Physiotherapy & Pilates


Activating your deep abdominal muscles - Step two

In the last newsletter I talked about the importance of the transversus abdominus muscle and how to activate it. Hopefully you have had time to give it a go and see some results! The next step in using this muscle and improving stability around the spine is to learn how to integrate breathing. It’s great if you can activate the muscle - but not so functional if you can only do it whilst holding your breath!! 

Some of the time, when teaching patients how to activate this muscle they want to suck their belly in on an inhalation, then they either hold their breath, or as soon as they resume regular breathing any sort of contraction is lost. 

First, you need to find the correct breathing pattern. To improve the stability of your spine and the effectiveness of your breathing you should try and aim for outwards movement of your lower ribs. 

  1. lie in the rest position (on your back, knees bent up)
  2. place your hands across the bottom of your rib cage, and interlock your fingers slightly.
  3. now take in a deep breath through your nose- if you are using the correct pattern, your fingers will come apart slightly, as you let that breath go - your fingers will glide back together

Practise this a few times. If you’re having trouble finding this pattern of breathing, try take a big sniff in through your nose - this should create the movement of the ribs we are looking for. 

Next, try to co-ordinate the two!

  1. lie in the rest position (on your back, knees bent up)
  2. using your fingers - find the prominent pelvic bones at the front of your hip area, now move them in and down about 1cm and gently press into your tummy
  3. take a deep breath in, then let all the air gently out (i.e. don’t force it out)
  4. now, gently squeeze your pelvic floor muscles - you should feel a small amount of tension develop underneath your fingertips
  5. holding this tension under your fingertips, try to resume your breathing - using the pattern you practised above

Try to hold for 10 breath cycles

This might take a bit of practise and concentration to co-ordinate the two, but once you have it mastered you will be able to do it without thinking about it!