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In every course I take, for better or for worse, I’m one of those people who asks a lot of questions.

In May 2018, Richard Ulm did a truly stellar job of teaching a DNS Weightlifting 1 course in Vancouver, BC. Besides my huge “aha” moment about diaphragm stabilization, here are a number of gems that stood out for me, based on the notes I took during the course.

What about the FMS Principle of “Mobility Before Stability?”

Both FMS and DNS are largely based on how babies and infants develop. According to DNS, postural stabilization precedes all movement. So don’t the conclusions they reach sound diametrically opposed at first?

I’ve reconciled them in my own head by taking the development order as postural stability first, then joint mobility, then joint stability.

But Aren’t We Supposed to Strengthen the Back Line?

Yes, we really do need to combat the forward pull of daily life, especially now that we’re all guilty of too much keyboarding and texting — but in the exercise world, that may now be overdone, especially with exercise cues such as “chest up” that can reinforce our “open scissors” position.

My current personal cue to stay balanced between flexion and extension is to keep the angle fixed between my sternum and pelvic bone. This therefore aims to keep the diaphragm and pelvic floor parallel to each other.

Teaching the Back to Stay Off

A hyperactive posterior chain may prevent optimal spinal stabilization. To encourage proper muscular balance, Rich starts with “bear” or child’s-pose-ish style position (DNS First Position) before advancing to hollow holds.

It’s important to learn to keep both the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor activated eccentrically with the exhale.

Where to Aim For with the Inhale?

There’s an inverse relationship between pressure and volume. This means that if your breath is relaxed, you may aim as high as the lowest rib. You will aim lower, however, if you’re under load because now there is a higher need for co-contraction of the abs.

Should We Encourage a Supine Imprint?

No. Rather than any pelvic tilt, we want the breath to take the spine back. Push the diaphragm into a position of good spinal stabilization rather than rotating the pelvis into it. A good test as it translates into upright posture is: as you work on your spinal positioning, can you maintain your height?


Okay, the “butt wink” issue… given that normal hip range of motion is 110 to 120 degrees, and assuming those 120 degrees are required to squat below parallel — any lordosis might take away 30 or even up to 50 degrees of that. And there’s your butt wink!

Remember: Setup, setup, setup. And that good position must be maintained during the entire squat.

What About the Bench Press?

Given that a portion of the spine is held in extension to accomplish the movement, ideal stabilization using the diaphragm is no longer possible. Rich’s opinion is that, if the goal is maximal load lifted (which has nothing to do with function and performance outside of the bench press) then the competitive style bench, with shoulders and glutes anchored to the bench, is the best. If, however, improved upper body strength or improved function is the goal, then benching with competitive technique is detrimental and unnecessary.

Another key DNS principle can and should be applied, though — that of joint centration, or ideal positioning within a joint through a given movement.

Especially for the Ladies

Different physiology means that we have somewhat less pelvic floor protecting our organs.

Rich says, in cases where a woman may have urinary incontinence, they should spend more time in positions that best emphasize and activate the pelvic floor. In DNS, this would be the 6 months’ supine and First Position (similar to the “happy baby” and “child’s pose” yoga poses). These will allow the athlete to feel the eccentric activation of the pelvic floor, which, in most cases, will resolve the urinary incontinence issue.