When you are trying to lose pregnancy weight, the stomach fat area is one of the key areas of concern for many mums.
It is an area that mums want to lose weight from, and your core forms a big part of toning this area. Your core will help 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. It could make your rectus abdominus bulge or separate even more; which is why you should avoid crunches and standard Pilates 100’s.
You should examine yourself to find out what degree of muscle separation you have experienced before undertaking any post partum-exercise (the gap needs to be under 2cm) or receive clearance from your Doctor.
How to examine yourself
Step 1 – In a lying position with knees bent, place your right hand behind your head.
Step 2 – With your left hand position your index finger and middle finger together and place them horizontally in the centreline of your stomach between your abdominals.
Step 3 – From this position slowly raise your head slightly off the floor using your right hand (positioned behind your head) for support. Make sure not to simply lift your head with your hand as this is a common error – you must perform one basic crunch to fully contract your abdominal muscles to get the best assessment of your separation.
Step 4 – Your abdominals will now be slightly contracting allowing you to see exactly how far your abdominals have separated.
Step 5 – If your index finger and middle finger (on your left hand) can still fit between your abdominals you will have Diastasis Recti of between 2 – 2.5cms. For every additional finger you can place in between your abdominals you should add 1cm extra to your total abdominal separation number. If you can only fit one finger between your abdominals you effectively have 1cm of separation and will be nearly healed.
If you discover you have more than a 1 – 2cm separation you should refrain from doing exercises such as crunches, sit-ups or pilates 100’s – all of which can put too much pressure on the abdominal muscles which have become separated during pregnancy.
If you do have muscle separation PLEASE see a physio before commencing exercise so they can examine you and advise on the level of separation. They will also advise the level of gentle exercise you can begin and when you will be ready to begin it.
Exercises For The Core
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 if you are just starting out (and even the head down if you have any neck issues) is a great way to develop initial abdominal endurance.
[pb_vidembed title=”The Hundreds Core Exercise” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3wnPqQtTFQ” type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
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, 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).
[pb_vidembed title=”Leg Lift & Hip Hover” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU6gLzqhUB0″ type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
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 over 2cm, check in with a physiotherapist or other specialist before starting any kind of exercise that uses your stomach muscles.
[pb_vidembed title=”Pelvic Floor & The Core” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix5h6zAUTNs” type=”yt” w=”580″ h=”425″]
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
Get Our Exercise DVD
And for the ULTIMATE SAFE, EFFECTIVE & TRUSTED Post Pregnancy Workout – see our EXPERT Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD below – you can purchase and see more information on it here
The DVD can be followed by all mums (for example new mums or mums with older children) and can be followed by someone with a basic or a more advanced level of fitness.
Lisa Westlake is our incredible fitness instructor and postnatal exercise specialist throughout the DVD. With her extensive physiotherapy experience and qualifications (Lisa is one of the most awarded fitness professionals in Australia), Lisa is the perfect fitness instructor to bring The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD to life – you will love working out with her. (You can see our Q&A with Lisa with commonly asked questions on the DVD here)
The exercises in The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD are effective and safe and Lisa will guide you through each of the workouts. As well as assisting in the improvement of your overall fitness levels, the workouts in the DVD will also help in the burning of calories, the improvement of your core strength and the strengthening of your pelvic floor.
The six workouts are broken down into 10 and 15 minute sections that you can do when it suits you – or if you have the time and energy you can do the DVD as one 70 minute continuous workout. The Healthy Mummy Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD also covers special considerations post-birth, such as caesarean sections, back strains, muscle separation, incontinence and pelvic floor issues.
[pb_vidembed title=”The Post Pregnancy Exercise DVD” caption=”” url=”http://vimeo.com/73423922″ type=”vem” w=”600″ h=”450″]