Unlocking the Secret to a Flat Belly Postpartum: The Power of the Transverse Abdominis Muscle

Bringing a baby (or babies in my case!) into the world is a miraculous journey that changes a woman's body in countless ways. However, after childbirth, also known as the “4th trimester” often leaves many mothers longing to reclaim their pre-baby bodies, particularly when it comes to achieving a flat belly and addressing diastasis recti. 

In this blog post, we'll assess the crucial role of the transverse abdominis muscle in postpartum recovery and explore how engaging this deep core muscle is key to achieving a toned and strong midsection.

Make sure to grab my FREE resource:  Diastasis Recti Mini course + 20 minute core workout right here! 

Understanding the Transverse Abdominis:

The transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle is often referred to as the body's corset muscle. It is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles and wraps around the abdomen like a supportive belt.  Unlike the more superficial rectus abdominis (the "six-pack" muscle) or the obliques, the transverse abdominis muscle runs horizontally across the abdomen, providing stability and support to the spine and trunk. 


Importance of the Transverse Abdominis Postpartum:

During pregnancy, the growing baby places significant pressure on the abdominal wall, causing the connective tissue between the rectus abdominis muscles to stretch and weaken. This separation, known as  diastasis recti, is common among pregnant women and can persist postpartum if not addressed properly.   Additionally, the pelvic floor muscles are also affected due to the weight of the baby, downward pressure and the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth.

Engaging the transverse abdominis is crucial for several reasons:

  • Core Stability:  The transverse abdominis muscle acts as a natural girdle, providing stability and support to the spine and pelvis.  By strengthening this muscle, mothers can improve their posture and prevent back pain, which is common during pregnancy and postpartum.  A core that is weak and unstable is more prone to back pain and injuries due to the inability to provide stabilization while performing more advanced activities, such as lifting a child. 

Effective Exercises to Engage the Transverse Abdominis:

Now that we understand the importance of the transverse abdominis in postpartum recovery, let's explore some effective at home exercises to activate and strengthen this key muscle:

Connection breath/ Transverse Abdominis Activation: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just inside your hip bones. Inhale deeply, then as you exhale, gently draw your belly button in and up as if you are zipping up a pair of pants from the pubic bone all the way up above your belly button. You should feel the muscles engage beneath your fingertips.  Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat 10x.

Toe taps: Lie on your back with hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, also known as  table top position. As you exhale, slowly lower toes and touch the floor, then as you inhale raise them back up to table top position. Then switch to the other leg. Repeat 10 times each leg.

Dead bugs:  Lie on your back with hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, also known  as table top position.  As you exhale, slowly straighten the right leg out toward the floor while simultaneously extending your left arm straight above you toward the floor. You are extending the opposite arm and leg out straight.  The lower your leg is to the ground the more difficult it will be for your abdominal wall.  MAKE sure your abdominals are engaged and your back is flat against the floor- if your back is arching upward away from the ground, do not lower your leg as far to the ground (or focus on toe taps and other exercises that are not as difficult in order to strengthen your core more before advancing to this move.)

Plank Variations:  There are many different types of planks: side planks, bear hoover planks, modified planks, reverse planks, and full planks.  Planks are excellent for strengthening the entire core, including the transverse abdominis.  Start on your elbows and knees, then slowly bring your elbows forward, keeping your body in a straight line from head to knees.  This is a modified plank.  Engage your transverse abdominis muscle by drawing your belly button in and up towards your spine while maintaining proper form.  As previously mentioned, imagine you are zipping up a pair of jeans from the bottom up. I'd recommend starting with modified plank on a wall or come down to your knees, then gradually work up to a full plank.

In the journey towards reclaiming a flat belly postpartum and healing diastasis recti, engaging and strengthening the transverse abdominis muscle is crucial.  By incorporating targeted exercises to strengthen and activate this deep core muscle, mothers can not only achieve a toned midsection but also improve overall core stability and pelvic floor health. Remember, consistency, proper nutrition and patience are key on the road to postpartum recovery.  With dedication and the right type of exercises, a strong and confident core is achievable for every mother.

Make sure to grab my FREE resource:  Diastasis Recti Mini course + 20 minute core workout right here!