Following this reddit thread, it seems to more like a disputed issue. Alan thrall advices to push out, but others to pull in.

So, which is right? and, what would be the basis for justifying that the right position is right?

The accepted answer here says to do neither... which only adds to my confusion.

  • 1
    A word of advice, never ever listen to anything AthleanX/Jeff Cavalier have to say about anything. He is one of the absolute worst sources of fitness information. I cannot understate how horribly idiotic much of his advice is.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


You can't "push your abs out" as such. That is not how abs work. Abdominal muscles - like all muscles - can only contract, ie. shorten. And since one of the main functions of them is keeping your abdominal organs in place ("inside"), they obviously "pull in", which is mainly the job of the transversus abdomini.

What does "push out" is a Valsalva Maneuver, which works best when done against tensed abs "pulling in": The diaphragm that runs along the lower end of your fixed rib cage from sternum to spine (excluding floating ribs) lowers when breathing into the abdominal region, which would buldge the belly out because it compresses the organs below the rib cage. That is why a deep breath bulges your belly out. When this happens against tensed abs, both muscles working against each other actually contribute to the intra-abdominal pressure that is supposed to help your stability.

Thus, this is about poor wording and confusion and could basically be summarised as "when you lift heavy, remember to tense your abs and take a deep abdominal breath", because this improves the effect of your short holding of breath for bracing that will happen involuntarily given a high enough load.

As I said elsewhere, tensing your abs here should mainly mean addressing the transversus and pelvic floor, which is very different from your muscle activity during crunches. That way, the abdominal pressure is held between the pelvic floor, the transversus, and the diaphragm. Not tensing one of them means the pressure can go in that direction and the whole idea about stabilising your lumbar spine is null and void or, at least, you risk that the pressure does something bad wherever it is allowed to go.

You can try training this tension by trying to suck your belly button inwards-upwards (transversus) and lift everything between your anus and primary sexual characteristics up at the same time (pelvic floor). Yes, there are muscles. And not addressing them does often lead to various forms of incontinence in power lifters.

  • The last paragraph was a big TIL
    – Babu
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 22:02
  • I am pretty sure I can buldge my belly out without breathing in. So, I am not sure of the accuracy of your statement. Here is how I did it, I pinched me nose and tried to push my stomach out.
    – Babu
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 22:36
  • So, what I got is , breath in and belly out when lifting. But, the last para is weird, you say to suck in the belly button? Isn't that contradicting what I need to do? Also, how exactly is this different from what happens in crunches
    – Babu
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 22:37
  • @HopefulWhitepiller There are two mechanisms of breathing (costo-sternal into the thorax and abdominal). Buldging your belly out is definitely always done via the diaphragm. You will notice that your breathing volume is significantly reduced while your belly is kept buldged although there is more space for the lungs. The point is establishing a muscular vessel from below and all sides (tensing pelvic floor and transversus) and then filling it with pressure from the top (by taking a deep breath into the abdomen). That's what builds the best intra-abdominal pressure. Commented May 22, 2023 at 4:50
  • @HopefulWhitepiller Also, there are 4 layers of abdominal muscles: rectus (6-or-whatever-pack), the outer and inner obliques (diagonal) and the transversus. Crunches are mainly done for and by the rectus, the most superficial abdominal muscle. Diagonal crunches are mainly done for and by the obliques. And the transversus, the deepest of them, is a muscular girdle around everything between ribs and pelvis. It is the main "culprit" for establishing and maintaining intra-abdominal pressure. Sucking the belly button more pointedly recruits the transversus directly. Commented May 22, 2023 at 4:54

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