When you hear "core strengthening" what comes to mind? For me, it's an image of someone with a defined six-pack doing 100 crunches on a ball, grimacing, and holding their breath. You may have seen blogs and articles targeting postpartum moms and encouraging them to work on their abs to gain core strength again through exercises that target the rectus abdominus muscles.
Approximately 2/3 of women develop diastasis recti during pregnancy, a separation of the two sides of the rectus abdominus along the linea alba. Pregnancy isn't the only reason why a person might develop a diastasis, but it is a common cause. If you have developed a diastasis from pregnancy, the first step of gaining core strength afterward is to connect with deep core stabilizer muscles and retrain your body to return to ideal alignment, NOT to work on your six-pack muscles.
If you have a diastasis, these are things you want to avoid:
-Rounding forward down through the spine or "scooping" your abs
-Any movement where you lift your head up using your abs while you are on your back.
-Any exercise where your feet at at "table top," or out in a classic Pilates "V."
-Lifting or bending and twisting with a rounded spine (emptying the dishwasher, for instance, or getting the car seat in/out of the car).
-Avoid full range of motion during cat/cow-type exercises.
All of the movements above can increase the separation of your rectus abdominus muscles ("six-pack muscles"), and you don't want to be doing a targeted strengthening of those muscles if they are not in the proper position. Strengthening them won't make them come back together. Wait until the gap closes again before thinking about working on a six-pack.
Try to focus on these kinds of movements and exercises instead:
-HINGE from your hips instead of rolling through your spine. Put your weight in your heels and use your glutes and your hamstrings to pull yourself up.
-Draw belly in toward spine when picking things up. Maintain neutral spine (don't tuck pelvis).
-Use your hands to support the front of your belly if your internal organs press out when lifting/bending.
-Log roll out of bed, to get up from the floor, etc.
-Do simple pelvic curls instead of deep abdominal scooping
-Side-lying abdominal work (targets the obliques) is fine, as are exercises that engage your transversus abdominus and your other deep stabilizer muscles.
-You may want to consider abdominal binding in your initial postpartum period to help support your core and encourage those muscles to come closer together again.
If you find that at three to six weeks postpartum you still have a separation wider than 2.5 finger-widths, please request a referral for women's health physical therapy from your provider. Significant separation can lead to long term back pain and core instability, and increases your chance of injury. Mamalates classes are diastasis-recti-safe, so they are a great place to start whether or not your separation is severe enough to warrant PT.
Our next mamalates series class starts February 29 at Live Well Studio. Are you ready?
Not sure if you have a diastasis? Check out the video below. Do you have more questions? We can help.
Join us for a workshop-style mamalates experience!
Mondays 9:30-10:45am January 11-February 15 at Live Well Studio
Over a six week period, participants in the mamalates series workshop will be lead through a progressive series of movements and exercises specifically designed for childbirth recovery and deep core strengthening after pregnancy. Suitable for women six weeks postpartum and beyond, participants will learn movements that enhance core stability while reclaiming ideal body alignment after pregnancy. After completing the series, participants will have increased strength, alignment, and stability in their core, and gained a deeper appreciation for their post-pregnancy body.
Mamalates Series is specifically designed to be safe and beneficial for women with diastasis recti (abdominal separation), recovering from c-section or childbirth injuries, and pelvic floor weakness. After pregnancy and childbirth, the mamalates series prepares you to return to your favorite physical activities and exercise routines.
You do not have to be recently postpartum to participate; women in all stages of life are welcome to attend and will benefit from this gentle progression of Pilates-inspired movements.
Pre-mobile babies are invited to attend, but are not required!
$95 for six week series
Early bird price $69 if registered by January 1
Join Proud Mama Support Services as we launch Mamalates mom+babe weekly group classes in Corvallis!
When: Thursdays, starting September 24, 2015
Where: Live Well Studio
Who: Women six weeks postpartum and beyond. Babies are welcome in class (pre-mobile babies only, please).
This class is designed for core recovery after childbirth, and can be beneficial and safe for issues such as c-section recovery, pelvic floor disorders, and abdominal separation (diastasis recti). Even if months or even years have passed since having a baby, mamalates can help bring you back into optimal alignment, increase flexibility and core stability, and bring more ease into your daily movements.
Come reclaim your core with us!