How to Zip Up Your Core
I love the concept of "zipping up." If you're a member of my Lift program, then you've definitely heard me talk about zipping! Although you should NOT actively zip up your core all day long, it's important to know how to zip up your core to protect your pelvic floor and your back when you're lifting, pushing, pulling, or doing focused core fitness exercises.
Zipping up gives you an extra boost of core support when you need it most.
How to Zip Up:
Zipping up your core means engaging your core muscles as a team when you need extra support and control.
- Start with your pelvic floor by doing a very gentle Kegel contraction. In other words, gently squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles like you're picking up a blueberry with your vagina, or like you're stopping wind (gas), or like you're stopping the flow of urine.
- Next, gently engage your deep abdominal muscles (the area right above your pubic bone).
- Do all of this WITHOUT tucking your tailbone under.
"Zipping up" your core should feel like you're latching a zipper down low, and then gently pulling in and up to keep your core muscles strong (yet supple) and stable. It feels like you're putting on high-waisted jeans!
Zip, but Don't Grip
Lots of people overdo their zipping. They really "go for it," and end up overly activating their pelvic floor and/or glutes, which creates TOO MUCH TENSION in the pelvic floor muscles and can lead to hypertonicity and pain. Gripping also tucks the bum under (not good).
Another common mistake people make is that they overdo their belly activation. They super-suck in their tummies, which then causes downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
If you find yourself gripping or clenching your core when "zipping up," I encourage you to try softer. Zip but don't grip, and also, zip up with half the effort. One of my colleagues, Antony Lo, talks about "matching tension to the task." If you're lifting a 50-pound box, then sure... you'll want to zip up strongly! But if you're doing gentle core exercises, or just lifting a small item, then your zip doesn't need to be so intense.
Many people, when zipping, inadvertently thrust their ribcage forward. This is not okay. The hip points (anterior superior iliac spines — ASIS — of the pelvis) and the lower ribs should be in line when standing, sitting, and "zipping."
This is called "neutral ribs over a neutral pelvis."
Keeping neutral ribs over a neutral pelvis allows you to properly engage your abdominals... Which is the whole point of "zipping up your core." The abdominal muscles attach to both the rib cage and the pelvis, so proper alignment of these bony structures is KEY when it comes to your abdominal muscles working appropriately and efficiently.
Rib thrusting is a big problem when it comes to core strengthening, and it can get in the way of healing if you have diastasis recti.
A great way to prevent rib thrusting when "zipping up" is to imagine that you’re buttoning the top button on a pair of high-waisted jeans after you zip up.
You're not done until you fasten the button!
This "buttoning" metaphor will remind you to drop your lower ribs if you notice that they thrust forward.
Check Your Alignment
Look at how you carry your pelvis and your ribs when you're standing, sitting, walking, and "zipping:"
Is your pelvis in neutral alignment, and does your lumbar spine retain its natural gentle curve? (If your tailbone is tucked under, release it back!)
Is your ribcage in neutral alignment, or is it thrusting forward? (If it's thrusting, fix it!)
Your alignment impacts how well your core muscles do their jobs, which are very important jobs: maintaining stability, balance, and control... keeping your abdominal contents pulled in... keeping your pelvic organs supported... and flexing, twisting, and bending your spine.
If you’re a rib thruster, these stretches will help you!
Thanks for reading, and remember to ZIP UP YOUR CORE with PROPER ALIGNMENT the next time you're doing core exercises, lifting something heavy, pushing or pulling, or working to maintain your balance. For more info about zipping and how to work it into your pelvic floor-friendly lifestyle, check out my Lift Program!
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