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Pilates Exercises for Transverse Abdominals

by Catherine Christy

About Catherine Christy

Catherine Christy began writing in 2000 for the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier. Christy is an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer and lifestyle and weight-management consultant. She is also certified as a yoga and pilates instructor. Christy holds a Master of Arts in community-health education from University of Northern Iowa.



Pilates tones, lengthens and strengthens the body without adding bulk. Pilates focuses on precision in body movements and control, breath control, mind/body awareness and focus. The benefits of practicing with these principles include improved balance, flexibility, strength, endurance and stability. There are specific Pilates exercises that target each area of the body, including the transverse abdominals.

Roll Up

The roll up not only targets the transverse abdominis; it also works the rectus abdominis, deep pelvic floor muscles, inner thighs and the obliques. To perform the roll up, lie face-up on a mat with your arms extended over your head and your legs extended from the hip, reaching your heels away from your center to stabilize the legs. Engage your abdominals and inhale while bringing your arms up to the ceiling. As you exhale, slide your shoulders away from your ears and begin to "peel" yourself off the mat one vertebrae at a time until your shoulders are over your hips. Inhale to hold at the top. Exhale and begin to roll down towards the mat one vertebrae at a time, finishing with your arms over your head. Repeat the exercise for 8 to 10 repetitions.

Double Leg Stretch

The double leg stretch strengthens the transverse abdominis in conjunction with the deep pelvic floor muscles, rectus abdominis, obliques and inner thigh muscles. To perform the double leg stretch, lie on your back on a mat and inhale while dropping your chin slightly as you lengthen through the back of the neck. As you exhale, slide your shoulders down while lifting your head, neck and shoulder blades off the ground and simultaneously contract your abdominal muscles to lift your feet off the floor. Bend your knees and bring your arms next to your outer thighs. As you exhale, extend the arms over your head while simultaneously extending the legs out away from the center of your body. Inhale as you circle your arms around to your sides while pulling your knees back in. Repeat for 9 to 10 repetitions.

The Hundred

As one of the most commonly used exercises in Pilates, the hundred effectively targets the transverse abdominis, deep pelvic floor muscles, rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors and inner thighs. To perform the hundred, lie on a mat with your feet off the floor and knees bent. Extend the arms at your sides with the palms facing down and fingertips pointed toward your feet. Inhale, lengthen through the back of the neck while dropping the chin down slightly. Exhale, contract your abdominals while sliding the shoulders down away from the ears and lifting the head, neck and shoulder blades off the ground. Begin moving your arms, from the shoulder joint, in a "pumping" motion. Emphasize the downward movement. Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts. Repeat for a total of 10 cycles.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.