Pilates for Beginners – Meet your ‘corset muscle’


If you’re a pilates beginner then there’s a few things you’re going to need know about including your all important abdominal muscles.

More often than not when we think about working our abs we think about the “6 pack” muscles but a lot of your 6 pack muscles like the rectus abdominis and the external obliques are actually superficial muscles. In pilates we focus mainly on using our intrinsic muscles – the small muscles closest to the spine responsible for stabilisation. These are the abs you want to make sure are working when you’re sitting and driving because they provide that all important postural support!

The transverse abdominal, (or TVA), is the main one we target in pilates ab work.

What is the transverse abdominal muscle?

Your TVA is a deep core muscle who’s main job is stabilisation. You’ll find it on the front and side of your abdomen and is often likened to a ‘corset’, because it draws in 360 degrees to wrap around your waist , just like a corset, to support the spine and pelvis. You’ll hear a lot of pilates teachers reference it.

When you wrap your hands around your waist and cough or laugh, you might be able to feel your abdominals wrapping. They wrap front to back and side to side and we typically look to activate them using our breath in pilates.

image of the transversus abdominal muscle.

Of course this brings other muscles into play but it’s a great way to connect to your core and ensure you’re always including your TA in your abdominal exercises.

Things to look out for

If you notice you are pushing your belly forward or it’s popping up, you are most likely missing the TA connection so take your time to exhale and think of drawing your belly button towards your spine and imagine that corset wrapping around your waist as you breath out.

When you engage your abs like this, you only need to do a few repetitions to get good, quality work.

So basically the good news is you don’t need to do 100 crazy sit ups to build strength! In pilates we build strength gracefully – working with good alignment, breathing, concentration and understanding how our body works.

This is what delivers better, (more functional) results, in a shorter amount of time!

If you’re a pilates beginner let me know if you found this helpful!

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Meet Julie

Hi, I’m Julie owner of Ostara Pilates and creator of The Lifetonic Club. Here you’ll find pilates workouts, educational resources and practical tips dedicated to woman at midlife.  You’ll learn how to build a better relationship with your body and mind during one of the most significant periods of your life and how to create a simple wellness routine so as you feel supported even on the days where you have no energy.   Read more.

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