Why crunches and kegels are not solely going to cure incontinence, back pain, or get you a strong core.
Alignment, breathing, incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse – How do you use the core and pelvic floor when lifting weights in the gym, while protecting yourself from back pain?
After presenting at the Women’s Fitness Summit, I wanted to give you the super, extra quick version of everything we covered. These are 3 key things you need to know for a strong and healthy core and pelvic floor.
In life and in exercise.
1. “The Core is Made Up of a Top, a Bottom, and Stuff Around It.”
Think of your ‘core’ like a soda can. There’s a top, there’s a bottom, and there’s stuff surrounding the sides.
- The top is your diaphragm.
- The bottom is your pelvic floor.
- The front and sides of the can are your abdominal muscles.
- The back of the can are your back muscles.
Most importantly, this means that your “core” is not just abdominals. It includes these other pieces of the puzzle. That’s important.
This is just one reason why crunches and kegels are not solely going to cure incontinence, back pain, or get you a strong core.
Click to Tweet –> Your “core” is not just abdominals.
2. “Exhale and Then Do Things.”
I talk a lot about how to breathe well in exercise and when lifting heavy things.
Although there are a few different ways I cue my clients to breathe depending on their situation and how much weight they’re lifting, this is the basic version.
If you ever get confused when you’re lifting weights or lifting in life:
Exhale and then do things.
Seriously. That’s going to be good enough.
- If you’re about to pull a deadlift, start your exhale breath and then pull.
- If you’re about to stand up from a squat, start your exhale breath and then stand.
- If you’re going to pick your toddler up, start your exhale breath and then (try) to wrangle them.
3. “I Want You to Have a Soft, Squishy Belly.”
I really do.
Not only do typical ‘Before/After photos guaranteeing you 6-pack abs in 6-weeks time‘ make me crazy because it’s usually completely unrealistic for most bodies, but because all I can think is RELAX YOUR BELLY when I see these pics.
Stop sucking your belly in all day long <– Click to Tweet
The easiest way to think about this is to imagine a blown up balloon. Squeeze the balloon in the middle. What happens?
The pressure is displaced up and down.
- Bulging Up = pressure onto the top of your core (diaphragm). Your breathing is going to get weird to compensate.
- Bulging Down = pressure onto the bottom of your core (pelvic organs/floor). Your pelvic floor muscles are going to do weird things to compensate.
Note from the editor: When you suck in your belly to make it appear flat or skinnier, you are displacing pressure on your diaphragm and pelvic floor leading to unwanted compensation. So let your belly hang out. Embrace the body you have and focus on strength and health versus appearance.
1. Crunches and kegels are not the be-all, end-all to core training.
Know that the abdominal muscles are not the only part of the core. This is why we have to look more globally to help your core be strong and function well – abdominals, back, pelvic floor, diaphragm.
2. Exhale on exertion.
When you lift in life and exercise, start to exhale your breath and then do the hardest part of the movement. Yes, there are exceptions. No, you don’t need to stress about them.
3. Relax your belly.
Let it go. Stop sucking in. Your digestion, bowel movements, abdominals, neck tension, low back pain, and pelvic floor pressure will thank you.