Are you looking to get back in shape after pregnancy? Or have you been performing abdominal exercises but not seeing any improvement? Then a hypopressive workout might be just the exercise for you. This revolutionary method involves a specialized sequence of postural exercises combined with breathing technique that helps flatten your abs, improve your posture, and strengthen your muscles while being gentle to your body.

Read on to learn about the Hypopressive techniques, the correct posture during Hypopressives, and some simple exercises.

What is Hypopressive?

Hypopressives were created in Europe in the 1980s by Dr. Marcel Caufriez with the purpose of helping postnatal women prevent and recover from pelvic floor dysfunctions such as urinary incontinence and organ prolapse. 

Dr. Caufriez discovered the link between traditional sit-ups and pelvic floor dysfunction and developed a safe alternative. His method involves balancing the pressure in the abdominal cavity with a specific breathing technique to help counteract the damaging effects of pelvic floor pressure. Later on, he realized that the breathing by itself was not enough. He added a progression of postural movements to stretch tight postural muscles and strengthen weak abdominal muscles to maximize results. 

What are the Benefits of Hypopressives? 

Although hypopressive breathing exercises are traditionally used to treat pelvic floor dysfunction, there are countless additional hypopressive exercise benefits, including:

  • Improving posture and balance
  • Reducing back pain
  • Improving respiratory function
  • Preventing hernias
  • Enhancing sexual function
  • Treating and preventing urinary incontinence
  • Treating and preventing pelvic organ prolapse
  • Preventing and improving abdominal separation
  • Reducing waistline
  • Improving athletic performance

How Do Hypopressive Exercises Work?

Hypopressives work as an isometric abdominal workout, in which your muscles will get stronger without movement and without straining the back and the neck. The key to this technique is learning to balance the pressure in the abdominal cavity. As easy as this sounds, the exercise involves connecting with your body to reprogram and re-educate your postural muscles in conjunction with abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which requires some practice.

What Postures are Performed During Hypopressives?

Hypopressives are gentle to your body and can be performed at home, without special equipment. 

You can perform hypopressive exercise in simple postures such as:

  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Lying down
  • Modified planks
  • Kneeling

When starting out, asking for physical therapist help might be beneficial to find the best hypopressive posture, especially if you want to learn specialized pelvic floor exercises.

Hypopressives vs Traditional Abdominals

Hypopressive means low pressure: doing these exercises reduces pressure to the thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic cavities. By contrast, traditional ab workouts (and many of our everyday activities, including walking) are hyperpressive: they increase the internal pressure in your body.

While it’s impossible to eliminate all hyperpressive activities, you can teach your body to manage internal pressure better–including pressure caused by injury, exercise, or childbirth, which otherwise may lead to urinary incontinence, hernia, or pelvic organ prolapse. In such cases, hypopressive abdominal gymnastics are beneficial, while traditional ab exercises should be avoided altogether.

What is Hypopressive Breathing?

The main component of Hypopressives is a specific breathing technique called expiratory apnea. This involves holding down the breath right after exhalation and drawing the belly button in and up toward the spine. 

The expiratory apnea produces a suction effect that lifts organs upwards, releases stress from the pelvic floor organs, and activates pelvic floor muscles.

What are the Breathing Techniques?

The basic breathing exercise consists of the following steps:

  • Sit with your back straight and relaxed, as if you were trying to grow taller.
  • Keep your chin down to stretch your neck and spine and breathe in through your nose while expanding your abdomen. Exhale until your abdomen contracts.
  • Suck in your abdominal muscles and hold this position for a few seconds without breathing in. (You can pinch your nose and close your mouth to block the air passage.)
  • Breathe into your lungs and relax.
  • Return to normal breathing.

The longer you practice, the longer you can hold your breath without breathing, and the more natural the exercise will feel. You can then perform it in different postures.

Benefits of Hypopressive Breathing

Hypopressive breathing is a gentle but effective core exercise to help improve core function, restore correct posture, and reduce your waistline while improving pelvic floor muscle strength. The activities based on this technique don’t strain muscles; therefore, they’re safe postpartum or after an injury. The best thing about hypopressive breathing is that it improves your overall wellness, which will quickly show in your daily activities.

Tips for Hypopressive Exercises

This method is about learning to re-educate your posture first and then breathing by getting in tune with your body. Then it’s just a matter of practice, and results will show over time. Follow these tips to learn the right technique from the start:

  • Start exercising three times a week for the first six weeks for 30 minutes each, then increase it to 20 minutes per day. This is necessary to reprogram the body and create a habit.
  • Practice in the mirror to get the posture right. When sucking in the belly, you should see a prominent collar bone and your belly button moving towards the spine.
  • Don’t do hypopressive workouts right after eating or before going to bed.

Please Note:

  • If you’re pregnant, consult your doctor before performing these exercises. 
  • In postpartum, follow the recovery time of six weeks (unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor). 
  • If you’re experiencing pain, consult your physical therapist to see whether you can do modified exercises.

Summary

Originally developed for women with pelvic floor dysfunctions after childbirth, Hypopressives are the basis of a widely recognized low-intensity workout. Unlike traditional exercises, hypopressive workouts are a gentle way of improving core strength while reducing your waistline; therefore, they benefit anyone who wants to get fitter.

Dr. Alexandra Chaux is a trained physical therapist and an expert in hypopressive training. After publishing an Ebook on the topic, Dr. Chaux offers sessions on Hypopressives, combined with other specialized physical therapy, such as pelvic floor exercises, yoga therapy and more–depending on your unique needs.

Curious to try? Book a consultation at Chaux Physical Therapy at 805-203-9940 to see whether the Hypopressive Method is right for you.