Do I clench or suck in my stomach?
I have heard two conflicting things, and I need to support my back when I'm working out. Some people say to pull your belly button back to your spine or to suck your stomach in. Other people say to clench your stomach as if you were about to get punched. Theses are two entirely different actions for me. Should I be sucking or clenching?by: mayakilmer
Don't do either of these things! Clenching your stomach just flexes your spine in a way that can cause back problems, plus it doesn't do much for your abs. "Pulling your belly-button towards your spine" is also a way of "sucking in the stomach" that can cause problems (breathing issues and spinal issues).
You want to bring your ribs in so that they your ribs form a "bowl" over your pelvis. Your pelvis should also form a "bowl" even with your ribs. In this position, the core will be naturally activated and the spine is in it's safest position.
This is hard to describe in words, but if you let the belly come out and the low back bow, the "bowls" are tipped forward, as if water could spill out the front of you. If you suck your stomach in, the bowls spill backward, as if water could spill out the back of you. Neither of these is safe for the spine, or activate the core.
My physical therapist says that the muscle you should be clenching is what she calls the swimsuit muscle. She says that when a woman puts on a bikini she generally sucks in this muscle just above the line of the top of the bikini. It's not the same as sucking in your stomach, it's different. The muscle group you're contracting is something they refer to as ATV and that's what's supposed to hold your spine up. It's difficult to learn if you aren't already doing it and it's why a lot of people have poor posture and back pain - because we're using the large muscles in the back to hold us up and those muscles are meant to move us, not hold us up.
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