When getting back in to exercise after the birth of your child a big focus should be put on the strengthening and repositioning of your abdominal muscles – but only when you are fully recovered.
When you are trying to lose pregnancy weight, the stomach fat area is one of the key areas for concerns or areas that mums want to lose weight from and your core forms a big part of toning this area and helping you to successfully lose this area of your pregnancy weight – you can read more about everything you need to know about stomach fat here.
Your core is more than just the six pack muscle we quite often refer to when we say someone has a ripped core.
In fact, this is the most superficial and perhaps least important muscle to strengthen when you’re looking to get a more functional core, cinch your waist in and tone up or let your separated abs heal. (It’s also the muscle that separates – which is why doing sit-ups until the cows come home to help you lose your baby weight would be a terrible idea and make your rectus abdominus bulge and it could separate even more).
Instead, building your core from the inside out and starting with the muscles closest to the bones, is a great idea and is what Pilates can help you focus on. Trying to strengthen your more superficial global muscles is like strengthening the parts of a boat without paying attention to the nuts and bolts. A recipe for disaster.
Once you’ve started working your pelvic floor and know how to draw up rather than bear down, you can start going to work on your building bricks – the transversus abdominus. Using your Hundreds exercise routine (see video below) in a modified version with feet on the floor (and even the head down if you have any neck issues) is a great way to develop initial abdominal endurance.
The quick movement of the arms challenges your TA, which wraps around the core like a girdle or a kidney belt, to stabilise. The feeling should be more subtle than the bracing sensation you get during a sit-up or oblique twist.
Move on with other simple exercises performed in neutral in a closed kinetic chain – that’s when your feet are on the floor: hiprolls to start strengthening your back body, some leg slides and hip releases. Once you feel confident that you’re able to maintain your core stability and engagement with your feet in the air, try the Hundreds with legs at table top.
Start challenging your obliques – but without twisting just yet. Do single leg lifts and tiny ab pulses instead – never letting the base of the rib cage lift of the floor or the abs bulge at the front. Add in single leg circles. Some side leg work. Your cross reach.(See leg lift & hip hover video below).
Once you’ve hit this stage, you’re really in a good spot of challenging your core muscles in various ways and working your legs and arms as well. Patience is king but it shouldn’t be too long before you’re able to do stronger exercises. If you have separated abs, err on the side of caution and check in with a physiotherapist or other specialist to make sure it’s safe to start going into flexion and full movement through the core.
For more advice on safe post pregnancy exercises and the pelvic floor click here
This article was written by Sol Walkling, the Lose Baby Weight Pilates Expert and Trainer – to see Sol’s credentials and read more about her click here
The Four Point Tummy Roll
Elbow to Knee lifts: Laying flat on a mat/towel
Isometric Abdominal Contractions:
It is very important to only start exercising after Caesarean section once the doctor has given you the all clear. Due to this procedure impacting severely on all 3 layers of the abdominal wall there needs to be adequate time post pregnancy to allow for the healing process and for the tissue to repair significantly before attempting exercise. As soon as the doctor gives you the all clear to exercise again the core and abdominals are a very important place to start strengthening. A weakness in the core and abdominals post pregnancy has resulted in many new mums experiencing debilitating lower back pain due to weakness when lifting and bending over. As difficult as it might be, you need to be very conscious of lifting and bending after having a Caesarean due to the resultant weakness in your core and abdominal area.
Please note that this site is for information only and should not replace any medical advice from a Doctor taken before undergoing any weight loss campaign or change in exercise and diet routine post pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. We also do not recommend any exercise or stomach exercises until you have had full clearance from your Doctor or Physiotherapist post birth