SAFE TRAINING AFTER PREGNANCY
I received this email from a new mom:
For weeks I was wondering why in the world my stomach still looks like I am pregnant. At first, I was thinking it was not a big deal until I noticed that working out and eating well did not make one change in my stomach area when that is actually the first place that goes…
After spending hours of research and feeling just weak in the mid-section I noticed a gap….a pretty large one to be honest which in turn lead to more research. I did a few test and low and behold I have Diastasis Recti/Abdominus. A diastasis rectus is a separation of your outer most abdominal muscles. The job of these muscles (called rectus abdominis), is to support your back and your organs.The cause of a diastasis is from continuous stretching of, and intra-abdominal force and pressure on, this connective tissue that joins your outer most abdominal muscles. Which because I had such a LARGE pregnancy I think it damaged it. Right smack in the middle of this connective tissue is your belly button which is a weak spot. That is why when the connective tissue stretches sideways your belly button will become an “outie”. Pregnancy and doing crunches are examples of intra-abdominal “force” on the connective tissue. Wearing a front-loading baby carrier or being in a hands and knees position are examples of “pressure” on the connective tissue. Movements, where you arch your back, will flare your ribs (which I do already because of my scoliosis) This flaring will stretch your connective tissue.
Back pain, poor posture, pelvic floor problems (which I have had since pregnancy), gastrointestinal disturbances like constipation and bloating are all symptoms that occur when the support system for the back and organs is the weak connective tissue instead of the muscles.Most women who have had a baby have diastasis recti, and this usually gets worse with each pregnancy. Abdominal trauma with a diastasis can cause the connective tissue to tear away from the abdominal wall causing a ventral hernia. This requires surgery to repair. So given ALL of this. I can’t do many moves when I workout. Is the best move is hip bridges? It seems like there aren’t many movements that won’t irritate my Diastasis?
IS THIS YOU?
If any of this sounds familiar you are not alone. Pelvic floor issues and diastasis are the most common problems I see from clients after pregnancy. It affects you the same no matter how strong you are because tissue expands for pregnancy to occur. With torn support tissue your fear of your pelvic floor falling out when you’re jumping or exercising is not just a fear but a reality.
Lifting heavy loads standing while squatting or any other heavy lifts are unsafe because the weight on the abs creates downward pressure that pushes the pelvic floor down.
If you get off lucky post childbirth walking away with only a weakened bladder is like taking a generous plea deal. Does anyone really win here?
WHAT TO DO?
Since the tissue is overstretched we want to be aware of the position of the tissue. Further stretching it can decrease it’s structural integrity so most of our movements for bringing strength back are going to involve a neutral position of our ribs and pelvis.
The more we lean back the more the tissue stretches in a potentially dangerous position.
Instead of lifting heavy weights and pushing out we are going to focus on pulling our navel in and holding our stomach from falling forward.
The abdominal cavity gives us support for our organs and doesn’t just provide us with nice looking abs so we want to develop strength on stabilizers of those tissues.
HOW TO DO IT
Start here: Exercises that are in pushup position, otherwise known as prone, are going to be the ideal place to start. Reason being that your stomach drops down in that position and gravity assists you in feeling if you’re properly pulling your stomach in or not. Start on all fours and working on stabilizing with fewer limbs on the body. An example of this is the classic bird dog exercise.
Add Variety: Exercises like TRX or Suspension trainer pushups are going to be fantastic core exercises and single leg exercises like lunges and step up are going to be essential in helping generate fatigue without loading the abdominal wall in a risky way. You’ll want to avoid heavy squats and front-loaded weights.
Mind the Pelvis: Strengthen your inner thighs. Inner thigh muscles directly connect to the pubic bone. The stronger the outside of the hips get with weak inner thigh muscles the more the pelvis starts to splay and pull open. We want to avoid this and wide stance lower body exercises like sumo deadlifts and wide stance squats and replace them with single leg deadlifts and split squats.
Use these three rules when considering the exercise you do to get back into shape after pregnancy. If you’re suffering from bladder control issues or a descending pelvic floor than jumping and running are going to be things you want to replace with intense cycling or even swimming.
If starting an exercise program because of diastis or pelvic floor issues feels intimidating to you reach out to one of our Beometry Fitness Coaches HERE to talk about your specific challenges and strategies to bring you back into fitness, health and strength.
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