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A dynamic quadruped
Continuing Education2 Credits

Transverse Abdominis (TVA) Activation: Quadruped Exercise and Progressions

TVA strength training exercises - best progressions for transverse abdominis (TVA) activation, quadrupeds, and bear crawls. Core movements for endurance, stability, hypertrophy, and strength, and a sample abdominal, core, and anti-extension routine.

Course Description: Transverse Abdominis Activation (Quadrupeds and Progressions)

This course describes transverse abdominis exercises (commonly referred to as transverse abdominis activation, TVA activation, TA activation, TV muscle activation, intrinsic core muscle exercises, and included in the terms core exercise and lumbar (lower back) stabilization exercises). Performing quadrupeds, with the addition of the drawing-in maneuver (belly button to spine), dorsiflexion of the ankle, and maintenance of a neutral spine has significant advantages. For example, quadrupeds with these additional cues may improve recruitment (isolation) of the transverse abdominis muscle, while decreasing recruitment of commonly over-active muscles such as the rectus abdominis. Although the forearm plank may be an excellent abdominal exercise, it does not improve the activity of the transverse abdominis relative to the activity of the superficial core muscles.

The transverse abdominis, internal obliques, pelvic floor, diaphragm, and multifidus act as stabilizers of the thoracic spine, rib cage, lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, and pelvis. These muscles increase stability by increasing intra-abdominal pressure, and tension in the thoracolumbar fascia. Note, this increases lumbar stability (lower back) without compression of the lumbar spine. Compression of the lumbar spine does occur with increased muscle fiber recruitment of the more superficial core muscles (ab muscle).

It is common to include these exercises in programs designed to address lower back pain correlated with signs of lumbopelvic hip complex dysfunction, including an anterior pelvic tilt, asymmetrical weight shift, and/or inadequate forward lean. However, these exercises may also be recommended to reduce arms fall, knees bow in (functional valgus), knee bow out (functional varus), feet turn out, and feet flatten (pes planus). Addressing these signs has been correlated with improving and reducing the risk of back pain, diastatis recti, neck pain, hip pain, knee pain, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, ankle dysfunction, and improving sports performance. Movement professionals (personal trainers, fitness instructors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, etc.) should consider adding these exercises to their repertoire with the intent of improving patient/client outcomes from their integrated exercise programs and therapeutic (rehabilitation) interventions.

Isolated Muscle Activation Exercises:

Reactive Muscle Activation Exercises:

Subsystem Integration Exercises

Last, it is important to integrate the increase in transverse abdominis activity into functional exercise. The Brookbush Institute accomplishes this with anterior oblique subsystem and posterior oblique subsystem integration. Some example movements for these purposes include:

Dynamic quadruped exercise
Caption: Dynamic quadruped exercise

Study Guide: Transverse Abdominis (TVA) Activation: Quadruped Exercise and Progressions


Research Summary

Research Review (Motor Behavior)

Research Review (Pathology)

Progressions and Form


Transverse Abdominis Reactive Activations


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