Get Your Sexy Flat Belly Back After Pregnancy – Part 2



Anyone that’s gone through a pregnancy has probably had a “bring back my body!” thought swirling around your head. As discussed in blog one, bringing back your body is not as simple as diet and exercise. I am often asked when I can start exercising. The simple answer is day one. Yes, day one you can start to exercise your core. The core being a coordination of the pelvic floor with the lower belly (transverse abdominis), back (simplified to multifidus muscle) and your breath (diaphragm). This blog will simplify core activation and how to implement it into an exercise routine. There is a more in-depth explanation here.

Tightening

Pelvic floor

Now in my PE class there wasn’t a section on how to tighten your pelvic floor. I have seen women and men who think they know how to tighten their pelvic floor, and are often tightening everything but those muscles. The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles interconnected and running from to the back to the front of the pelvis. These muscles hold back the flow of urine and gas. Think of this when you tighten the pelvic floor. Keep the pelvis steady as you tighten these muscles. Compensation patterns include holding your breath, tightening the abdominals or buttocks and tucking of the hips/pelvis. Because the pelvic floor is affected by gravity, the position you tighten the pelvic floor makes a difference, and you can practice tightening the pelvic floor in varying positions. Now that you have awareness of how to tighten the pelvic floor, then add in tightening in different intensities and tempos. Maybe tighten a little bit and hold. Tighten 80% quickly, and slowly relax the pelvic floor, and vice versa. Train the pelvic floor dynamically so it can support you with all of your activities.

Transverse Abdominis

The next step to reestablishing the flat belly is to teach the pelvic floor to work with the lower belly called the transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis is like a corset-shaped muscle surrounding our trunk. When tightening this muscle, you will feel a backward movement of the belly button and tightening of the area under your navel. The challenge with this muscle that is hard to activate and the obliques and rectus abdominis tend to take over. When this compensation pattern occurs, we tend to see gripping at the upper abs and/or the lower belly moving outward versus inward. See the video for clarification. Once you have awareness of the transverse abdominis working, start to incorporate the pelvic floor with the transverse abdominis activation. Ideally, activate the pelvic floor first then tighten the lower belly. To help you, take a deep inhale, then exhale, tighten the pelvic floor, and then the belly. And, like you did with the pelvic floor, practice this coordination in varying positions, intensities and tempos.

Multifidus

This is actually a group of muscles running the length of your spine. Note that there are other deeper muscles which help the core, but to simplify this explanation multifidus is easier to use. This muscle extends the back, i.e. arches the back. This muscle is easily overshadowed by the larger muscles like the latissimi dorsi (lats). To activate this muscle, subtlety is the key. Visualize or only move a very little backward like you are arching the back. Think of pushing your buttocks slightly backward. If you barely feel anything activating, you are likely doing it correctly.

Let’s put this together

The key is to learn to coordinate your breath while activating the pelvic floor, multifidus and transverse abdominal. Inhale to prepare and relax, then exhale and tighten the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis and multifidus. The next step is to layer in varying positions, intensities, tempos and movement.

 

Core Routines for Post-Partum

Video 2

Routine 1

Focus on re-establishing your technique. Move through each exercise with awareness of how to tighten the core either in each rep or throughout your sets. The core does not have to be tightened too much to provide a lot of stability in the spine, so use this routine to help you play around with intensities.

10 minutes, 8 Movements 40-60 seconds per move with about 20 second rest between exercises

  • Cardio Pull
  • Squats
  • Pulldown
  • Pullover hold with bridge
  • Pulldown with marching
  • Hold LAT pulldown toe tapping or one leg bicycle with or without the stationary leg supported
  • Low Chest Press
  • Seated Rowing

 

Video 3

Routine 2

Focus on exercises to re- establish improved posture and along with strengthening your core

10 minutes, 8 Movements 40-60 seconds per move with about 20 second rest between exercises

  • Inverted with or without holding arm cables heel slides to toe taps.
  • Inverted alternating arm circles.
  • Inverted Rolling up with cable assist
  • Shoulder Extension
  • High Elbow Row
  • Inverted Bicycles and can progress to scissors
  • Seated lateral high elbow row or rear fly on right
  • Seated lateral high elbow row or rear fly on left

Elizabeth Leeds, DPT

Elizabeth Leeds, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training, and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues.Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.

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