Low Pressure Fitness (LPF) is a series of breathing and postural exercises that safely strengthen your deepest core muscles. These are the muscles that create the foundation for upright posture and joint stability. They also help you control normal bodily processes and function of our bladder, bowels and sexual health. Oftentimes, these inner muscles can be affected from an injury, surgery, pregnancy, illness or sedentary lifestyle.
Some examples of our inner core muscles include the:
- Pelvic floor
- Transverse abdominis
- Multifidus (deep spine)
- Internal obliques
- Rotator cuff
- Deep rotators of the hip
LPF exercises turn on these muscles by reducing the pressure through your thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities. It's a whole body routine administered in a specific sequence, with postural cues and a unique breathing pattern called hypopressives. This change in pressure along with maintaining the postures are key to the effectiveness of LPF exercises.
Hypopressive (hypos for short) means low pressure. It is a broad term used to describe breathing, exercising or moving with reduced pressure on the body.
In LPF, we use the hypopressive technique during the two phases of breathing:
- The Rest phase focuses on good lower rib cage expansion as we inhale and exhale.
- The Apnea phase is a breath hold technique. The apnea is performed after exhaling the air in your lungs. The breath is held by closing your nose and glottis (creating a seal), then opening your rib cage as if trying to take a breath in (with no air flowing in), thus creating the signature look of hollowing under the rib cage.
This apnea rib cage opening is like an abdominal vacuum. It creates a change in pressure (a suctioning effect) with a reflexive activation of the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Here's a video of me demonstrating the abdominal vacuum:
So why do we even care about pressure?
All day long the pressure within our “core canister” is constantly changing. When we breathe, pick up things, exercise, run, jump and even poop, our bodies are having to manage changes in intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure often travels to the path of least resistance; so therefore, some people are more vulnerable to pressure changes than others. For example, those with weakened abdominal connective tissue and muscles, like after having a baby or abdominal surgery, or presenting with an abdominal wall separation or hernia might be more vulnerable. Also, those experiencing common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, like pelvic organ prolapse (loss of support of pelvic organs and they “drop”) or leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or exercise are other examples of impaired pressure management. As we train our bodies with Low Pressure Fitness hypos, we learn how to adapt our breathing, our muscles and our connective tissue in order to better manage those inevitable day-to-day pressures.
Where did this technique come from?
Hypopressives have actually been around for a long time. The technique has been practiced for centuries in certain teachings of Yoga as Udiyanha Bandha. Bodybuilders in the 1970s such as Arnold Schwarzenegger used it during competitive posing to slim the waistline for accentuating their torso. In the 1980s research began to emerge that focused on its impact on the pelvic structures. In 2004 in Spain, Dr. Tamara Rial and Piti Pinsach started to develop research and create a movement system using the hypopressive concepts. By 2014, this movement system would evolve into Low Pressure Fitness.
How did I learn it?
I was fortunate to start my LPF hypopressives journey in 2016, when I was 1 of 8 participants to take one of the first US/English training courses of LPF hosted in the United States. I approached the weekend with an open mind, as I knew this was a fairly “new” concept in the US. I felt ready to learn any new cutting-edge techniques to help my pelvic patients. Expecting to just take away a few techniques or treatments, instead what I learned was a whole system of movement. We learned the Goddess poses and breathing techniques. I walked away feeling taller, more connected to my breath, less “heaviness” in the abdomen and my neck pain was gone. Not to be cliche, but learning LPF hypopressives has been life changing for me, both professionally and personally.
Who can benefit from LPF Hypopressives?
The bottom line is: this is a movement system. Just like Yoga and Pilates, LPF can be a progressive way to improve your fitness level, core strength, posture and breathing mechanics. The poses and transitions follow technical principles and postural foundations to accentuate strengthening along the myofascial lines (groups of muscles and connective tissue). But they offer this through a “pressureless” workout. LPF can be tailored to your specific health needs and diagnosis. Overall, this system helps to re-educate your postural muscles, your breathing mechanics, and the deep muscles of the core canister. It also improves cardio-pulminary fitness and balances your nervous system. Specific pelvic health conditions like prolapse, incontinence (urinary leaking) and pelvic pain have also shown significant improvements.
I use LPF with treating my pelvic health patients, as we know the pelvic floor is highly influenced by posture, breathing coordination, deep abdominal muscles and the psycho-social-emotional connection. LPF can be part of your comprehensive pelvic health treatment approach and it pairs cohesively with manual therapy techniques and the Redcord suspension system we use here at Activcore.
Check out this video on various LPF poses. See how the breathing is paired with the Goddess poses to offer a fun yet challenging movement experience.
To learn more about LPF and hypopressives, check out my online fitness class.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.