Today we introduce expert Celeste Goodson, the owner of MomBod Fitness and developer of the ReCORE program. Celeste has a B.S. in Fitness and Wellness Management and is certified through ACE as an Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist. Celeste has a passion for women’s fitness, is a mom of 3 herself, and is a Boston Marathon qualifier. She explains the physical effects of pregnancy on the core, and offers suggestions for preventing strength loss during pregnancy and regaining it postpartum…
EEK! I just had a baby, what is going on with my belly?
Ever wonder why your belly is so strange looking right after birth? We’ll there is more than just one good reason!
· The uterus is shrinking. This process can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks for it to return to its former size. Those weird post-partum contractions are helping that occur.
· The body is getting rid of excess water weight and other fluids.
· Abdominal separation or Diastasis Recti.
Most women have some sort of abdominal separation from being pregnant – this doesn’t mean the abs have actually torn apart. Although it may look like it, it is rare. A tear in the connective tissue would actually be considered a hernia. Typically the outer abdominal muscles have just stretched out and the tissue down the middle has thinned and has weakened.
· The rectus abdominal muscles (outer abs) have lengthened during the 9 months. After birth, the muscles are stretched out and extra-long, making the belly feel soft and bumpy. The muscles need to be reconditioned (strengthened) to help the muscles regain proper length and strength.
So how do I get my belly back?
1- Don’t focus on trying to be a certain waist size. Don’t compare your body to others. Getting your belly back isn’t about achieving the perfect body. Belly fat may be there as well as stretch marks. Focus on getting your core muscles back to proper strength, length and function!
2- Do CORRECT abdominal exercises. No, you do not want to be doing crunches. This type of movement puts outward pressure on the already stretched out and weakened abs and is not a primary movement for the transverse muscles. Women need to focus on strengthening the inner core muscles first. Do transverse abdominal exercises. Watch this exercise clip of Ab Sets for a basic but important ab exercise. Try doing 3 sets of 30 per day to start. These can be done safely in the first few days of coming home. Women who have had c-sections may want to wait a week or two. Ab sets are especially important for women who have c-sections because the muscle nerve connection needs to be re-established in order to regain proper strength and function.
3– Splint the abs. This is a crossover technique that is similar to “taping” muscles and ligaments after an injury. Wear a splint for 4-6 weeks post-partum. This will splint and compress the abs in the correct position while allowing the weakened connective tissue to heal. Correct exercises also need to be done at the same time to strengthen the muscles. Just like taping an ankle after a sprain, it will speed up the healing process and allow things to heal correctly.
4– Don’t ignore the rest of your core. Fix and minimize pelvic floor issues such as stress incontinence and prolapse by focusing on the entire core. The core includes all of the ab muscles, back muscles, glutes, pelvic floor muscles and upper back muscles. The core functions best when ALL of the muscles are strengthened. Do your kegels, (no, you do not need to do hundreds of them a day). Glute exercises are also very important as well as low back , core stability and posture exercises. Watch this exercise video for a simple but great exercise that can be done after the first week of giving birth. Pay attention to technique. Try doing 5 sets of 10 second pillow squeezes a day to start.
5– The sooner you recondition the core, the better the results will be. Although women can improve core strength and function at any point in their life, the best time to focus on reconditioning is just after pregnancy.
What do you think? Share your best tips for maintaining core strength during and after pregnancy with us!
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