129 Times to Turn on Your Transverse Abs

129 Ways To Get a Flatter Tummy Doing Everyday Actions - Fit2b.com

Our abdominal tummy muscles have to work harder in certain positions than others, and if you don’t know how to “turn on” your transverse abs, those moments may be contributing to your belly getting bigger, not smaller. The job of your abs isn’t crunches and situps, although they work together to do those things if needed; their job is to stabilize your body, help you balance, and – most importantly – to support your spine which houses your nervous system. Truly the work of our core happens inside our core, and we need our deepest core abdominal muscle – the transverse abdominus (TA) – to be “there for us” when we need it.


1. laying down 2. sitting up 3. standing up 4. squatting down 5. on hands and knees 6. lifting things

I asked my members to pitch in more specific times they find it useful to activate their transverse abdominus (TvA or TA). And their answers are below, but FIRST… Here at Fit2B Studio, a portion of our members participate in a private member forum where I post mini challenges. I say things like, “Mini Challenge: stand with ribs over your hips.” And then they all work on that for a few days. Recently, I posted the following about tightening the transverse:

NEW! Mini Challenge: Make these two words part of your everyday talk to yourself and to your family… “Tummy Tight!” I’ll say it to my kids when they’re playing wheelbarrow or crawling around. I’ll say it to myself when I’m going up/down the stairs. I’ll say it to my man when he’s picking up something heavy. I’ve hollered it at guys on our construction crew as they lean to nail something in an awkward position… And the other day, my husband yelled it at me when I was driving and took a turn too fast and sharp, and he had to hang on to the grabby-thingy above his window! LOL! He was like “Boy, I think I just felt my disaster-sees get worse.” He can’t pronounce diastasis right, so that’s his word for it. I think it fits. Diastasis are disasters, so we are thankful they are fixable right? 😉 P.S. Keeping your tummy tight ALL the time is NOT the goal. The goal is to be able to instantly tighten your transverse in a split second when you need it to support your core and spine and be able to hold it for as long as you need it and still be able to breathe. And then I asked them to pitch in their ideas, and wow did they respond!

7. Lifting DD (darling daughter) onto the potty 8. into her high chair 9. into the sled 10. into the tub 11. lifting a full crock pot 12. vacuuming (this is one where I can actually feel the muscles engaging properly at least) 13. getting into and out of bed when the mattress is on the floor ***Fit2B in Virginia, Nicole S.

14. bending over to load/unload dishwasher 15. shaving legs 16. picking up toys 17. scrubbing the tub 18. loading/unloading groceries 19. setting up or taking down a Pack ‘n Play 20. giving piggy back rides! ***Fit2B in Washington, Amy U.

HOLD THE PHONE! I feel like I need to clarify that none of these ladies is talking about “sucking in where your ribs flare as you inhale or bracing like someone is punching you. They know better than that thanks to THIS FREE VIDEO ROUTINE.

SO HOW DO YOU DO IT??? You can activate your transverse by pulling your navel inward as you exhale. That’s all. You can also switch on your deepest ab muscles by aligning yourself correctly.

However, some fitness pros are convinced that if you squat right, or sit right, your abs will naturally engage correctly. They believe that alignment is the key to proper muscle activation, and that if everyone would just put themselves in the proper position before squatting, picking up the dog, pushing a grocery cart, etc., then your core will automatically “turn on”… And as a fellow lover of alignment, I agree. The muscles will do their thang naturally when they’re in natural alignment … BUT … Many women I talk to are so tired and torn apart that their bodies and muscle memory have literally forgotten how to sit and stand correctly, let alone squat with good form. The dysfunctional breathing patterns and motions are ingrained and need neuromuscular retraining.

I’m sorry, but what busy mother has time to align before chasing a naked toddler hellbent on running into the street PLUS learning good alignment (let alone teaching it) can take months, if not, years of practice and re-education! I’m not saying don’t teach it; I’m saying let’s give her a fish while we teach her how to fish.

It stands to reason that if your abs are damaged with a 3 to 9 finger-width diastasis {yes I’ve felt a few of those} that has seemingly split you down the middle, or if you’ve had surgery that sliced through your muscles and nerves like both my kids already have, then – just like a sprained ankle won’t support you very well – your core won’t engage correctly and support you – even if you stand up straight – because it’s injured! Yes, getting a DR is common, and some would argue that your abs are designed to stretch apart to handle pressure, and therefore they think a DR is normal.

Meanwhile there are others calling for a total overhaul of DR terminology since not every gap is a diastasis recti to fret about. 

Interesting note: When I talk to midwives in other countries where women aren’t sitting in chairs, and where women wrap their bellies after birth, strap their babies onto their bodies and keep working in the fields, and carrying water on their heads, and squatting to bake bread, we see almost zero DR in them! A life of supportive, non-movement with all sorts of motion-hindering orthotics {chairs and high heeled shoes are braces} definitely contributes to the reclined/slouched/poochy posture that sustains a higher intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) which then also sustains the existence of a debilitating DR long after it should have closed.

Thinking “Tummy Tight” to remind yourself to Exhale and Engage as you Exert yourself is an easy slogan to remember. Notice the E’s… When you’re getting ready to EXERT yourself by lifting something, you EXHALE to ENGAGE the transverse abdominus. Sounds easy, but it take practice, which is why we work that core breath into EVERY blasted routine on Fit2B 😉

The women who listed these 52 instances have targeted some key times as struggle points along their own journey of healing, and I relate to each one! I remember wondering why my abs would bulge without my permission when I was merely turning my steering wheel in the car. I remember wondering why my belly just hung down every time I leaned forward. Now I know. I’ve know for 2 years now, but why didn’t I know sooner? Why with all my education and certifications wasn’t I taught this… Well, that’s part of another article you can read here…

Again, for the trolls worried about my semantics – and please remember I’m talking to my crowd in layman’s terms – I’m NOT talking about sucking in or bracing or holding tension all the time. Bracing encourages the Valsalva maneuver where the breath gets held and blood pressure rises. Rather counter productive, eh?

To clarify one more thing, I’m not recommending to anyone that you work on walking around with your belly button hollowed out all the time; it’s simply not logical and can create a Valsalvic increase in blood pressure, and that type of constant pressure can generate, um, interesting situations and noises… I mean, do you know what queefing is? I’ll let Katy ‘splain that one 😉

 I am promoting an exhale to gentle engage your core before you exert yourself.

Okay, now I feel like we can finish the rest of the 52 times to tighten your tummy muscles… So let’s resume 🙂

21. picking baby up from bed 20. putting baby into bed 22. picking up the house 23. picking up laundry 24. loading and unloading the washer 25. loading and unloading the dryer (especially if at an angle) ***Fit2B in Nebraska, Mary C.

26. getting in to/out of the car 27. dealing with cabinets 28. dealing with refrigerators 29. on playgrounds ***Fit2B in Oregon, Susie M.

30. Leaning over to check FB or write an email because you are not going to be there long enough to sit at the computer … then 10 minutes later you’re still on the computer! ***Fit2B in Missouri, Diana N.

31. standing from my desk 32. sitting on the edge of the tub while reading a book to my kiddo while she practices using the potty ***Fit2B in Texas, Christine L.

33. When you are laying on the floor and your 4 and 2 year old boys decide to dog pile you with their knees. ***Fit2B in Washington, Heather W.

34. when laying on my side to feed my bub 35. crawling around on the floor with hims 36. Getting him in and out of the car 37. Rocking my son to sleep 38. Walking around holding him 39. Hanging out the washing ***Fit2B in Australia, Katie M.K.

Pin this awesome image to Pinterest so more people can learn!

40. Bending over to pick up toys on the floor 41. Anytime I’m lifting my kids (all. day. long) 42. On the john [toilet] 43. Putting on socks 44. Leaning to wipe the table 45. Reaching into the oven 46. Crawling on the floor with kids 47. Rolling over in bed 48. When I’m driving 49. Pushing a grocery cart 50. Cleaning out the oven (not that I do this often, but I did it today) 51. Moving furniture (again, just did it today) 52. Carrying my kids on my hip (what’s left of my hips…my preggo belly is taking over!)… I think sometimes there are activities (like moving a dresser) when it’s really obvious that I need to tighten my core, but there are many times throughout the day that I just realize I’m getting “noodly” and need to improve my posture by aligning and doing a few belly breaths to get my core to wake up. ***Fit2B in Nebraska, Bethann W.

Being able to “turn on” your corset-like TvA will take pressure off your damaged recti abs and consciously give your core a bit more stabilization, thus dramatically improving your quality of life, whether or not you do it in the exact perfect position. Want proof? If you don’t think that the ability to QUICK turn on your TvA matters, then Click HERE to read a research abstract showing how delayed transverse abdominus activation affected lower back pain in 80 individuals. Oh, and this one about how the transverse coactivates with the pelvic floor is good, too!

All I’m saying is that, for those of us dealing with traumatized tummies and wide diastasis, developing the ability to recruit our TvA is the first baby step in a big healing process. But what do you do if… You… Can’t??? What if you try to pull your belly button backward and nothing happens? Nothing at all. Or you hunch your shoulders and squeeze your butt instead?

Well, those results are more common than you think, and it’s where some crucial neuromuscular rehab comes into play. My story, and my being here to write this goes back to The Tummy Team to whom I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude for helping me heal. My videos are helpful to a point, but they can’t rehab someone who has totally lost that connection. This is why I’m passionate to connect people with Diastasis Experts in their region so they can find someone to tell them how, show them how, walk them through a core re-connection. Rehab is worth every penny and so valuable, but if you need time to scratch enough money together for that rehabilitation you need, the tips in our blog along with our workout videos will hopefully start educating you and raising your awareness of the right way to strengthen your belly {and thus trim it a bit to boot} during daily life. Please click here to learn more about membership today!

Oh, and I know the title says “129 times” and the picture says “52 times”… that’s because I know the list will keep growing! I hope you’ll comment below with your own ideas of when to tighten your tummy (again, I’m aware that “tighten” isn’t necessarily the proper term and that a tight muscle isn’t the overall goal at the physiological level but people get that term and I explain it fully in my videos) THAT SAID, here is the growing list:

53. when leaning over a counter to do makeup or pluck eyebrows 54. When sneezing (also good to put a hand on your tummy) 55. stocking the fire with wood 56. stacking/hauling/chopping wood 57. pushing kids on the swing – transverse flex with each push 58. when balancing to give more steadiness 59. going up and down the stairs – I’ll do a quick core breath, draw my navel in and keep it there on my way up and down, but I don’t hold my breath (we don’t want the valsalva maneuver!)

To wrap up this LENGTHY blog {pat yourself on the back for reading the whole thing, then pat with the other hand for balance and then do a good tricep stretch on both sides 😉 } I’d like to share a common question that comes up in the private member forum a lot:

As you get stronger and the diastasis gets more shallow, is it normal for the belly flex seem small? I feel like I used to really be able to tell when I was doing a belly breath, and now I can’t feel it as much. Is this normal?i have been consistent with all my workouts. 

-Hollie W.

My answer: Yes, normal and good! When the core is deflated and weak, those flexes go way out and way in. As your transverse abdominus (TA) snaps back into its proper shape and tone, it doesn’t go out as far. Your belly isn’t sticking out as far, therefore the flex doesn’t feel as big. Make sense? When your TA relaxes on your intake of breath, well, it’s just REALLY relaxed when you first start the rehab process. As tone returns to that stretched out area, relaxing it doesn’t take it out so far because it’s more toned.

Another thought, I think this is why there is a camp of body nerds like myself out there that worry about too much TA flexing: A healthy TA is already fairly snug around your middle, and they don’t want people overtightening it when it’s already where it should be, but … BUT … but…

We are dealing with people here within Fit2B who typically have severely dysfunctional deflation happening. Their TA isn’t tight at all, and it does need a certain amount of tensile energy to function properly and do its job: support the spine and internal organs while also providing stability during motion. I believe your organs go where they’re supposed to when you engage your core properly and that we experts need to worry a bit less about the 129 times people recruit their TA during the day and MORE about all the people who have horribly blown apart bellies and organs totally distended outside their normal place and what those organs are doing or not doing as a result of not being held where they belong.

Nothing makes me happier {except my kids and a good romp with my hubby} than hearing from clients whose middles have finally unmuddled and the best way to make that happen is through diligent alignment and patterned flexing which is akin to “riding it like a dirty shirt” as my montana man says. Once it starts behaving and has the right tension to function well again, there is no more need to deliberately flex it so often. But it’s nice to have it there for you when you need it. 

60. When taking off your shirt

61. When putting on or taking of your bra

62. What are some more?

129 Ways To Get a Flatter Tummy Doing Everyday Actions - Fit2b.com


11 thoughts on “129 Times to Turn on Your Transverse Abs

  1. Melissa says:

    This makes so much sense now! I went to a physical therapist (once), she tried to show me & get me to tighten my transverse muscle & got all agitated when I couldn’t quite do it, that was over 1.5 years ago gshe was a B so I never went back), so I still have issues too many to list…

    Wish there was a tummy expert here in Austin TX – maybe you could find me one!! ; )

  2. Carole says:

    Great post. I’m so afraid of doing the wrong exercise and making things worse that I usually opt out of doing anything. This post helped me learn the difference between tightening my TA muscle and what happens when you do tummy crunches. I so relate with the pain in my abdomen when I do a quick movement and my core was too late in engaging. Thanks for giving answers that start at the bottom and work us up to health not just bigger and better muscles. I trust your blog and don’t feel I have to recheck everything and just give up because I don’t know how to recheck it. I can just do what I learn and feel safe :).

    Fellow Katy stalker

  3. Laurel Adams says:

    I need to turn on my transverse abs when all 5’3″ of me has to reach way down to the bottom of my extra large capacity washing machine on my tippy toes.

  4. Kristen says:

    I have been struggling with this for years. I would love to find a trained instructor in my area but there are none on your list in my area. (Western Idaho) How do I find help in my area?

  5. caas says:

    This is amazing im so doing this!!! My stomach is closed no fingers wide etc and im young but ive recently felt my tummy get kinda slouchy and unsupported so i did ab workouts and it actually built a muscle pouch or something 0_0 so now i need to like flatten it the way it was lol i bet this will do that. I knew crunches sucked ! XD

  6. Pingback: Fitness, Pinterest, & Postpartum Body Image – The Sojourning Dunns

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