How to do Hypopressive Abs

  By Gary Farfan  /  

Today I would like to talk to you about the method of hypopressives and how to do hypopressive abs.

This methodology of core work was created by Marcel Caufriez as an alternative way to achieve toned abdominal muscles for recent mothers, postpartum. The strengthening techniques employed up until this moment carried an enormous risk during puerperium, the 6 weeks after giving birth, where a woman’s body returns to its pre-pregnancy condition.

With time and thanks to the great results, this methodology passed from therapy to fitness, much like pilates that was originally developed as a method of physical therapy.

In this article you will learn:

WHAT ARE HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?

Hypopressive abs by definition consist of generating a hypopression in the abdominal cavity. They consist of a combination of series of postures and a special respiration (apnea), to elevate and activate the diaphragm. On the one hand they elevate the visceral packet (utero-vagina, urethra-bladder, rectum and intestines), and on the other, thanks to a mechanism of reflex activation, they provoke a contraction of the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor.

The base of these breathing techniques, abdominal abduction, and reeducation of the posture, existed thousands of years ago and were practiced in yoga under the name Uddiyana Bandha.

Between the 70s and 80s hypopressive abs began to acquire popularity and were known as a stomach vacuum. With the bodybuilding boom, these techniques of respiration and abduccion resulted in reducing the size of the waist to give more visibility to the anterior serrato and dorsal width, to improve the volume of the thoracic box.

In this way, the benefits of muscle strengthening and viscera mobilization lost protagonism to an aesthetic endeavor. Even the well known Arnold Schwarzenegger that used hypopressive abs over a long period of time, now criticizes the form in which bodybuilders build abdominal muscles because they lose muscle harmony.

how to do hypopressive abs schwarzenegger

Hypopressives were introduced again as a part of training by their creator M. Caufriez after finding in his research that classical abdominal exercises could cause problems of incontinence or sexual disfunction.  Because of this he decided to apply exercises, around the abdominal area, that could obtain the same result, but without causing any bodily damage.

Two decades after its invention, the method of hypopressives is practiced often in rehabilitation clinics for women after giving birth (and has double the effectiveness of previous exercises for pregnant women) and for high performance athletes for its benefits in core strengthening and improvement in their trademark sports.

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WHEN SHOULD YOU NO DO HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?

Although a lot of contraindications do not exists for hypopressive abs there are specific cases which you should take into considerations when deciding whether or not to perform them.

This includes:

Pregnant women

Hypopressive abs are 100% contraindicated for pregnant women.  

Performing the proper technique for hypopressive abs can bring on contractions in the uterus and can be very harmful for the future baby to the point that it could result in a natural abortion.

People with arterial hypertension

Not because of the abdominal exercises itself, but because the breathing technique used to perform hypopressives, which includes expiratory apneas that can be counterproductive. If you suffer hypertension and want to perform hypopressives you should do them with the supervision of your doctor and watch the tension and heart rate during the session.

People with shoulder and knee joint problems

When you know how to do hypopressive abs, you’ll see that there are various body positions. This includes specific position for the arms and knees, that are important to the technique. If you have any joint problems, you should cautiously select what types of hypopressive abs suit you better.

WHEN SHOULD YOU PERFORM HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?

An important note – The following groups of people can include hypopressives in their physical activity:

Recent mother in postpartum recuperation

The majority of people that practice hypopressive abs are women who have recently given birth as a way to recuperate the abdomen that they had before pregnancy.

If you have read our article about exercises during pregnancy, you know that during the growth of the belly it is possible to suffer diástisis recti where the abdominal muscles separate too much and you lose muscle tone.

If this is your case, remember that you can perform hypopressive abs 6 weeks postpartum and as always, with the supervision of your gynecologist.

People with recent surgeries

If you have recently suffered a herniated disk o a surgery involving the abdominal zone, consult your doctor before starting any exercise. You can start the process of recuperating muscle tone after the scars have healed with the most comfortable position for you and your abdominal muscles.

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WHAT MUSCLES DO HYPOPRESSIVES WORK?

While classical abs exercises only work the muscle with voluntary or phasic contractions (between 3-4% of the abdominal muscles), those who know how to do hypopressive abs work between 75-80% of the total abdominal muscles fibers.

In this way, while performing isometric and hypopressives you can tone the muscles that you don’t regularly train and strengthen the support of your body.

how to do hypopressive abs

Internal Oblique Muscles of the Abdomen

These muscles are in charge of assisting in breathing (with great responsibility for exhaling). In addition, they allow you to rotate the thorax. Unlike the external obliques, these muscles are less involved in bending, therefore hypopressives are more efficient in strengthening them.

Traverse Muscles of the Abdomen

Of all of the abs, the transverse muscles are the deepest. They offers stability to the entire lumbar region and are the most difficult muscles to work through exercises.

Their function is divided in two. First, when one is contracted, they perform the rotation of the trunk. Second, contracting the two transverses promotes exhalation. If you are looking for perform hypopressive abs these muscles are integral in performing the technique correctly.

Straight Muscles of the Abdomen

The most well-known muscle of the abdomen, as they are seen on the outside and are well-know as a “6-pack”. During pregnancy it is possible to suffer diastasis recti, where these muscles separate too much and many women lose strength and muscle tone. Logically, the straight abs muscles are where you will see the most notable change when you start doing hypopressives, as they are the most visible.

WHAT BENEFITS ARE THERE TO DOING HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?

There are always studies being conducted about the effects of hypopressive abs on different segments of people: men, women, adults, older adults, women postpartum, women prepartum, etc.

Today we will touch on the most important results that have been found:

Strengthen the abdominal girdle

To have a strong belly it is important to exercise the transverse and oblique muscles of the abdomen and not just the anterior rectum. To do this, there is nothing better than hypopressive abs to strengthen and tone these muscles without damaging the lumbar spine.

Re-training your posture

In the modern world, many have to adopt sitting in uncomfortable positions for many hours a day. This not only creates undesired pressure on the pelvic floor, but, also changes the position of several vertebrae resulting in poor posture.

When you learn how to do hypopressives you will notice that the suction effect and the negative pressure in the abdominal cavity apply a pulling action on the two intervertebral discs.

This combined with other exercises is a powerful tool to combat problems with posture.

Reduces anxiety and stress

Voluntary control over breathing creates a sense of relaxation, as being aware of your own breathing is integral in practicing mindfulness meditation techniques.  

If you want to know more about Mindfulness Meditation have a look at this article.

Prevent prolapses

During many periods of our lives when exerting pressure on certain areas of the body we can suffer displacements, or prolapses. For example, by abusing classic abdominal crunches.

The most concrete case of prolapse occurs during pregnancy when the organs shift to make space for the fetus to develop.

Strengthening the abdominal area with hypopressive abs and neglecting ab exercises that include flexion and high pressure towards the organs of the abdominal cavity greatly reduces the possibility of prolapses.

Strengthen pelvic floor and improves postpartum recovery

After childbirth there is some residual sagging of the belly, while the body begins the process to return to its normal state. Some work needs to be done to retone the abdominal girdle and strengthen the pelvic floor.

Hypopressive abs are critical to postpartum recovery because they not only tone the muscles, but also accelerate the process of returning the organs to their original position.

Prevents or improves urinary incontinence

During the day the bladder expands like a balloon and fills with waste that needs to be voided from the body. When a relaxed bladder extends to store more urine and the sphincters are kept in contraction there are no leaks, until the bladder is completely full. A message is sent to the brain when the bladder is full to urge you to go to the bathroom.

However, for a person with a weak pelvic floor and problem of incontinence, the bladder contracts before it is completely full and there is an increase in abdominal pressure causing an escape of urine. This can be produced by muscular effort such as laughing, coughing, weight lifting, etc.

Hypopressive abs not only relieve the pressure produced by some prolapses (if any), but also help strengthen the pelvic floor to provide greater control of the sphincter.

Increases sports performance

When you know how to do hypopressive abs with the correct technique, during expiratory apnea phase (breathing out and holding one’s breath), the body will go into a state of hypoxia, or the deprivation of oxygen. Hypoxia encourages the creation of the hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, that increase the amount of hemoglobin in the blood and optimizes the transportation of oxygen.

This results in greater muscle resistance, as there is more oxygen in the blood. This is useful for athletes who need to have greater resistance to improve their performance.

Caufriez and Riera used the Hypopressive Integral Training and applied this form of training to a triathlete. During this research, physical tests and blood tests were performed to observe improvements at the biochemical level. They found an increase in EPO, as well as Hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells (in 3.8%), in just 5 days.

This increased his anaerobic threshold and aerobic capacity.

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These were his new stats after training with this method: On the track, he shaved 11 seconds off of this time in the 500m, moving from 01:31 to 01:20, and 34 seconds in in the 1000 m (3:23 to 2:49). In the water, he was able to swim faster and farther covering 47m in 30 seconds, where he used to complete just 31.5m. 

Promotes sexual intercourse and prevents erectile dysfunction

The pelvic floor musculature is related to sexual functions in both genders.

Because of the complexity of the female genital-urinary tract the benefits are more pronounced in women.

In men, the consistent practice of hypopressive abs can increase in blood flow, that in turn improves sexual performance and prevents erectile dysfunction.

Increases lung capacity and improves breathing control

The breathing techniques and the control of the diaphragm produced with the constant practice of these exercises gives us better control over the movement of each breathe. During the abdominal suction, thoracic capacity is increased, which results in increased lung capacity. You can better control each movement of the breath during abdominal suction, to increase the thoracic capacity and in turn lung capacity.

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HOW DO I START DOING HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?

Let’s first start with a simple test of your abdominal strength:

Abdominal Strength Strength Test: Cough Test. This is an exercise that will help you test your abdominal girdle. Lying on your back with your knees bent, place one of your hands on your abdomen.

In this position, cough hard and notice how much your hand raises: the higher you raise your hand during the cough the more you will have to work to strengthen your abdominal girdle.

In order to understand how to do hypopressives you must understand the 3 steps that stimulate the activation of the abdominal musculature and a technique to recognize the strength of your abdominal belt. Doing these 3 steps is crucial as they are present in all known postures of hypopressive abs.

Step 1: Auto-elongation. Start from a standing position with the body straight and feet parallel and aligned with the hips. From this position raise your arms above your head and try to make your body grow as much as possible. Automatically, the abdomen will push inward by performing a contraction in your abdominal girdle.

how to do hypopressive abs auto-elongation

Step 2: Recapture. This sequence helps the pressure in the joints to decrease. Start sitting or standing with the spine straight. From this position pull your arms down to activate the serratus muscles on the sides of the chest, between the 1st and 8th ribs.

Step 3: Pelvic tilt. From the previous position push the arms to the sides while tilting forward from the hips. From this position inhale and exhale twice. On the third exhalation release as much air as possible from the lungs and hold you breathe to enter apnea. When going into apnea, lift the diaphragm, open the ribs, and lift the belly back and up. Hold without taking in air for at least 10 seconds.

how to do hypopressive abs recapture pelvic tilt

Other positions: Quadruped. Starting with steps 1 and 2, you can vary step 3 by kneeling on the floor with your hands facing each other, your knees resting on the floor, and your feet flexed. From this position, maximize the extension of the spine as if you were growing taller.

how to do hypopressive abs quadrupedia

HOW TO DO HYPOPRESSIVE ABS: BREATHING

Breathing is critical to doing hypopressive abs well. Once you have gotten into the postures, you must ensure that you have released all of the air that you have in the body.

At first you will not be able to hold your breathe for a long time, but with continuous practice your blood oxygenation and lung capacity will improve and you will be able to withstand double or triple the amount of time in apnea within just one week.

We recommend practicing the breathing exercises before doing hypopressive abs. A few minutes of preparation should be enough.

There are 3 important things that you need to know to perform the breathing technique correctly:

Inhale deeply. It is important that the breaths are deep, and that you capture all the air of a single inhalation, and to feel like your lungs are filled. During the first inhalation, hold the air in for about 10 seconds.

Empty your lungs completely. One of the pillars of performing hypopressive abs is expiratory apnea. This word so difficult and that almost nobody knows. It just means voluntarily holding your breath once you have drawn all of the air out of your lungs.

Pull in the abdomen. After releasing all the air in your lungs you can press the abdomen inwards at the same time that you separate the ribs, thus you will work the diaphragm until you can control it without difficulty.

HOW TO DO HYPOPRESSIVE ABS: TAILOR TECHNIQUES

For this position, sit on the floor with your legs crossed, taking care that your back is straight and elongated.

You can use the double chin technique that consists of stretching the throat so high that it touches the chin, and thus keep the spine straight.

Place your hands on your hips and start using the breathing techniques we mentioned earlier, to exhale all the air out of your lungs. Try to raise the ribs and control the diaphragm to expand your lung capacity and reinforce the elongation.

In this position and in expiratory apnea try to endure as long as possible.

The goal of your final position can be seen in the image below.

how to do hypopressive abs tailor position

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RECOMMENDATION TO DO HYPOPRESSIVE ABS

Now that you know how to do hypopressives I will give you some recommendations to help improve your technique and increased the benefits:

Go to the bathroom before doing hypopressive abs because performing this activity inhibits the urge to void.

Do not do hypopressives before bed because they cause the metabolism to increase and in spite of moving very little, these abdominals requires a lot of energy and can cause restlessness.

Never do hypopressive abs after eating because it can interfere directly with the digestive process.

Take all of the time necessary to get to the correct starting position.

Concentrate on expelling all the air from the lungs to reach the expiratory apnea, this causes the diaphragm to relax and the abdominal pressure to decrease.

Open the ribs. To more greatly reduce the abdominal pressure during apnea and stretch the diaphragm.

Try placing a clothespin on your nose to make sure you’re not breathing in through the nostrils during apnea.

Never forget that between each repetition of this exercise the breathing technique must be repeated. That is, you must do the 3 breaths before each hypopressive.

This is a progressive exercise. We recommended that in the first few weeks you do few sessions and few repetitions. As you progress, increase the repetitions until you can perform 20 minute sessions, three or four days a week.

TYPES OF HYPOPRESSIVE ABS

We have now learned the correct technique to perform hypopressive abs in the “tailor” position. However, there are many other positions that can be used.

STANDING HYPOPRESSIVE ABS

Follow these steps to do standing hypopressive abs:

  1. Stand with your feet parallel.
  2. Bend your knees and place your hands on them.
  3. Bring the chin into the neck area, using the double chin technique, and let the weight of the body fall on the feet.
  4. Breathe very deeply and try to open the ribs to the maximum. Hold for 10 seconds between inhalation and exhalation.

how to do standing hypopressive abs
UPWARD FACING HYPOPRESSIVE ABS

Follow these steps to do upward facing hypopressive abs:

  1. Lie on the floor face upward slightly bending your knees.
  2. Rest the heels on the floor while the rest of the foot is raised.
  3. Bend your arms and place them at the belly level facing up.
  4. Perform self-elongation.
  5. Holding this position, perform the breathing exercise and the expiratory apnea.

how to do face up standing hypopressive abs

HYPOPRESSIVE ABS WITH ONE LEG FORWARD

Follow these steps to do hypopressive abs with one leg forward:

  1. Start from a standing position with one leg in front and the trunk slightly tilted forward.
  2. Keep the body weight primarily on the front leg and stretches the back leg (elongating the spine).
  3. Lift the arms upward in maximum extension following the axis of your body and pushing upward.
  4. Holding this position, perform the breathing exercise and the expiratory apnea.

how to do foot forward standing hypopressive abs

KNEE HYPOPRESSIVE ABS

Follow these steps to perform knee hypopressive abs:

  1. Sit on your knees.
  2. Tilt your body weight forward but don’t lift the feet off of the ground.
  3. Place your hands on your knees with the palms facing down.
  4. Rotate your shoulders forward keeping the back straight and maintaining your posture.
  5. Holding this position, perform the breathing exercise and the expiratory apnea.

how to do knee hypopressive abs

SUPINE HYPOPRESSIVE KNEE ABS

Follow these steps to do supine hypopressive sit-ups:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your heels resting on the floor.
  2. Elongate your spine and and pull your chin into your chest.
  3. Flex your arms and place them at shoulder height with the palms facing upward, maintaining the internal rotation of the shoulders.
  4. Holding this position, perform the breathing exercise and the expiratory apnea.

how to do supine knee hypopressive abs

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Conclusión

  • Hypopressives are the best method to strengthen the abdomen when the isometric abdomen creates a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • The force need to perform certain actions, such a throwing an object, comes from the abdomen, so by improving the strength of your entire abdominal muscles with hypopressive abs you will be too improving the performance of other areas of your body.
  • There are many options for replacing classic abs or abdominal crunches. If you want to know more you can check our abdominals guide.
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4 thoughts on “How to do Hypopressive Abs”

  1. Hay algún video o libro donde te expliquen paso a paso como realizar los ejercicios?. Y se recomienda dejar de hacer los abdominales tradicionales o disminuir su numero por calidad más que cantidad?.

    1. Hola Héctor,
      hay varios libros que explican estos ejercicios pero yo te sugiero siempre que si quieres practicarlos, vayas a alguna clínica en los que los practiquen. Siempre es mejor tener un profesional al lado para asegurarte que la técnica es correcta.

      Por otra parte, un ejercicio isométrico como un plank es más potente que los abdominales hipopresivos y activa más musculatura. Esto debido a que los hipopresivos solo los recomendamos cuando el suelo pélvico es débil o se ha tenida una lesión en la zona abdominal.

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