If you know me, you’ll know I’m really into training the core. And I’m not talking six packs and crunches. I’m talking pelvic floor, abdominal compression, and dynamic, functional engagement of the deep muscles that support the spine.
That is why I was super excited when Cath, who was an existing client of mine, said she wanted to continue working with me throughout her pregnancy in order to keep functionally fit and strong, and to learn all she could about healthy core activation. Cath had done some research on the prevalence of diastasis recti during pregnancy, and was keen to do all she could to keep any separation of her abdominal muscles to a minimum.
With this in mind, I designed the following pre-natal & core programme for Cath:
We began by discussing the functional anatomy of the core, so that Cath could visualise the role and location of the deep 'inner unit' muscles, and how they differ from the 'big movers' or superficial muscles
We then talked about how these different muscle groups are used to perform various movements, and which of these movements are considered 'good' and 'bad' with regard to the development of diastasis recti
Next we practised abdominal (also known as diaphragmatic) breathing, in which the natural flow of the breath connects the movement of the ribs, diaphragm, abdomen, and pelvic floor
Once the pelvic floor and diaphragm were working in unison, we introduced some stability exercises to help activate the transverse abdominus (TVA) muscle
Finally, we progressed to a few gentle exercises where the superficial muscles of the core were also asked to switch on, drawing inwards to gently provide support to the inner unit
I'll be honest - some of these moves are a little tricky at first - and it can be hard to isolate the TVA and pelvic floor without also 'gripping' with the large superficial muscles...
However, regardless of your gender and goals, once you master it, I promise that learning to connect your breath with your deep core will become your new superpower! Your pelvic floor function will improve, you will provide the low spine with support from within, potentially reducing low back pain and improving posture, and your capacity to lift heavy objects and jump efficiently will improve no end.
And of course, for the mums-to-be among us, the benefits are even greater. What better time to help your body safely support the weight of your growing baby, protect the ‘six-pack’ muscle from overuse, and keep the pelvic floor strong.
Well done Cath! You’ve been a star student. I’m so proud of you for staying strong and active throughout your pregnancy, and for taking such a pro-active approach to caring for your body. Keep up the good work! :)