Why Sucking in Your Abs Is Hurting Your Core

Ever wonder what “engaging your core” should feel like? Here’s why NOT to suck in and what to do instead.

We’re not proud but we’ve called out some of these familiar commands in our earlier days as trainers.

πŸ‘‰ “Pull your belly button to your spine.”

πŸ‘‰ “Brace your abs.”

πŸ‘‰ “Tighten your core.”

πŸ‘‰ “Contract your abs like you’re about to get punched.”

πŸ‘‰ “Suck in your gut.”

How about you?

Ever hear a trainer, coach or instructor bark these commands at you?

Is the instructor watching?

When it comes to group exercise, nothing feels more confusing, and simultaneously judgey, than an abdominal cue.

After all, we value abdominal muscles above all others in our image-obsessed culture. So being told you’re not “engaging” right can feel like an insult to your skill AND your less-than-chiseled mama midsection.

πŸ€·πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ “Am I doing it right?”

πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ”What’s this supposed to feel like anyway?”

πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ “And why am I ‘engaging my core’ when I’m working my arms, anyway?”

“Sucking in” isn’t engaging.

Incredibly, your abdominal muscles DO need to engage no matter what type of movement you’re doing.

Except maybe savasana in yoga. But even then, they’re engaged in breathing.

So, yeah, no matter what your core is working. βœ”οΈβœ”οΈβœ”οΈ

The trick to “engaging” is understanding what it shouldn’t feel like.

Hint: it shouldn’t feel like you’re breath holding, hunching your shoulders or bracing for a punch to the gut... no matter what your bootcamp instructor told you.

Engaging your core shouldn’t feel like breath holding, sucking in or bracing for a punch.

While there are a few situations you might brace your core briefly by holding your breath or sucking your belly in, those muscle strategies are best reserved for taking, well, hits to the gut. 😬 

Or lifting several hundred pounds in a one-rep powerlifting contest. πŸ‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

Or preparing for the impact of a car accident. πŸš—

You know, truly occasional stuff.

Not lifting your kiddo, sneezing, doing a burpee or anything else routine to #momlife and regular, non-Olympic level workouts.

We’ll break it down for you real quick here.

Why sucking in hurts your core.

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