Congratulations, you had your baby 3 months ago (or maybe 3 years ago) and now you’re wondering, “How do I get rid of my baby bump?”, as Jennifer Garner calls it. The two main causes of the baby bump is an abdominal wall separation, also known as diastasis recti, and belly fat. The good news, both of these issues are correctable and entirely within reach of every mom.
Most pregnancies result in some degree of diastasis recti, a greater than normal separation of the two muscle fibers of the rectus abdominis. When the soft connective tissue (linea alba) in-between the rectus weakens or thins out, it’s what leads to the abdominal muscles having a separation between them.
This muscle separation can lead to a post-pregnancy pooch that may not go away on its own, even if you lose all the baby weight, and have been working out like crazy. (In severe cases, physical therapy will be necessary to help mend separation.) This separation is correctable. An important step in flattening and firming post-pregnancy abs is by re-engaging your deep ab muscle, the transverse abdominals (TVA)—it’s your natural corset; and by retraining the muscle pattern of the rectus abdominis.
The TVA is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back. When activated, the TVA muscles create a deep natural “corset” around the internal organs and lumbar spine. This activation flattens the abdominal wall – and also helps to engage pelvic floor.
Here’s 3 Exercises to Activate & Strengthen Your Core:
1. Activate Core Muscles with Belly Breathing
You can feel your transverse abdominal muscle at work when you cough, sneeze or laugh. The following corrective exercises are an integral part of restoring your core strength and are recommended if you are healing an abdominal wall separation post-pregnancy, between pregnancies, or if you’re many years into your mom gig.
- Lie on your back in a hook-lying position and place one hand on your chest, the other hand on your belly.
- Inhale and feel the bilateral expansion through the ribs, gently into the belly, and think about the front of your hip bones getting slightly wider and wider apart. The downward movement of the diaphragm muscle enables your lungs to take in more air, which will likely facilitate your ability to feel your transversus muscle during the exhale.
- Exhale to gently lift the pelvic floor up and into the body, and think about bringing the front of your hip bones back in closer together. Think about using 30% of your max effort here – it’s easy, not aggressive.
- As you return to inhale, really focus on letting go of that “lifting” you felt through the pelvic floor and the belly. This is key!
- Do 10 slow breaths.
Strengthen Deep Abdominals
2. Heel Slides
- Your going to use your breathing technique above with each rep of this exercise.
- To begin, lie on your back in hook-lying position with pelvis in neutral position. Place hands on the hip bones, and exhale and slowly extend one leg out straight – hovering it above the floor.
- Remember as you exhale, you’ll gently lift “up and in” with the pelvic floor muscles and imagine the front of your hip bones getting closer together. You should feel deep tension in your abs, between the front of your hip bones.
- Keep the pelvis completely stable. Inhale to bend the leg back in.
- Do 8-10 reps each side.
3. Hip Bridges
- This seems like such a simple exercise, but is really powerful if you focus on your form and make move steady, strong, and stable.
- Exhale to lift the pelvic floor “up and in”, then lift the hips up by squeezing your glutes (i.e., your tushy). You want to be sure to keep your ribs down in front.
- The lift doesn’t have to be super high – just steady, strong, and stable.
- Inhale to return back down to the floor. The upper and lower body move as on unit throughout.
- Do 10-15 reps.
You can do these exercises every day; practice them at least 3 days per week, for 1-2 set.
If you are a Chicago mom and need more guidance to help strengthen your body after birth, check out our Postnatal Recovery Class or Post-Baby Body Express training program, or come in for a consultation/private training session with Coach Cassandra.
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