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Postnatal Ab Exercises

You have had a baby and you might be wondering how to get your belly back to it’s former self. The good news is that you can get your stomach back!

5-20 pounds usually goes within the first four to six weeks (based on a 30 pound weight gain). The 5-20 pounds comes from: baby, amniotic fluid, placenta, blood volume, breast tissue, fat storage, urination and the uterus involution. With all of this in mind, notice how hard the body is working in the first few weeks postpartum, it is a super delicate time!

To support the pregnant body’s growing frontside, certain muscle groups must take on more pressure and strain. It can lead to long term back pain, rounding of the upper back and distended belly post-baby. To compensate for all of these postural changes, the exercise routine must follow suit!

So why does the distended belly stick around? This “pooch” is not just from being pregnant. The biggest reason a distended belly remains is due to an underused or under-activated core muscle, the transverse abdominis.

We are used to working our six-pack muscle (the rectus abdominis). For example, a crunch mainly works your rectus abs. But we are going to teach you how to active your innermost core muscles. In fact, I recommend you don’t waste your time on another crunch until you know how to activate these innermost core muscles!

The transverse abdominis – one of the most important core muscles – goes unnoticed in traditional ab exercises. If you have had a baby, knowing what exercises you can do for the transverse abdominis is really important! We will get into some transverse abdominis exercises and workouts in a sec, but first let’s cover what we are working with!

First, we will cover a common condition known as diastasis recti (abdominal separation).

Second, we will go over a smidge of anatomy…we gotta know what we are working with girls!

Third, I will show you exercises on contracting the transverse abdominis, pelvic floor and diaphragm. Plus, incorporating it into exercise.

 

Postnatal Diastasis Recti

Believe it or not, research has shown that at least 45% of moms have an abdominal separation (or diastasis recti) six months postpartum. Most don’t even know that it’s there until they experience a weak core, a belly they don’t like (i.e. the mommy tummy, muffin top or any other ugly name we call it!) and low back pain.  Use this self-test.  Then follow our Diastasis Recti Program.

A distended belly will be present several weeks following birth as everything falls back in place. A distended belly can also be due to an under cued transverse abdominis. A distended belly can also be due to poor nutrition and/ or intra-abdominal fat.

Distended Belly ≠ Diastasis Recti

Flat Belly ≠ No Diastasis Recti

Postnatal Core Anatomy

When performing a crunch the usual focus is on the rectus abdominis, which is great, but it will not flatten your belly. The TVA or TA (transverse abdominis) is what will help you flatten your belly. The TA is a thick layer of muscle that runs from hip to hip. 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.

 

Four Postnatal Ab Exercises

To get your body back it is important you work your core from the inside. Perform this four-minute workout. I am going to teach you how to activate the TA (transverse abdominis), PF (pelvic floor) and diaphragm. These ab exercises are safe for an abdominal separation – diastasis recti.

TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS BRACING

Setup:  Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor, and your fingers resting on your stomach just inside your hip bones.

Tighten your abdominals, drawing your belly button in towards your spine. You should feel your muscle contract under your fingers. Hold this position, then relax and repeat. If this exercise is brand new to you, keep your back flat against the floor, without titling your pelvis, and breath throughout the exercise. Do this exercise frequently throughout the day to train your brain to contract the TA in functional positions (lifting your child, unloading laundry, driving in the car, etc.) Perform for 30-60 seconds.

TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS SIDE BRACING

Setup: Begin lying on your side with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor, and the fingers of your top hand resting on your stomach – just inside your hip bone.

Tighten your abdominals, drawing your belly button in towards your spine. You should feel your muscle contract under your fingers. Hold this position, then relax and repeat. Breathe. Perform for 30-60 seconds.

BENT KNEE FALLOUTS

Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor.

Tighten your abdominals. Without letting your hip bones move, slowly lower one knee out towards the floor – only as far as you can without your pelvis moving. Slowly return to starting position. Alternate with other leg, repeat. Brace your core so your pelvis is stationary. Perform for 30-60 seconds.

ROLLING BRIDGE

Setup: Begin lying on your back with both legs bent and your feet resting on the ground.

Tighten your abdominals.  This will engage your deep core muscles to lift your hips off the ground into a bridge, hold. Lower by rolling down one vertebrae at a time, then repeat. Your body should be in a straight line at the top of the movement. Keep your hips level throughout the exercise. Perform for 30-60 seconds.

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