How to Activate Your Core Correctly with the Drawstring Technique

In the last post we touched upon some of the negative impacts of habitually sucking or holding your stomach in.

So now you may find yourself asking, “Well, then how am I supposed to find my abdominals in Pilates, or any other ‘core workout’ without just pulling my belly button in toward my spine?”

This is a fantastic question and in today’s video I’m going to show you how.

But first, let’s look at some of the problems with just pulling your belly in when you activate your abdominals.

1. You’re likely altering your spinal alignment, or tucking your pelvis and probably don’t even realize it.

2. Your diaphragm and pelvic floor work together when you inhale and exhale creating intra-abdominal pressure which helps to stabilize your torso while also massaging your spine and internal organs.

Sucking your stomach in puts a roadblock in your body that makes breathing difficult and also has a negative impact on your intra-abdominal pressure, which in turn has a negative impact on your spine and pelvic floor.

3. Your core musculature is so much more than just your abs. When you approach your core by just pulling in your belly button you can actually completely bypass your core muscles altogether!

Conversely, when you approach your core connections through your diaphragm or multifidus, as you’ll see in the video, you will automatically connect your core muscle co-activation team without having to think about all the individual muscles. It’s really very cool!

Check out the video and give the exercise a try. I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments below!

See you in the studio,

P.S. – I mention this at the end of the video, but be super careful not to squeeze your glutes together when you practice this exercise!

P.P.S. – Once you’ve got the hang of this exercise, you’ll be ready for the next one: This Simple Pelvic Alignment Exercise Might Surprise You

Key, J., ‘The core’: understanding it, and retraining its dysfunction, Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2013),
The Smartspine™ Approach to Core Intelligence or Senstability, Marie-José Blom,


Hi, I'm Sydney and I'm a Restorative Movement Specialist here at Pilates Tonic. My goal is to empower you with tools to connect and live in your body in new and better ways. I'm a passionate advocate for wellness through optimally aligned movement and I look forward to designing a customized alignment and movement program just for you! If you want to find out more, just give me a call at 423.702.5233, or email me at [email protected] See you in the studio!

18 Responses

  1. ive been working on getting my multi fidus, pf, and tv a firing for over a year. This is a new technique for me. Trying it! Thanks!

  2. Belly Button to Spine has been part of my Pilates repetoire as a student, through training and then into my instructing. I stuggled watching clients sucking their belly button to spine… and branched out to …shrink wrap…30% connection etc…
    The Drawstring Technique is brilliant ….love the cues for us natural Pelvis tuckers…. Thanks Sydney, as always you are a fabulous resource!!

  3. Thank you very much for sharing this. It is a new imagery for me but I think that I can work with it to good effect. I have a local Pilates studio near me that I love, but every approach is a tiny bit different, and I am finding a lot to learn in what you offer too. Hope some day I get to TN to thank you in person!

    1. Hi Linda, I’d recommend using a long, slow exhale when initially “drawing” on the drawstring. Then see if you can maintain that connection as you take another breath in, and on your next exhale continue to maintain what you found. As far as SI joint dysfunction, it depends on the cause, but this exercise can most certainly be helpful. Great questions!

  4. I LOVE this! I struggle trying to cue activation of the multifidus with clients, and this is brilliant. Even while trying it on myself, there was an instant connection and realization of those sometimes overlooked muscles. And I’m in training with Marie Jose this weekend, so this video seemed very apropos 🙂 Thanks, Sydney, for your clear explanations and demonstrations…. I always enjoy your videos!

    1. Hi Cailin, You are in for a real treat! MJ is brilliant, gracious and has so much to share. You are going to love working with her. Have fun! Thanks for your feedback! 🙂

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