To tuck or not to tuck–that is the question!
As I did research for Defeating Diastasis, my online course to help close the tummy gap (diastasis recti) and improve and pelvic floor strength, the controversy over tucking vs neutral spine came up repeatedly. And it’s totally understandable! After all, we don’t want to do something to exacerbate the very problem we’re trying to heal.
Before I share my own conclusions, I want to take a moment to go back in time.
20 years ago, “core” was not a buzzword. Many of us when we start exercising don’t know much about one muscle group over another. I knew a little, but I sure wasn’t up on all the ab muscle groups, lats, quads, etc. Teresa wanted her workout to be for everyone and chose terminology the average person could connect with. Fast forward 20 years–terminology has changed and Teresa has also continued to learn and grow and develop the moves to be even more effective. Now, instead of “tuck butt” she says “curl the core” or “curl/tuck”.
In all honesty, what she is focusing on now was what she always wanted us to do.
Since the gluteal muscles (buns/derriere) are stronger they often will take over when “tucking the tailbone under”. But it is the abs that are to initiate and drive this, not the backside! I often tell my clients, “If the buns and abs are going together for a gift, the buns only give 30-35% while the abs give 65-70%!”
Now that we’ve had a little history lesson (and a little anatomy! 😉 ) we’ll go on to my conclusions and advice about tucking.
When you “tuck” your pelvis, you can end up pushing down more on the pelvic floor and actually end up widening a diastasis recti or tummy gap. NOT what we want, right?! So does T-Tapp make a prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction worse? Does it widen the tummy gap?
It could. But it shouldn’t.
If you are using mainly the gluteal muscles or backside to drive the tuck, you will be bearing down on your pelvic floor. We want to lift that area and do all we can to facilitate core strength which helps the pelvic floor as well. How to do that? Learn to curl the core and tuck properly.
Whenever I have a new webcam client, new in-person session or teach a new class or clinic, the first thing we will do is go over curling the core against a wall and sometimes on the floor. It is imperative to get this right for many reasons. First of all, it is the “core” of T-Tapp! Secondly, it will actually help lift the pelvic floor and will engage more abdominal muscles and help heal a diastasis recti vs make it worse.
First you want to think “belly button UP”.
More than your belly button will go up, but it is a visual and familiar area that we can connect with. Adding touching that area with your hands will help even more in strengthening the brain-to-body connections. Pressing down just below the bladder area and wiggling in, then literally pressing up toward the rib cage, will help engage those lower ab muscles (transverse abs) and give a little lift to the pelvic floor area.
Next think “belly button BACK”.
Often I’m asked “like sucking in your gut?” Well, not quite. You want that “up” motion before you go back as this will engage more muscles. You engaged the transverse abdominal muscle (or TVA) and now we want to move up to engage more core muscles. Pressing your hands against your abdomen (lightly!) engage the muscles up to and around your belly button to help flatten your back against a wall or the floor, losing the airspace between your back and the flat surface. Yes, your pelvis just tucked a bit. However, you don’t want the “tucking” to be the main focus but the abs pressing the back flat.
Side note–in the newer First Step series workouts Teresa is joined by her sidekick, 90 year old Berei. Between the ages or 85-87 Berei gained 18% bone density in her lower lumbar alone! She improved from osteoporosis to osteopenia–which is an amazing feat for anyone, but especially someone in her 80s! All the “press/tuck/curl” that Teresa cues in First Step is what she gives credit for the improvement. But it’s not about tucking the tailbone hard as you can–it’s about engaging those ab muscles, some of which are attached to your lower back fascia. So as you curl that core to tuck the pelvis under, and especially as you think belly button UP before belly button back, you are engaging muscles to lift the pelvic floor, help strengthen the back as well as strengthen the core and, yes–close a tummy gap!
Is there ever a time to have a neutral spine in T-Tapp workouts?
Yes, but not until you have the foundation of the “tuck/curl”. Once you have that core activation, you can lift the ribs and in recent workouts, such as First Step 1&2, First Step 3&4 and First Step Fascia Fitness, Teresa often cues a neutral spine after the foundation is laid. But you don’t let your core go to achieve neutral spine!
Is this effective? Is it safe?
YES! This fall starts the third course of Defeating Diastasis. I have amazing testimonials from women who have not only closed or made significant progress on closing their tummy gaps, but also increased their ab awareness and core strength as well as improved their pelvic floor function. One of the most amazing testimonials is from Emiko H. who had several issues with pelvic floor dysfunction due to 3rd degree tearing during the birth of one of her children. After going through the course last spring, all her issues are GONE! And she didn’t get all the way through the course–in fact, she mainly focused on ONE technique!
You don’t have to enroll in Defeating Diastasis–just follow the tips in this post to help. But if you want a more structured program with video demonstrations of many of the techniques and slow instructionals of many of the T-Tapp moves that are good for improving core strength, you can sign up to be notified when registration opens for the spring course (tentatively late January/early February) Check out details at Defeating Diastasis .
If you have any questions, please comment below or contact me–I’d love to help YOU improve your core activation!
Sounds complicated. I always tuck my hips, lift my chest up and move shoulders back to have great posture, even when working out. Now I’m not sure.
Well, in a sense it is complicated! I’m breaking it down into parts but it’s all one smooth motion in the workouts. You can tuck the hips using gluteal muscles vs core and that can cause problems down the road. To simplify, think to activate core muscles to lift the belly up, then use the core muscles to tuck the hips vs glutes. The buns will tighten but they should not be the driving factor–the tummy is.
Shoulders back–you can do this with the trapezius muscles (upper back and neck) or elevate the ribs to settle the shoulders back more naturally by equally using the latissimus dorsi and traps. Sometimes when we “push the shoulders back” with the upper back muscles, we can tilt the ribcage a bit and that can inactivate the upper tummy muscles.
That’s why I took time to break this down–at the risk of complicating it–to help educate about which muscles are working to make everything happen.
Please let me know if you have more questions!
Just a question…. if you’re tucking incorrectly can you possibly make a hiatal hernia worse? Or is that not possible? Thank you.
I’ve not had personal experience, but with what I do know I believe it could make it worse just because you tend to be “bearing down” when you tuck using just the glutes/buns. When you think belly button UP and back to spine to help tuck the pelvis under, then lift ribs, it keeps things from bearing down. I hope that makes sense! If not, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Belly button up has always confused me. Up as towards your chin or up as in straight above you like the sky?
Up toward your chin–so whether you are on the floor or sitting or standing, your core is lifting UP towards your head.
Hope that helps clear up the confusion!