If I surveyed 100 moms and asked them which exercises they thought would best strengthen the core postpartum, I would probably get very similar answers. The top three I can think of off the top of my head are: crunches, planks, and bicycle kicks.
What if I told you NONE of these exercises actually help to improve the function of your core? So when I hear from moms that their ab workouts don't seem to be working and they aren't seeing the results they want, I explain WHY!
Core (noun) 1. the most central, innermost, or essential part of something.
Most typical ab exercises are aimed at the more superficial muscles, the ones we care about during bathing suit season! During pregnancy, your core muscles become stretched and are simply not as effective. As your postpartum body heals and recovers, we have to re-connect to the deepest layer of muscles in the core to build a strong foundation.
Your core is actually a complex system made up of 4 muscle groups:
This system is responsible for posture, circulation, breathing, keeping us dry (no leaks!), support for our internal organs (prevention of pelvic organ prolapse or hernia), sexual function, stability, etc... all while balancing pressure changes from within. Wow--That’s a lot of responsibility!!
HYPOpressive vs. HYPERpressive
Motherhood is not a sedentary job.
Let’s talk about the activities we mamas do on any given day. We lift babies/toddlers out of cribs, rock said toddlers to sleep, hold babies while we fix dinner or tie shoes for their older siblings, vacuum, carry ALL.THE. BAGS. of groceries into the house because the baby fell asleep in the car, run, push strollers… the list goes on and on. The majority of these things are HYPERpressive, meaning they can increase the pressure inside our abdomens (also called intra-abdominal pressure). We suck our belly buttons toward the spine or hold our breath in an attempt to gain some stability, but what happens is we end up like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed from the middle.
The toothpaste ends up being pushed to either end! The same thing happens with the pressure inside of you - it pushes on any weak spot in your deep core, ie. your pelvic floor or healing belly post-pregnancy. Over time, these weak points will eventually show up in a dysfunctional core and can lead to issues such as: frequent trips to the bathroom, leaking during a workout or sneezing (aka “peezing”), pelvic organ prolapse, hernias, and even disc problems in the spine. Ain’t no mama got time to be in pain!
What’s a mom to do?
There is a form of exercise developed specifically for YOU called Low Pressure Fitness, using the HYPOpressive technique that helps to reduce pressure on the abdomen, spine, and pelvic floor, ultimately addressing how well our bodies are able to manage the excess pressure and prevent injury and dysfunction. Here is a short video demonstrating the technique: Hypopressives for Postnatal Moms. The poses and breathing techniques help to train the core for its true functions and at the same time, improving the tone of the mommy-pooch region. Now, who doesn’t want that?!
How does it work?
The poses help to reset the “core connection” by training automatic recruitment and tone of the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. Low Pressure Fitness uses a combination of a series of technical postures with a specific breathing technique that addresses the whole body. The poses use specific patterns to facilitate the decrease in pressure we are looking for. Once the pose has been successfully achieved and the client is breathing correctly in the pose, we are able to layer on a vacuum breath which creates negative pressure, or suction, inside the abdomen.
The vacuum breath is essentially a false inhale, where you mimic taking a breath without letting any air in. The false inhale, coupled with activation of the muscles that help the rib cage to expand, causes automatic functional engagement of the deep core (transverse abdominis and pelvic floor) through a decrease in pressure. The suction effect provides myofascial release, elevation of the pelvic organs away from the pelvic floor, improves circulation, and creates tension in the abdominal wall. I know this all sounds really complex, but with consistent practice of this technique, it is possible to reduce and/or eliminate the “common, but NOT normal” symptoms of motherhood!
Check out what one mom had to say about hypopressives:
“I came to learn about hypopressives after the birth of my third daughter. Always a very active person prior to kids, I felt frustrated by the limitations placed on my physical recovery by the development of an anterior prolapse. Not only was I looking for something to improve my pelvic floor health, but I was desperate to find a focus that could rebuild my core again. Hypopressives changed everything for me. The shape of my body quickly returned to what I used to look like, my pelvic floor symptoms essentially vanished, but most of all I felt a renewed sense of energy. My posture improved dramatically as well. I continue to use hypopressives as my “core” training to supplement other more cardio-based activities. For me, hypopressives have been just as effective (and much more enjoyable) than any other exercise I have tried in the past to target the core. I don’t miss planks or sit ups in the least! I feel taller, more centered and more energized after a session. I have Trista to thank for helping me to perfect my technique, to focus my practice and to keep me motivated. It was a life changer for me!” copied with permission from www.hypopressivescanada.com
If you have questions about how hypopressives can help you, we would love to chat with you!