additionally, learning how to brace your core when lifting something heavy off the ground ensures that your spine is stable and avoids injury. [4]

Better Athletic Performance

The transverse abdominis plays a significant role in most leg exercises. Most (if not all) sport requires good coordination and fluid movement to perform well.

Since we first brace our core muscles for stability before moving, the transverse abdominis is essential for maintaining abdominal stability during this action.

By strengthening the transverse abdominis, you can achieve better athletic performance and perform better than your opponents.

Improved Aesthetics

Since the transverse abdominis wraps around the sides of the abdomen, it's also sometimes referred to as the "corset muscle."

Strengthening the transverse abdominis can also be beneficial for smaller waist or for flat stomach.


Common Transverse Abdominis Exercises Questions

Can I feel my transverse abdominis?

Yes, you can! Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingers on your lower abdomen, right by your hip bones.

Pulling your navel in toward your spine will help you gradually tighten the transverse abdominis. As you do this, you should be able to feel the muscle contracting with your fingers.

How do you know if you have a weak transverse abdominis?

There are a number of different signs that could indicate a weak transverse abdominis.

These include not being able to get out of bed or a chair without using your arms as an aid, swaying back and forth while walking, having an over-arched lower back/ lumbar spine, and holding your breath while doing core exercises.

However, having any one of these problems does not automatically indicate a weak transverse abdominis, and it's best to consult with your doctor if you are concerned.

Can you overwork your transverse abdominis?

Yes, many people commonly overwork their transverse abdominis when trying to achieve a six-pack.

Not only can this cause the pelvic floor muscles to balloon and weaken, but it can also result in an abdominal hernia or organ compression.

Do squats work the transverse abdominis?

Yes, since your core must be tight and engaged throughout the movement, doing squats or any squat variation will work the transverse abdominis.

Should you try and stretch the transverse abdominis?

Yes! Stretching is essential for maintaining the health of your transverse abdominal muscles and preventing spasms.

Stretching improves blood and oxygen circulation, as well as prevents potential muscle injuries.

Why is it important to train the transverse abdominis specifically?

Even though it's one of the most vital ab muscles, many ab exercises primarily target your other abdominal muscles and don't effectively engage your transversus abdominis muscle.

Having strong transverse abdominis muscles play an essential function in protecting your back during compound movements like deadlifts and squats.


Conclusion

That wraps up our guide to the best transverse abdominis exercises. Training the transverse abdominis muscle helps to improve core strength and abdominal stability.

Also known as the corset muscle, it is important to strengthen the transverse abdominis and deep core muscles for enhanced performance and reduced risk of injury when performing other exercises.

Now that you know the basics of the transverse abdominis muscle, the benefits, and the best exercises to activate this muscle, you’ll be able to build a rock-solid core in no time!

Reference:

1. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Abstract/2019/10000/Exercise_Technique__The_Dead_Bug.15.aspx
2. https://study.com/learn/lesson/transversus-abdominus-insertion-origin-function.html
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6778169/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28502411/

Paul J

Last Updated on October 17, 2022