Core strengthening is easy when you realize the function of your abdominal muscles is breathing. Can you imagine an inelastic mid-section? Breathing would be shallow and movement only at the top of the chest. Thankfully we are not made that way, and we can enhance our breathing to make the abs both strong and elastic. With each inhaled breath, the abdomen should move out, like a rounded mound, thus, more room for lung expansion, and better oxygenation of blood.
How to Start Breathing Easy and Increase Core Strengthening
Too often I see people “hollowing” to stabilize their core. Pulling the belly button into the spine, pulling muscle inward, energy pushing from outside to in. This has been proven to be ineffective for gaining strength and stability. A full, low diaphragmatic breath works to energize from the inside out. It is protective of the spine as well as empowering!
Like many unused or improperly used muscles, our abs may need some waking up and training. The core strengthening I offer can be done by anyone, anywhere! And seeing that we all have to breathe anyway, we may as well do it right!
First, Let’s Test Your Breathing Skills
- Lay down comfortably. Place one hand on your sternum, the other on the lower abs.
- Take in a deep breath. The hand on your chest should not have moved much at all.
- The hand on the abdomen should have raised noticeably.
- If it did not, this is your ab exercise for a few days- Simply breathe toward that lower hand. Seek to hold the chest still at the same time, your lungs will start to expand downward, a lot more air will enter. Muscles of posture and breathing will engage more fully.
- Progress to doing this in a standing posture.
Now we are Ready to Work!
- Take your fingers and hook them under the ribs, left fingers under left front rib cage, same on the right.
- Dig in just a bit. Now use your breathing strength in the abs to push those fingers out from under that lowest rib.
- After a few reps, you will notice some power that had been dormant. There are muscles in the area, and you are calling them into use.
- Do this often!
Can You Take it Just a Little Further Now?
When you get capable to throwing those fingers out of the rib cage.
- Press into your waist with the web of the thumb/forefinger. Press hard!
- Now use your breathing muscles to push against your hands.
- It feels more like a bracing which you are. This really only helps in weight lifting and singing.
- Use it or lose it!
Back at It Again!
Once these get easy for you, let’s take that same hand grip you’ve been using to the back muscles. This will stimulate some expansion of the low back muscles as well when you breathe. These muscles are also designed to assist appropriate breathing, thus their weakness can cause low back pain and hip problems. This will afford more flexibility of the lumbar spine, which helps walking and running immeasurably.
It only takes a few days to spark up these expansions and contractions, which will slenderize and empower you to have a much healthier, well-balanced body.
Any questions or concerns, as always contact us at our Functional Exercise & Movement Studio in Timonium at Downes Chiropractic & Holistic Solutions.
Dr. Barbara L. Downes, DC,CCSP, FIAMA
Downes Chiropractic & Holistic Solutions
30 East Padonia Road Suite 104
Timonium MD, 21093