Core Exercise – Postnatal Core Exercise is so important after pregnancy. Some simple tummy exercises, targeting the Pelvic Floor and Transverse Abdominis, can have you on your way to losing the baby belly fat! Not only should you do specific tummy exercises, you need to do sufficient toning and cardio exercises to see a flat stomach again. These exercises will help remove the fat off of the top of your abdominal muscles.
Specific Core Training is extremely important to regain the strength and integrity of your core after pregnancy. You should not begin with traditional abdominal exercise like crunches and sit-ups, but use the Inner Core instead. Whether you had a c-section or vaginal delivery these exercises will help you create a flat, strong stomach. If you’d like to know more about c-sections read more here.
Want to know how to tighten loose belly skin? There are 3 things you can do for tightening loose skin found on the MIF How to Get Rid of section
The most important exercise after pregnancy
Think of the pelvic floor as the bottom of the core, and visualize a sling from front to back. The pelvic floor is the foundation to your core. Your abs cannot function without the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is important for a number of reasons and you need to do pelvic floor exercises to keep its integrity and health. It helps with incontinence, postpartum issues and training the pelvic floor can also help create the flat stomach you’re looking for. The transverse abdominal muscle wraps around the torso from front to back and the muscle fibers of the TA run horizontally, similar to a corset or a weight belt. These muscles are your true core muscles and strengthening them will give you power and tone your entire body. See below for exercises.
Together the four muscle groups of the abdominal wall, especially the Transverse Abdominis, and the muscles of the pelvic floor act as a sling supporting your baby. The stronger you can get these muscles the more comfortable you will be post delivery. If you want to be able to wiggle into your skinny jeans or wear that bikini without your pooch folding over your swimsuit’s bottom, then working your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis both during and after pregnancy is essential.
After you are able to perform the exercises below it’s time to add more exercises to build your core strength and create a flat stomach. You can continue the TA and PF training with exercises on Lindsay’s DVDs.
Pelvic Floor & Transverse Abdominis Training – Weeks 0-4 postpartum
1) Pelvic Floor Movements
Lie on your back with your feet close to your butt. Pull your hip bones down and in and flatten your stomach while contracting your anus. If you felt your legs or your buttocks tense you were not using your pelvic floor, but your lower body muscles. Try it again. This time with your feet up on a chair. If you don’t engage your butt or your leg muscles and you’re able to pull your hip bones down and flatten your belly, you’ve done it! You’ve hit bottom and used the muscles of your pelvic floor. Repeat 5-10x daily.
The Kegel is a simple exercise you can do while sitting, standing or getting ready for bed. And nobody will even notice you’re “exercising” the pelvic floor. Act as though you are stopping the flow of urine, hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat as often as you like-reach for at least 10x daily.
2) Transverse Abdominis Movements
Place one hand on your lower abdomen below your belly button. As you inhale try to pull your abs away from your hand and towards your spine, keeping your hand motionless. If you can keep your abs pulled in and breathe normally you just activated the TA! Repeat 10x daily.
Note: pulling your belly button toward your spine is NOT the same thing as sucking in your gut. What do you when you suck in your gut? You hold your breath. You don’t want to do that. When you suck in your gut you hold your breath and what else happens? Try it and find out.
That’s right. Your chest rises. That’s not what you’re trying to do. You want the chest to be still when you pull (not suck in) your abdominal muscles toward your spine. Try the exercise lying on your back, and think about someone putting their foot on your belly and compressing it down toward the floor. You can still breathe normally (and that’s when your chest can rise and fall) but you aren’t holding your expanded chest still.
In order to fully engage your abdominals, and in particular your transverse abdominis (TA), you have to pull your belly button in toward your spine. This engages the TA, and also works on the other muscles that run along your spine as well as your abdominals. In fact, you’ve probably engaged these muscles without even knowing it when pulling on your skinny jeans!
Pelvic Floor & Transverse Abdominis Training – Weeks 4-6 postpartum
These movements can be done a 4-6 weeks after delivery of your baby. Of course you need to pay attention to how you feel, and if you had a c-section you need to read here before starting these movements.
Again, listen to your body and your doctor. You should feel good while doing these movements, but if any pain arises stop immediately. These are movements created to retrain your inner core after baby arrives…core exercise should not begin until you have your doctor’s permission, usually around 6-8 weeks. Then you should proceed gradually with the PostNatal Programs.
3) Pelvic Tilts, place the crook of your knees on a couch and pull your hip bones towards your rib cage slightly. Be carefull not to squeeze your butt (which is why it’s important to start on the couch). Eventually work up to doing these with your feet on the ground and knees bent. 8-12 reps.
4) Pelvic Shrugs, get in the position of a crunch and pull your right hip bone toward your right rib cage, trying to only use the PF and not lifting your back or squeezing your butt. Do the same thing on the left. 8-12 reps each side.
5a) Pelvic Scoots, get in the position of a crunch. Slide one heel out while keeping your core activated (back doesn’t lift off the floor and stomach doesn’t pooch). Only go as far as you can eventualy trying to get the leg straight.
5b) Add an arm lift: as you scoot the leg swing your opposite arm above your head, maintaining core activation. 10 reps each side.
6) Supported Seal, lie on your stomach and lift your torso. Your hands should be on the floor for support (but try to just use back strength!) Remember your back is part of yoru core…so strengthening it helps bring in the tummy! 5 x 30 seconds
7) Posture, make an upside down hershey kiss with your hands (index and thumbs touch)and place on your lower abdomen. Inhale and as you exhale pull your skin (using the PF) away from your hands. You should see a little bit of light. Keep the PF activated as you continue to breathe, eventually making this a habit so your PF is pulled in all day long!
You should be able to master these within several weeks and eventually integrate them into all the core exercises you do. If you need help intergrating you may want to look into my CFS Method DVD
What is Diastasis recti? It is a common condition encountered during pregnancy. It is a temporary separation of the abdominal wall and usually goes away after the baby is born. It is not harmful, but it’s important during pregnant exercise you know how to modify your exercises.
After pregnancy, diastasis recti usually goes away within a few weeks. Some moms (less than 5%) have diastasis recti 2-20 years after having a baby. If you are one of these moms you must stay away from traditional abdominal work, crunches, twisting positions, planks, quadruped positions and more. Or use the Moms Into Fitness modifications found on the PostNatal 2-Packs with Core Recovery DVDs.
Many moms with twins, triplets and multiples may have the diastasis recti as a more permanent condition. The good news is it can get better with the proper exercises and staying away from traditional abdominal work.
You can test yourself for diastasis recti both during pregnancy and postpartum by learning more about Diastasis Recti.