The Ab Trick Everyone Should Know

This is the abdominal secret trick that everyone should know. I tell people in my classes, when you walk down the street recruiting your abdominals this way, feel bad for the people walking past that they don’t know this secret!

Just about all of us in this industry say it: “Navel to spine”. It’s a good generic cue for tapping into the deep abdominals that comprise an important portion of your core. But that cue is incomplete.

I got a call from the one and only, Elizabeth Todd the other day. “I have your next stylebook post…you said the best cue I’ve ever gotten from you, you know…the crop top, hot snap, and the horizontal zipper.”

When attempting to tap into the correct muscles for movement, sometimes imagery just works. In order to recruit the whole abdominal wall, from your ribs down to your pubic bone, try this: crop top, hot snap, horizontal zipper (go figure fashion cues worked for E.T.)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pretend you are wearing a crop top and it is too tight and too inappropriate to wear to a party hosted at your in-laws. You try to take it off, but the only way you can release the band is by pulling in your ribs like mad. Try it! Make sure you exhale to pull in your ribs.
  2. Pretend you are putting on your high waisted skinny jeans, you are fastening them first at the top, but they just came out of the dryer! That snap is hot. Fasten the snap and pull your belly button away from the snap…remember, it’s hot! Make sure you exhale.
  3. On those same skinny jeans, pretend there is a horizontal zipper–it’s hot too! Zip over that hot zipper and hollow your lower belly away as you exhale. Meg Biram asked “why is the zipper horizontal?” Because that is the directional alignment of the muscle fibers for that deep layer, and thinking of hollowing and widening as you exhale gives you that extra recruitment.

Hold these ab tricks all at once and breathe with the side and back of your rib cage. Practice this daily, especially while you’re walking. Why does this matter? We want to recruit the deepest layer of the abdominals because they are important in regulating abdominal pressure, supporting the spine, and for those of you who care, making your abs look HAWT.

To experience your deep abdominals in functional movement, try out our HAWT Pilates, Pilates Mat and Pilates Boot Camp (cardio) programs here at Mind the Mat.


A big thanks to artist, Marisha Goodman, yoga teacher and client at Mind the Mat, for these custom Ab Secret drawings!



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Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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