A common concern for new mothers is how to get rid of their baby pouch and get flatter, more toned stomachs. For some women, re-strengthening their core seems easy enough, but for most of us, it is an uphill battle that takes many months, even years. However, with proper exercise and diet, the process is not as hard as many think. In fact, depending on your delivery method, there are specific exercises you can do to speed up your body’s recovery.
A condition that is majorly overlooked in the quest to get your stomach flat again is Diastisis Recti: This is the thinning and widening of the connective tissue between the two muscles of the abdominal wall (rectus abdominus muscles). It is usually detected in later pregnancy as it occurs to allow the belly expand and make room for the growing baby. You can check if you have it by lying on your back with knees bent, placing your fingers in the midline of your abdominal wall from your belly button and lifting your upper body up like in a crunch. Feel for the separation below your fingertips; if it’s more than three fingers, you most probably have diastisis recti.
The basic of any fitness program is your breath.
Basic breath: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, knees bent, feet resting on the floor. Inhale and exhale a few times. Don’t flatten your back or tilt your pelvis, just let the natural curve in your back remain. Breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 4. Now, breathe out for a count of 5 and tighten your tummy muscles, pulling your navel towards your spine (imagine you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans).
Remember to concentrate on contracting the muscles below your belly button without flattening your back. When you are able to contract and relax your abdominal muscles without moving your back, you have learned to properly isolate the correct muscles.
Exercises To Strengthen Your Core
If you have just had a virginal delivery, below are some exercises you can start with even from the second week. If you had a caesarean birth, your exercises will be here next week.
(Pelvic floor contractions): Can be done in any position. Tighten and hold for five seconds. Do several times a day.
While lying on your back with your knees bent, tilt your pelvis backward as you tighten your abs and exhale. Try to bring your belly button to your backbone as you push your lower back into the mattress/floor. Hold for 5 seconds, inhale, and relax.
Stretch Out The Kinks
Lie on your back with arms and legs out straight, palms up. Bend at the ankles so toes are aiming for the ceiling; squeeze and tighten your thigh muscles and push knees into the bed. Pull your abdominal muscles in and flatten your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and elongate your neck. Press your hands back into the bed and hold this for a few seconds, then relax. This allows your muscles to contract isometrically (without changing length), which is safe on the body and provides an easy readjustment to normal posture after birth.
Active Posture Check
Standing – tuck your chin in to elongate the neck, pull your shoulders down and back, tighten your abdominal muscles while pulling your belly into your backbone, tighten your pelvic floor, keep knees soft, and increase the arch in your foot.
If you have diastisis recti, when doing the phase 2 and 3 exercises below try tying or holding a towel around your waist (tight), holding the ends in both hands, lie on your back with your knees bent and crunch your upper body up. As this gets easier, you can bring your legs tabletop with the towel still in place and crunch up.
Lying on your back with knees bent, contract your abdominal, buttocks and pelvic floor muscles, and raise hips up off the floor. Hold for five seconds and relax down slowly. The farther your feet are from your buttocks, the more challenging it will be. Bridging can also be progressed by lifting one leg while up in bridge position, but you must be able to keep hips level to do this.
Lying on your back, tighten your abdominal muscles and do a pelvic tilt. Slowly slide out one leg at a time while trying to maintain your pelvic tilt. You can progress to sliding both legs out together as long as you can keep the pelvic tilt and not allow the back to ache. Always bring legs back one at a time.
Lying on your back, begin with arms outstretched, exhale, and pull your belly into your spine as you slowly reach with your hands towards your knees. Only roll up until your shoulder blades lift off, then inhale and slowly lower. Be sure your stomach flattens (not expands) as you rise. Also, do diagonal curl ups by reaching right arm past left knee as you curl up, and vice versa. Increase difficulty by changing arm positions, from easiest to hardest – arms outstretched, arms crossed across chest, and arms crossed behind head.
Remember to get the all clear from your doctor before you begin any of these exercises.
Remember: love your body and it will love you right back!
Source: The Guardian