TL;DR: Sucking in your stomach is bad!

Many of us start sucking in long before having kids. It often starts in adolescence as we become aware of society’s expectation for women to be thin.  We feel self-conscious about our bodies, and so we begin sucking it all in. But ultimately, sucking in your stomach is not helpful.

Why Is Sucking in Your Stomach Bad?

You might think sucking or holding your stomach muscles in makes it look flatter. Unfortunately, when you grip your abs frequently, you can end up creating a tummy pooch, pelvic floor problems, and other issues. 

The core is a pressure system. Imagine a balloon. If you squeeze or put a kink in the middle of it, air will be forced up or down. 

Your core works in a similar way. Sucking it in creates a kink, pushing pressure downward (hello pelvic floor dysfunction), or up (acid reflux, indigestion, neck and back pain). And your breathing gets out of whack. You simply can’t breathe well if you’ve sucked in your stomach.

breathing in vs sucking in

Side Effects of Holding in Your Stomach

If you’re sucking in, you’re most likely also “breathing backward”. This means you’re filling your chest up with air rather than breathing down into your body. Your shoulders raise up, and over time this can lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and even an increase in anxiety.

Look at how your kid breathes, especially if they’re young. You’ll see their little tummies gently rise and fall with each breath – how we were designed to breathe. 

Stop Stomach Gripping

If you grip a lot with your stomach, over time, your upper abdominal muscles become tight and your lower abdominal muscles become weaker. Physical therapists call this “Hourglass Syndrome.” It puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor, increasing the likelihood of pelvic organ prolapse

Gripping for an extended period of time can also create incontinence/urine leakage and pelvic floor tightness. And you may inadvertently be creating a lower belly pooch.

sucking in anatomy graphic

Sucking in can also cause or lead to:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Constipation/lowered motility because you cannot take a proper deep breath. Proper breathing massages your insides and keeps things moving.
  • Muscular imbalance: people frequently grip their upper abs in an attempt to improve core stability, but they’re not engaging their core correctly. This leads to imbalances.

Let’s Fix It: Stop Sucking In Your Tummy

Catch yourself. Sucking in can become a subconscious habit, especially if you’ve been doing it for years. Check in with yourself and if you’re doing it, stop!

Relax and breathe. Breathe in through your nose, fill up your rib cage, and let the overflow go down into your belly. And remember: we have uteruses, our bodies aren’t designed to have perfectly flat abs!

Now you know you shouldn’t suck in, but how is sucking in your tummy different from engaging your core?

They’re two very different things. Stomach gripping can lead to a variety of health issues. Activating your transverse abdominals engages your core. A strong core supports your spine, pelvis, and pelvic floor muscles and helps protect you from injury.

Practice Activating Your Core 

Are you ready to ditch the habit of sucking in your stomach? Remember that breathing is your hidden superpower. Take time to learn to properly breathe and engage your core using the FREE Core Guide. It will make a big difference in both your appearance and how you feel.