Sucking In Doesn’t Make You Skinny or Strong

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by LINDSAY MUMMA, DC

Sucking In Doesn't Make You Skinny or Strong
While some people exercise to enjoy the health benefits of a better functioning body, there are those who only partake to look better in a swimsuit. If you’re strictly after looks, stop reading; I’ll only waste your time.

Most of us walk around with our stomach sucked in the majority of the time. This could be because your mother told you to suck in your gut at a young age; it might be because you think having a “tight” core will make you stronger; it might be because you think no one can tell you’re sucking in, and everyone thinks you’re super slim. I’ll refute each point.

The Mythical Benefits of Sucking In

[I]nhibiting your diaphragm by sucking in can lead to low back pain.
My mother told me to suck in my gut, and in a once-in-a-lifetime event, I got to tell her that she was wrong (that hasn’t happened before or since). Sucking in tightens your upper rectus abdominis (six pack) muscles and inhibits your diaphragm. Recent studies have demonstrated that those with low back pain have faulty activation of their diaphragm on dynamic MRI (1). What this means is that inhibiting your diaphragm by sucking in can lead to low back pain. Full excursion of the diaphragm helps increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), which creates more trunk stability and allows you to use your limbs without losing any stability (2). Sucking in reduces IAP, putting you at risk for injury.

Tightening your core makes it tight, but tight muscles are not necessarily strong. (You may have tight upper traps, but that doesn’t make them strong.) Upper Crossed Syndrome, categorized by Vladimir Janda, demonstrates a pattern of inhibited vs. facilitated muscles that many of my patients present with.
Upper Crossed Syndrome

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