Are your ribs and hips connected?

‘Of course they are!’  I hear you cry. ‘All my insides would fall out if they weren’t.’

And you’d be right, they are connected. But after reading this, you’ll discover that there’s more to it than you think.

To enjoy the best health and a wide range of movement you need to keep that connection in tip-top shape!  The alignment and positioning of your ribs and hips in relation to each other is key when it comes to the development of good core function and your capacity to effectively manage intra-abdominal pressure.

The core muscles have been designed to work in harmony

 Let’s take a closer look at your ribs and hips, and in this example, I’ll be talking about them as your breathing diaphragm and your pelvic floor.

Your breathing diaphragm and pelvic floor are designed to work together. Now imagine that you have an internal tin can – your breathing diaphragm is at the top of the can and your pelvic floor is at the bottom of the can.

When you breathe in your diaphragm lowers and flatten, this causes an increase in the pressure within your abdomen, and this pressure pushes downwards onto your pelvic floor. The muscles of the pelvic floor work under the tension by lengthening and lowering in support.  And then as we breathe out, a passive vacuum is created that creates lift on the pelvic floor.

When muscles work together effectively the shape and pressure of the tin can remain at optimum levels.   For this to happen your hips and ribs need to align with each other.

Create balance with optimum positioning

To understand what’s going on inside your body, it’s good to know that your diaphragm attaches to the inside of your rib cage and to your spine, and the muscles that make up your pelvic floor attach around the inside of your pelvic bowl.

Their positions within your body will be highly affected by how and where your muscles rest.  For instance, if you have muscles tension and stiffness in your upper back, neck and shoulders this can create a shift in the rib cage position.   Any shift from the optimum resting position is going to result in an imbalance.

Changes in the alignment of your diaphragm (the top of the tin can) or your pelvic floor (the bottom of the can) will change pressure in the middle.  It’s easy to imagine as we’ve all seen a squished tin can – some areas become compressed which changes the internal pressure. This is exactly what happens inside your body when you’re out of balance.

Let’s look inside!

The images below demonstrate the more common alignment changes.  You can see in each image that our positioning impacts the relationship between the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  The blue arrows show the impact on our spines as a result of directional changes of the rib cage and pelvis which is shown by the black arrows.

Positioning and alignment is key

Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to the positions we adopt frequently during our day.  Prolonged sitting, driving long distances and standing are all times when we may develop adaptive alignment changes that are not facilitative to good core support and function.

But help is at hand.  Understanding what’s going on inside our bodies is a great first step. The next step is to do the movements that bring about the mobility in the body that creates a better alignment.

If you are experiencing back, core and pelvic floor issues (stress incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, diastasis recti) addressing the relationship between these areas of your body can have a big impact on your symptoms.

If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core to support your pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at

What does core strength mean to you?

What does core strength mean to you?

 If you look in a dictionary the word ‘core’ relates to the central part of something that is deemed to be the most important.  But I also found this explanation, ‘… the part of something that has to be understood before the whole thing can be dealt with.’

For me, that sums it up perfectly – to fully understand the function of the core and how our muscles have been designed to work together is a key step to achieve optimal health, increase strength, and to experience a full range of movement.

Maybe it’s time to rethink what core strength means to you?

In general, your core is the area of your body between the ribs and the hips.  Many people who get in contact with me at the Pilates Studio tell me they need to improve their ‘core strength’ to provide a solution to a pain they are experiencing, to prevent injury, to stop symptoms associated with pelvic floor problems, to achieve a flatter tummy, to have the ability to lift heavier weights, or maybe to improve their mobility.

But what exactly do you know about the ‘core’, and when you mention ‘core strength’ what is your understanding?

Your core is more than your abdominal muscles

Let’s say you’re after a more sculptured look: a toned tummy with visible muscle definition. Without understanding your core’s function, you may have been tempted previously to adopt the more traditional abdominal-centric approach which focusses on training your abdominal muscles through sit-ups, planks, etc.

The traditional method builds and tones these muscles through voluntary movement to provide and can contribute to increased strength of those muscles.  However, the strength of the ‘core’ comes from the muscles to co-ordinate, to be supportive and the capacity to relax when needed.

What may also be happening whilst performing more isolated ‘core’ exercises is:

  • Training muscles in isolation potentially creates increased tension in the muscles, preventing them from releasing when needed and preventing them from working effectively with the other muscle. All muscles have an opposition to work with and against.  If there is too much tension in one muscles there will also been too much in the opposing muscle.  Either both start to be inhibiting in their capacity to be fully supportive when needed.
  • Our daily activities and working positions encourages a developmental change in alignment and muscle balance in the body. Isolated ‘core’ exercises then train that body position further.  This can compromise the capacity for the deeper stabilising muscles of the ‘core’ (multifidus, the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, and the transverse abdominals) to perform their roles of supporting the spine and control the pressure within the body and hampering the ability to attain optimal core function and strength.

In a nutshell, traditional methods of core exercise have the potential to create an imbalance which can compromise the body and lead to experiences of discomfort, limited movement, and problems with your pelvic floor.

Doing ‘core’ exercises is not wrong, completely depends on what you are trying to do. However, they need to be considered in relation to where movement does or doesn’t already happen in the body and how the body is achieving the exercises.  I can think of many more effective muscles for the ‘core’ that incorporates the function of the body and I don’t know about you but I would always rather do one exercise that gives more ‘bang for my buck’ than spend longer doing several isolated exercises!