One of the most common cues in various fitness/exercise classes during various exercises or core work is to “draw your belly button in towards your spine.”
In addition, it is very common for people (often women) to suck in their belly button throughout the day (sometimes without realizing it) to make their stomach appear flatter. Aren’t we all guilty of wanting our stomach to look flatter?!
So, if this is such a common cue, why am I telling you that you should stop drawing in or sucking in your belly button??
Drawing in or sucking in your belly button does the following things, which are impairing your ability to have a properly functioning core system:
DECREASES spinal stability
STOPS proper function of your diaphragm
PROMOTES a shallow breathing pattern (Hello neck/shoulder tightness!)
So, the act of drawing in your belly button actually decreases the stability of your spine, which could influence back pain. If you experience any back pain, you may want to avoid sucking in your belly button and break that habit!
It also stops the proper function of the diaphragm, which contributes to a shallow breathing pattern. A shallow breathing pattern means that instead of your diaphragm doing most of the work, the muscles of your chest and neck take over and are overworked, leading to that constantly ‘tight’ feeling of those muscles.
Shallow breathing can also influence hip pain, back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and diastasis recti healing! Thus, it is CRUCIAL to learn how to perform a proper diaphragmatic (360) breathing pattern! Diaphragmatic breathing requires 360 degrees of expansion through your ribcage (sides, belly, back, and chest expand).
If you are sucking in your belly button all the time, you are holding too much tension in the abdominals and you will not be able to achieve the expansion necessary to increase your spinal stability and core strength through proper deep breathing! Studies have shown that the diaphragm plays a huge role in stabilization of the trunk so we need to facilitate proper diaphragm function through 360 degree expansion of the torso to facilitate spinal stability!
So, how do you activate your core without drawing in your belly button?!
One way is to practice bringing your ribs down and in on your exhale rather than sucking in the belly button on the exhale. By drawing the ribs down and in on the exhale, you are knitting your abdominal wall together. This is much more beneficial to building core stability than drawing in the belly button on the exhale, as drawing in the belly button contributes to the ribs flaring, which decreases the ability of the abdominals to work properly.
A proper diaphragmatic breathing pattern facilitates natural core and pelvic floor strength and function.
As you inhale, the diaphragm descends, and thus the pelvic floor works eccentrically (aka is lengthening under the load of the breath).
As you exhale, the diaphragm comes back up, and the pelvic floor lifts slightly to return to its resting position.
This whole process described above creates a good amount of intra-abdominal pressure and stability. It also allows for your deep layer of abdominals, the transverse abdominis, to contract eccentrically also with each breath.
So, now that you know a little bit more about WHY you should stop drawing in or sucking in your belly button during exercise and throughout the day → Put this into action and start working on it!
Do you have a difficult time activating your core muscles??
Are you having a hard time getting back into exercise or staying active because you are limited by back pain, hip pain, or pelvic pain??
Are you leaking urine when you sneeze, jump, or lift weights??
Please contact me if I can help you safely return to exercise and get to the root cause of your pain or why you are having a difficult time reconnecting with your core!
Kaitlin Hartley, PT, DPT, PCES