Pulling your belly button to your spine is not activating your core!

Almost all the ladies I see who are struggling with pelvic floor issues, are over recruiting their upper most tummy muscles (external obliques). They have a flat line below their ribs (often with a crease evident in the skin), and on either side of their rectus abdominus (6 pack) they are also flattened.

This constant over recruiting of these upper tummy muscles does 2 things:

  1. Limits how much the diaphragm can move, usually resulting in the poor neck, shoulder, and jaw muscles having to get over-involved as breathing accessory muscles and causing overactivity and pain in them.
  2. They increase the pressure in the abdomen, so the pelvic floor turns on to stop you from leaking. Making the pelvic floor muscles overactive and causing then to underperform.

But why do these upper tummy muscles get so overused?

A few reasons:

  1. We constantly pull our tummy muscles to look slimmer, and they come to the party first.
  2. In pregnancy, they get the least stretch, so are the easiest to draw in after we have had the baby and no longer want to look pregnant.
  3. We attend exercise classes that prompt “pull your belly button to your spine”, in the hopes of you activating your deeper transversus abdominal muscles; but in 99% of the ladies I see post-baby, the only muscle coming to the party with this cue is the uppermost ones- the obliques.

The “A-HA” moment

A few of my ladies have had serious A-ha moments in the past week when I show them on my ultrasound scanner what SHOULD be coming on versus what IS when we look at the muscles individually on ultrasound scanning.

A simple test for you to do at home

To see how your core is firing can be to do a giggle test. Do a fake laugh now and see if your lower tummy bulges out (❌) or draws closer to your spine (✅)?

If you have neck, jaw, or pelvic pain and any of this resonates with you, see a women’s health physio who understands how the diaphragm and pelvic floor move together and why your external obliques shouldn’t be allowed or encourage to dominate the party!