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What the heck is "TVA" and why does it matter?

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

TVA or TA stands for transverse abdominis, and is an inner layer of core musculature that functions to hold your insides in and create stability in your trunk. WOW that sounds complicated! The truth is, its all pretty simple, and is very important for you to know about no matter who you are. A functional core is crucial for daily activities and living a pain-free life, particularly those who are postpartum, or experience low back pain, or have active lifestyles.

Having a 6-pack is very different from having core strength. Let me explain: You can have visible abs and still have weak TVA. The TVA is essentially the "corset" muscle inside your body. Before I dive further in, we need to talk anatomy...

source: ACE Fitness

As you can see in the picture above, you have 4 main groups of core muscles: Rectus abdominis which is responsible for flexion, the obliques which are responsible for rotation, the lumbar extensors and multifidi (not shown) which are responsible for trunk extension and stabilization, and the transverse abdominis responsible for stabilization and holding those insides in. As you can see, the muscles are layered deeply into the core. It is a vast system of crossing and layered muscles to help you function fully and do daily tasks without problem.

Here's the catch though: lots of people have muscle imbalances in the core which cause lots of other issues. Let's start with diastasis recti, one of the most common conditions in pregnant and postpartum women but one of the least talked about. (You can read my last article here about diastasis for further information.) Although it happens often in pregnant women, its not uncommon to see weightlifters, and men too, deal with this issue. Abdominal separation is caused by not properly engaging the core muscles when load-bearing, so much so that the connective tissue (the linea alba) stretches and the muscle becomes lax. When pregnant, the weight from having a growing baby pushing out from inside the core muscle structure is one example of how this separation can occur. When lifting a heavy barbell over and over without properly engaging the core, which I will explain later, can cause a stress injury of the linea alba resulting in a separation.