The Abdominals

There are several layers of abdominal muscles which have various functions related to posture and movement. I have noticed that people often either hold their abdominal muscles too tight or relax them completely which gives them a Diaphragm protruding belly. Some teachers even advocate relaxing the belly (doing a belly-plop) when breathing-in which is both strange and wrong because it hinders the diaphragm’s function as discussed earlier. The diaphragm needs to compress the lower belly organs in order to do its second step well, rotating the ribcage upward. Allowing the belly to protrude hinders this compression and rotation.

There is one muscle which does play a direct role in singing; it is the lower part of the transverse abdominus or TVA. The upper and lower parts of the transverse (shown below, divided by a dotted line) have a separate enervation and you can, with practice, distinguish between them.

The lower transverse is situated very low on the torso, near to the bikini line, just above the public bone. Pinching the buttocks under to tilt the pelvis usually contracts the lower transverse hence the old adage “pinch a penny”. There are other approaches that work equally well. Discovering this muscle, differentiating it from the upper transvers and learning to contract it at will, takes a little practice but it’s worth it. I have heard a lot of talk about this muscle recently which seems to have become quite popular, as strengthening it brings many benefits. The lower transverse is also very important in an aspect of technique referred to here as anchoring (see Anchoring).

Knowing what to strengthen and what to relax abdominally will also help in performance if you are the type of person that gets nervous. You’ll know where to send all that excess energy so it doesn’t affect your breath or your singing voice.

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