The Diaphragm and Its Importance to the Core

Breathing is important not only for staying alive but also to properly engage your core, release tension, and to exercise more efficiently.

The diaphragm is the roof of the core. It looks like a jellyfish. It is a dome-shaped muscle attached below the lungs with “tentacles” that attach to the spine.

When you inhale, it presses the diaphragm downward to allow rib expansion. Imagine a balloon in a ring and when you press on the top of the balloon, it moves downward in the ring. The diaphragm is contracting when you inhale so it begins to flatten.

As it is moving downward on inhalation, it presses toward the pelvic floor (the floor of the core) keeping those muscles quiet.

On exhalation, the diaphragm moves upward and returns to its “resting” dome position. This then activates the pelvic floor muscles and lower abdominals (transverse abdominus).

When working on core strengthening, your breath is vital to recruiting these muscles. Upon exhaling, also contract the pelvic floor and transverse abdominus. This abdominal is the deepest of the abdominals and goes across your lower trunk as its name states (transverse): right to left or left to right.

If the abdominals and pelvic floor are activated, this releases the tension in the upper body as there is relaxation and elevation of the diaphragm forcing air to leave the lungs and out of the body.

Here are 2 simple exercises to help increase your core strength, improve how effectively you breathe, and release tension. Remember your core includes: diaphragm, lower abdominals, buttocks, and pelvic floor. So you can look at it as a saddle with the diaphragm on the roof, pelvic muscles on the floor, and abdominals and gluts. in between.

Begin lying on your back with your knees bent. If you are having difficulty finding your pelvic floor and abdominals when activating them, put a pillow under your pelvis/sacrum.

1. On inhalation, relax the pelvic floor muscles and abdominals.

On exhalation (through your mouth), engage the pelvic floor and abdominals. You should be able to hear your exhalation, like you are blowing out 100 candles.

2. Blow up a balloon. Place a balloon in your mouth. Inhale through your nose then exhale through your mouth into the balloon. Hold your breath for 3 counts and take notice of your body. Do you feel tension anywhere? Remember, on exhalation the pelvic floor and abdominals are activated releasing tension elsewhere. Do you feel equal weight on both sides of your body?

Then inhale through your nose without pinching off the neck of the balloon or sticking your tongue into the hole at the neck. The air in the balloon should stay in the balloon and not go into your mouth when inhaling.

So now you see how important breathing is to your core, how the diaphragm functions, and how to activate the core. Need some individual attention on getting started or progressing your exercise routine? Not sure if the exercises you are doing are appropriate for you or if you are even correctly doing them? Or do you just want to improve your core strength to support your body and decrease the risk of getting injured? Click here to see how our Pilates-based rehab can help you. Or you can contact us at 301-493-9257 to discuss your options. We offer one on one 1 hour individual sessions tailored to your needs and physical status.

To Your Health,


Cynthia Weiss

We Help Women To Increase Their Confidence In Achieving Their Goals Of Having An Independent & Mobile Lifestyle Without The Use Of Pain Medications Or Surgery.