Activating the Transverse Abdominis for Aerial Training (and everyday life!)

What is the Transverse Abdominis, how does it support aerial training, and how do you activate it? Bonus – how it connects to the pelvic floor. 

Did you know that you have a corset of muscle that is there to help you generate more power in aerial movement? The silent hero working behind the scenes of all the incredible cirque performers you see is the transverse abdominis (AKA transversus abdominis, AKA TA or TVA). This often overlooked muscle plays a pivotal role in an aerialist’s ability to execute powerful movements.

Understanding the Transverse Abdominis

The transverse abdominis is a deep-lying muscle that wraps around the abdominal region like a supportive corset. Unlike its more visible buddy the rectus abdominis (your 6-pack), this muscle can’t really be seen. While it does not tend to spark the same ambition as the rectus or contribute to the six-pack aesthetic, it is super important for aerialists and really any movement discipline.

The Transverse Abdominis in Aerial Arts

1. Core Stability and Control

A strong transverse abdominis provides a stable foundation for aerialists, allowing them to maintain stability of the trunk which is essential for movements such as inversions. It acts as a natural corset, supporting the spine and preventing excessive movement like low back bending that could compromise form and safety.

2. Improved Posture

A well-developed transverse abdominis contributes to better posture, which is not just for muggles! Posture is a fundamental aspect of any aerial performance. You do stand up when on apparatus, and supporting yourself with the TA is key in these moments. Proper posture not only enhances the visual appeal but also creates stability as you balance on footlocks or roll up from a hip key or thigh hitch.

3. Enhanced Endurance

The transverse abdominis plays a crucial role in maintaining endurance during prolonged aerial sequences. By contributing to core stability and strength, it supports your ability to execute longer sequences.

Activating the Transverse Abdominis

The TA, being so deep and invisible, may need a little extra awareness and support to activate.

Think of squeezing *across* your abdomen.
Think of “flattening” or “compressing” your abdomen.
Locate the space between your illiac crests, below the belly button, and pull deep IN and across to the edges of your body.

1. Transverse Abdominis Activation Exercises:

  • Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back and tilt your pelvis towards your chest, engaging the lower abdominal muscles.
  • Vacuum Exercise: Stand tall, exhale completely, and pull your navel towards your spine, holding for several seconds.
  • Plank Variations: Planks engage the entire core, with a particular emphasis on the transverse abdominis.

2. Aerial-Specific Movements:

  • Practice activating the TA Before any inversion. Breathe out, squeeze in and across the abdomen, and maintain that squeeze as you invert.
  • Hollow Body Holds (on or off apparatus): Mimicking the position often adopted during aerial maneuvers, hollow body holds engage the transverse abdominis effectively. Squeeze in and across the abdomen!
  • Skin the Cat Planks: Practice stabilizing your core as you prevent backbend and engage against your glutes in this awesome drill that also helps stretch and strengthen your shoulders in internal rotation and extension.

Integrating Transverse Abdominis Training into Your Routine

Incorporate the following practices into your training routine to ensure the transverse abdominis remains a strong ally in your aerial journey:

  • Mindful Engagement: Focus on consciously engaging the transverse abdominis throughout your floor warmup and aerial training to help build it into muscle memory and habit.
  • Breath Awareness: Coordinate your breath with your movements, using exhalations to engage the transverse abdominis and create a stable core foundation.

The Harmonious Connection: Transverse Abdominis and the Pelvic Floor

The transverse abdominis also has synergy with the pelvic floor. As the transverse abdominis contracts, it compresses the abdominal contents, and the pelvic floor responds by lifting and tightening, contributing further stability. It is important not to aggressively squeeze the pelvic floor – it is possible for aerialists to develop hypertonic muscles in the pelvic floor as a result of over-engagement. Gently draw upward in the pelvic floor as you compress the abdomen with your TA.

Conclusion: Activate Your TA, Elevate Your Aerial Performance

As you delve into the depths of your core – unlocking the power of the transverse abdominis – you’re not just sculpting a strong midsection; you’re establishing a foundation of strength for your entire aerial practice AND daily life! The TA can support you in all kinds of regular activities, including sitting, standing, walking, and reaching for…you know, stuff.

Happy explorations!