Pregnancy is the BEST time to strengthen your core
Safe and effective core training during and after pregnancy is incredibly important to keep your body functioning optimally. Or if you have had a baby – it is not too late to start (remember you are post natal forever) !
Often when I mention core exercises most people only think of exercises for the rectus abdominis (or 6 pack).
The rectus abdominis is the most superficial layer of the abdominal muscles. It’s purpose is forward flexion of the spine, and its strength has absolutely NO effect on the lean-ness of your stomach, or in isolation, the strength of your core.
What part of the core should we be training ?
Your abs are actually 4 layers deep and your deep core muscles don’t even include the rectus abdominis / 6 pack !
During pregnancy and the postpartum focus must be given the to deep four muscles of the core :
- the pelvic floor
- the transverse abdominis (TVA),
- the multifidus and the diaphragm.
These words might sound a bit complicated, but it is really pretty simply. The EASIEST and most efficient way to train & heal these areas is through BREATH combined with safe & effective functional movements ! Grab my guide here.
How is my pelvic floor related to my core ?
Your pelvic floor is the foundation of your core. The pelvic floor muscles are located in your pelvis, and stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone (at the front) to the coccyx or tail-bone (at the back) and from side to side. Think of the foundation of a house or building – without a strong stable base it collapses. Without a stable pelvic floor the rest of the core and other internal organs can literaly collapse !
The pelvic floor muscles work with your deep abdominal (tummy) and deep back muscles and diaphragm to stabilise and support your spine and your baby in utero. They also help control the pressure inside your abdomen to deal with the pushing down force when you lift or strain – such as during exercise or lifting a pram into the car post birth. If your pelvic floor is not functioning correctly you can experience – lower back pain, “mummy tummy” postpartum and bowel and bladder issues including prolapse.
Please don’t ever be ashamed to talk about any of these conditions. Your pelvic floor is like any other muscle and with the correct exercises from a Women’s Health Physio and Certified Pre/Post Natal Trainer they can be retrained.
Image by Pelvic Floor First
How to train your pelvic floor….without kegels !
I can’t stress how import it is to learn how to relax your pelvic floor first, in order to learn how to contract it.
Think about if you flexed your bicep muscles all day. This is going to be uncomfortable and the muscle going to become stiff and stressed. Pretty much the same thing happens to your pelvic floor if you continually contract it. This, then affects the function of your bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum and other places in your body.
Unfortunately when many women do kegels “clenching’ of the pelvic floor occurs. This combined with other cues, such as draw your belly to spine, tuck your tailbone can have a negative effect on this muscle – the pelvic floor.
Difficulties then arise when you try to relax and release a muscle that is turned ON all the time. This also happens when the deep core is compensating for other areas that are a bit too lax, or not functioning quite right. These parts can become hypotonic = not contracting with enough strength, or at the right time.
The goal with all our muscles including our Pelvic Floor is balance. We want muscles that can contract fully and relax fully.
This does not need to be done with kegels. You can train your core with safe and effective functional movements – that’s right little workouts that you can incorporate into you daily movements.
Simply grab my free guide about training your core as in has videos that show you how to do this !
It might sound simple but it is actually tricky to get the hang of. So the more your can practice the better your pelvic floor and WHOLE core will function – for life !
Breathe your way to a better Core
Unfortunately there is plenty of ineffective and dangerous pre/postnatal core training information found on the internet. Please DON’T jump onto social media and try moves such as front planks, bicycles, crunches, hundreds or any form of high impact exercise that can cause too much intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and result in damaging abdominal separation, hernia’s, a prolapse or a compromised pelvic floor. Learn why here.
The above issues happen due to a poor pressure management issue, and one of the most best ways to manage changes in pressure in your body is through your breath. With every inhale the pressure in your abdominal cavity increases and with every exhale it decreases.
When managing high amounts of IAP the first thing you must do is exhale; let out the air and relieve the pressure. So many people mistakingly hold their breathe during strenuous movement (including birth), but it is essential to breathe out. We cover this in my videos right here.
Start with deep core breathing.
Watch the videos in my guide. Or simply start with the following…
INHALE: With one hand on your belly and one hand on the side of your ribcage, take an inhale breath and breathe into your hands and belly. Your ribs should expand through the sides and your belly will gently rise. You should feel some “feedback” or a bit of pressure on your sitting bones / tailbone. Feel your sit bones get wider apart and let your perineum soften.
EXHALE: With your exhale breath, imagine that you’re picking up berries with your vagina and your anus. Sounds crazy …its not. Activating your Pelvic floor is 70% mental so visualization works. Plus think about it blueberries are gentle and we don’t want to crush them. Another visualisation I use is image a coffee plunger just gently lifting off the bottom of a pot.
Very slowly. Very gently. Why ?
You’re contracting the floor with about 20-30% of your max effort. 30% is not 100%. Think about a dial and just turning it on a touch on.
Remember we talked about the bicep contracting too hard ? We don’t want a hypertonic pelvic floor.
Also nothing should move or change through your posture (check your shoulders don’t creep up to your ears and your shoulders remain stacked over your ribs).
You will feel your abdominals get some “tension”, naturally, as they co-contract with your pelvic floor. Pretty awesome hey – as your diaphragm is connected to your core, your breath activates your core and pelvic floor. That’s it – you are breathing your way to a BETTER CORE ! Learn more exercises in my guide.
Mastering this breathing is also going to help you during birth and improve your recovery ! So practice and watch the videos in my guide as much as possible.
Focus on : Inhale to expand and relax. Exhale to contract and feel gentle tension, combined with perfect postural alignment
*NOTE: If you are having a tricky time with the relaxation, just keep your focus there for a couple of weeks. Don’t do the active contraction on the exhale breath, until you feel like you can really control and “let down” the floor. And use the Visualisations – they work.
A Free Guide and Videos for you…
To help guide you I have created a FREE download including videos so you can safely and effectively learn to train your core during and after pregnancy.
In the guide we will focus not only on Core Breath, but also other efficient and effective core exercises that you can do in every trimester of your pregnancy and are also suitable post birth (once you have medical clearance to exercise).
In each exercise you will learn how to add this breathing during movement. It will become second nature – a little concentration and guidance is all it takes.
You will then be able to apply this method during any activity, workout or as you go about your day – it’s that simple, you will be effectively training your core !
Grab your essential guide on how to train your core during pregnancy now !
And if you have any questions, connect with me in my Facebook Group #BFABSQUAD