The Importance of the Transverse Abdominis (TVA) Muscle


Verywell / Ben Goldstein

You may not have heard of the transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle, but it's an extremely important muscle that acts as a stabilizer for the entire low back and core muscles. It is one of the main core stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine.

A weak TVA is often one of the many reasons people may experience low back pain. If you're looking to alleviate lower back pain, adding some specific exercises to strengthen your TVA muscle may be helpful.

Transverse Abdominus (TVA) Muscles

The transverse abdominus is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back. When activated, the TVA muscles create a deep natural "corset" around the internal organs and lumbar spine. These muscles stabilize the entire low back and core muscles and are the main core stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine.

This activation flattens the abdominal wall, compresses the viscera (internal organs), supports the internal organs and helps expel air during forced exhalation. One major function of the TVA muscles is to stabilize the spine during movements that involve the arms and legs.

Importance of Strengthening

If the TVA muscles are weak, the abdominal wall will begin to bulge forward and the pelvis may rotate forward and increase lordosis (inward curvature) in the spine.

This can result after pregnancy and may also be associated with weight gain or lack of exercise. A recent study shows that weak TVA muscles may be to blame for lower back pain.

Activating the Muscles

There are generally two ways to activate the TVA muscles for improved core stabilization.


Bracing refers to an isometric contraction of the TVA by contracting the muscles of the abdomen and holding them tight without movement. When bracing, imagine that you are getting ready for a punch to your belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object.

The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen.

To activate the TVA with bracing, you will maintain an isometric hold in this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat several times.


Hollowing refers to a technique to activate the TVA that occurs as you suck in and compress the abdomen. To perform this technique, contract your abdomen and pull your belly button back toward your spine to make your abdomen as small as possible. Once you've completed this movement, maintain an isometric hold of this compressed position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat.


Bracing has been found to be more effective in stabilizing the lumbar spine than hollowing. Bracing results in the contraction of the entire core muscle group, and particularly the TVA.

The best way to use the bracing technique is to contract and hold the abdomen (don't suck in the gut as in hollowing) and continue to breathe in and out.

You can practice bracing while sitting, walking, or lying down. The bracing technique can also be used during abdominal and core workouts.

More Exercises for TVA Muscles

Once you can activate the TVA muscles, you can progress to the following exercises for all the abdominal muscles and the core:

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hauggaard A, Persson AL. Specific spinal stabilisation exercises in patients with low back pain—a systematic review. Phys. Ther. Rev. 2007;12:233–248.

  2. Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Delayed postural contraction of transversus abdominis in low back pain associated with movement of the lower limb. J Spinal Disord. 1998 Feb;11(1):46-56.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.