by VP_G7P8dgOfz

January 10, 2023

Why being told to suck your belly in is unhealthy advice

Our fixation with flat stomachs, or at least the appearance of one, may seem benign. Not everyone’s biological makeup enables a flat stomach either, particularly women since we need to house our reproductive organs in this space.

More than core

Our core consists of multiple muscle layers that swathe our mid-section to support our stance and internal organs. This network is subliminally engaged in everyday activities. Directives like “draw your naval towards spine” seem accurate; however, it’s more nuanced, and there are no benefits (quite the opposite) to constantly doing it.

Unlearning and relearning

From a young age, girls are told to suck in their belly (any dancers or gymnasts out there!?), believing it to be an expression of good posture and fitness.

Stomach gripping doesn’t translate to correct core engagement. Ordinary activities don’t require intense core activation, and doing so is attributed to causing:

  • Pelvic floor and organ dysfunction 

  • Digestion issues

  • Increased anxiety and asthma symptoms

  • Shoulder, neck and jaw pain, and even headaches.

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How do I know if I’m doing it right?

Gripping inhibits the natural torso movement. A rigid core results where it can’t stabilise our body while moving. You’re gripping if you’re holding your breath, breathing shallowly, or contracting in preparation for a stomach punch.

Start with the fundamentals to correctly activate and strengthen. 

There are rare instances when we genuinely need to (briefly) clench – preparing for torso impact (boxing etc.), powerlifting or ‘scooping’ our tummy for spine mobilisation and massaging internal organs.

Five-year-olds don’t care whether their belly sticks ouuntil someone points it out. We know better now, so no more ‘sucking it in’ and telling women and girls to.

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