8 Steps to Improving Core Function After Baby
You’re ready to start exercising again after baby, but wondering where to start. If you’re like most women, you’ll start walking with the baby in the stroller or exercise while wearing baby.
I think we all gravitate towards cardio in an effort to burn fat. Walking is excellent, but there is so much more you should be doing. Start with your center to restore core health. Here are 8 steps to improving core function after baby.
1. Get Checked by a Pelvic Floor Specialist
Your pelvic floor is most definitely an important part of your core. All those little muscles had to withstand tremendous pressure during pregnancy. And sometimes they can become dysfunctional.
If you are leaking urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, run, etc, you need to see a pelvic floor physical therapist. They can assess the tone of your pelvic floor muscles and decide if they are tight or relaxed. In some cases, more kegels are not the answer to resolving incontinence. Leaking, although common, should not be accepted as “just the way it is” after having a baby.
If you feel any kind of heaviness in your lady bits or even if you don’t, you could have pelvic organ prolapse. Your bladder, rectum, or uterus can all bulge out. I’m not trying to scare you, honestly. It’s just that this is step number 1 for a reason. It’s important to know what’s going on internally!
2. Check for Diastasis Recti
Diastasis recti is widening of the connective tissue running down the front of your abdomen. It’s totally normal and to be expected during pregnancy so that your belly makes room for baby.
After delivering baby, you want that tissue to regain strength. The gap will lessen, but may not close. And that’s okay. The goal is not to get it to close. The goal is to make that tissue functional.
Do you have more than a 2 finger separation? Keep reading ’cause the next steps will help improve your core function!
3. Breathe Better
It sounds silly, right? You’re obviously breathing if you’re sitting here reading this. But how well are you breathing?
Your diaphragm sits above your pelvic floor and works in concert with it. Click here to watch a video of me describing the diaphragm and pelvic floor movement with a plastic egg.
Your ab muscles all come together to form the linea alba: that connective tissue that widens during diastasis. Your oblique muscles attach to the linea alba and your ribs and assist with breathing.
Good breaths fill the entire belly and rib cage…..all the way around. So lie on your back and have someone video you breathing. Watch very closely to see if your chest is rising. Chest breathing is hard on the nervous system. Work on sending your breath into your belly.
Place your hands on the sides of your lower ribs. Practice breathing into your hands. It will be very hard at first as your brain won’t understand what you’re asking it to do, but keep practicing.
4. Sit Up Correctly
For the same reason you shouldn’t do crunches on a healing belly, you should avoid sitting up directly. Crunches and getting to seated from lying put a tremendous amount of pressure on your linea alba. If it’s weak (like with diastasis) that extra pressure will promote more expansion because the tissue is too weak to resist that pressure.
So when getting out of bed or off the floor, roll onto your side first. Use your arms to help push you up to seated. Spare the abs!
5. Get Your Ribs Over Your Pelvis
Alignment is everything when it comes to core function. If your ribs flare out, your abdominal muscles are on a stretch. Muscles that are chronically stretched are typically weak. We want strong abs, right? I thought so!
Be very aware of your rib cage especially when you’re walking, running, and lifting weights. Pull your ribs down. You may feel less arch in your back when you pull your ribs down. You’ll breathe better and your abs will be able to contract better.
6. Exhale as You Lift
You’ve heard this before, but are you doing it when you lift your baby?
7. Fire Up Your Glutes
I’ve written a lot about the glutes. I think they’re my favorite muscle group, for realz. So please check out the “glute” tag on the main blog page to find more info.
The glutes are typically weak after baby arrives due to the alignment changes during pregnancy. Strengthening your glutes will help restore core alignment. But no amount of squats can help your glutes if they aren’t neurologically on.
Low intensity exercises, like bridges, are awesome for new moms. Walking uphill is also a great way to fire up your glutes.
8. Neurokinetic Therapy Assessment
If you really want to know what muscles are strong and what muscles are weak, get an assessment by a certified Neurokinetic Therapy practitioner like me. Maybe your cesarian scar is overriding the function of your abs. Maybe your lower back is shutting down all other core function. NKT practitioners are all over the globe and can dial in on your specific muscle imbalances.
These are the steps you can take as you get back into exercising after baby. Simply taking a few weeks to work on these simple steps will go a long way in helping your core heal and function optimally.
There are so many ab exercises you can do to develop core strength, but the function of your core must come first.
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