The Diaphragm and Our Internal Pressure System

Women commonly believe that holding their bellies in tightly throughout the day will help them “work” their abs, or maybe will make their bellies appear smaller.

That is highly NOT recommended and here’s why:

Holding your abs in tightly can actually create issues in your core. It can negatively affect how you breathe by not allowing your lungs and diaphragm to fully expand and contract. It can also apply added pressure downward onto your pelvic floor (like you don’t have enough of that during pregnancy!) and can even cause tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. What it’s not going to do is make your belly any flatter or stronger.

Think of your trunk as an inflated balloon. What happens when you squeeze that balloon in the middle? It bulges above and below where you’re squeezing it. The pressure has to go somewhere. Similarly, when you’re holding your tummy in tightly for long periods of time, the pressure is displaced above and below. These photos from pelvic health physical therapist, Julie Wiebe, BSc, MPT, illustrates this concept. The balloon on the left represents a balanced pressure system, and the balloon on the right represents what happens when you hold your abdominal muscles in.  To understand this topic in detail, check out the article on Julie’s website.

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