Postnatal A-Z: C for Core
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Many mums want help 'fixing' their core. But what does this actually mean? And what muscles are we talking about? The core is made up of the muscles around your trunk and pelvis which are important for balance and stability. Several of these muscles change dramatically during and after child birth: consider how the superficial abdominal muscles at the front (rectus abdominis or six-pack) stretch or how the pelvic floor muscles get weaker. An important core muscle is the deepest one which runs like a corset around your spine (transversus abdominis - TVAs).
As these muscles got progressively stretched and weaker throughout pregnancy, they will take some time to recover. The same goes for the connective tissues. Two of the things that promote healing in the postnatal body - sleep and good nutrition - are usually hard to come by so I always say to mums to allow the body more time than normal to heal. And as with exercising before having a baby, what will get you into shape is eating well (80%) and moving your entire body (20%) as it is very hard to improve an area in isolation.
The first thing for mums is to establish a connection between the breath and the pelvic floor. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles normally work in harmony with each other so when we inhale the diaphragm flattens as the pelvic floor relaxes and when we exhale the diaphragm returns to its dome-shape state while the pelvic floor muscles lift. Once this is established, it is time to activate the TVAs on an exhale by gently pulling the bellybutton towards the spine. By breathing correctly and activating the right abdominal muscles, mums' core strength will improve.
At Buggyfit, we do balancing exercises such as a single-leg deadlift as this requires activation of the TVAs. We also do exercises on all fours such as bird/dog and others as well as push-ups on the knees - both of which require core activation. Many mums want to return to a full plank as they know it's a great core exercise but it's important to strengthen the core (as well as the glutes) first to ensure that the back is supported and there's no doming at the front. Please be patient with yourself and your body 🙏
Tomorrow I'll share more of what can happen if the breathing and core aren't functioning properly.