I love the concept of “zipping up.” I talk about it in my book, I talk about it in my videos, I talk about it in blog posts and I talk about it in person! Although you should NOT contract your core all day long, it’s important to know how to “zip” to protect your pelvic floor, your back, and your anterior abdominal wall (which is super-important if you have a history of abdominal hernias or diastasis recti) when you’re lifting, pushing, pulling, or doing focused core strengthening exercises.
I’m not the first and I certainly will not be the last fitness person to use the term “zip up,” which means to engage your core muscles from your pelvic floor on up through your deep abdominal muscles WITHOUT tucking your tailbone under. It feels 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 “mom jeans” or perhaps sassy high-waisted seventies jeans that are now — if I hear the rumors correctly — back in style!
Gotta love the 12 inch zipper!
But there’s a potential problem with “zipping.”
Many people, when engaging their core muscles from the pelvic floor on up, inadvertently thrust their ribcage forward. This is not okay.
The hip points (the ASIS(s), or the anterior superior iliac spines of the pelvis) and the lower ribs should be in line when standing, sitting, and “zipping.” This is called “neutral ribs over neutral pelvis,” which is a set of objective markers to note in order to maintain spinal health AND to get the most out of your abdominal exercises. “Neutral ribs over neutral pelvis” means that your lowest ribs should be in line with your ASIS(s), which should be in line with your pubic symphysis. For more on this concept, please refer to the guru of all things alignment, Katy Bowman, and her article about neutral pelvis (click here).
If you don’t keep neutral ribs over neutral pelvis, you can’t properly engage the abdominals… Which is the whole point of “zipping up your core.” All of the abdominal muscles attach to both the rib cage and the pelvis, and so proper alignment of these bony structures is KEY when it comes to the abdominal muscles working appropriately and efficiently.
Rib thrusting (getting out of neutral ribcage alignment at any time, but especially when “zipping”) is a big problemo when it comes to core strengthening, and it can get in the way of healing for those of you who are dealing with diastasis recti.
A great way to prevent rib thrusting when “zipping” is to think *not only* of “zipping up” the core (i.e. likening it to the feeling of zipping up a pair of high-waisted jeans), but also of buttoning the top button 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. I describe and demo this concept in my recent interview with the fabulous Ms. Jenny Burrell of Burrell Education… You can watch the entire 30-minute interview below, or just fast-forward to around 18:40 to hear me talk about zipping up (and then buttoning) the mom jeans way.
Moral of the story: Take a look at how you carry your pelvis and your ribs when you’re standing, sitting, walking, and “zipping.” You can even check when lying down. Is your pelvis in neutral alignment (with the ASIS points in line with the pubic symphysis, and the lumbar spine retaining its natural gentle curve)? I hope your tailbone isn’t tucked under! Is your ribcage in neutral alignment, or is it thrusting forward? (If it’s thrusting, fix it!)
As I’m learning more and more, alignment of those body parts has a significant effect on how the well the abs can do their jobs, which are *important jobs* to say the least… Maintaining core stability and control, keeping your abdominal contents pulled in, and flexing, twisting, and bending your spine. Not to mention, your abs are intimately connected to the health, strength, activity, and integrity of your PELVIC FLOOR. Huge stuff.
Thanks for reading, and the next time you’re shopping, pick up a pair of mom jeans! After all, they’re cool again, and a great reminder to “button up” (drop) those lower ribs the next time you “zip up.”
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~Dr. Bri, PT, DPT