Cat Curl: Breathing & Core Connection

2.03.17 by Thomas Millar

Cat curl is a fantastic exercise to help you strengthen your core. How you breathe can have a vast impact upon how well you are able to activate your deep abdominal muscles: diaphragm, pelvic floor and transverse abdominals and here we explore how you can promote effective diaphragmatic breathing with Cat Curl in class.


What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragm breathing is the use of our main breathing muscle, the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that sits under the lungs.  The image below shows the movement of the diaphragm as you breathe. Normally, when you breathe in, your diaphragm moves downwards into your abdomen. This downward movement creates a vacuum inside your chest that allows air to enter your lungs. Your diaphragm then moves in an upward direction when you breathe out, allowing air to leave your lungs.

Posture, Breathing and Deep Abdominal Problems

It is difficult to fill your lungs and breathe deeply when you sit in a slumped forwards position. This is because this ‘C’ shaped spine position compresses your abdominal muscles and your diaphragm cannot move downwards. This causes your upper chest and neck muscles to over work and compensates to help you breathe.  


In this slumped ‘C’ shape position, your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles do not receive the gentle ‘exercise’ they need to keep them activated; lengthening and contracting with every breathe in and out. This is why correct posture is so important for the activation and function of your diaphragm, pelvic floor and abdominals.


Breathing, Core & Cat Curl

The Cat Curl movement emphasises diaphragmatic breathing by creating a proud chest on the extension (‘U’ shape spine) to help you expand the lungs and the diaphragm. Then the contraction of the rectus abdominal and deep abdominals emphasises the exhalation of as much air as possible in a ‘C’ shaped spine, all while working against a resistance of a spring.


Cat Curl Cues

  1. Do not grip too hard
  2. Lead with the pelvis and then the spine
  3. Maximise the C shape spine
  4. Scoop your abs in & up
  5. Dome your abs out & down
  6. Proud chest
  7. Breathe out for C shape, breathe in for U shape

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