Strengthen Your Core: Safe Ways to Flatten Your “Mommy Tummy”

Focus on: the Mommy Tummy
Healing diastasis recti (DR), the separation of the abdominal muscles which often occurs after pregnancy

by Amy Griffith

When we discuss core strength for pre and postnatal fitness, it’s important to understand which muscles we are focusing on. In order to help heal DR, we must engage the transverse abdominis (TVA). These are a deep layer of muscles underneath the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) and the obliques.  They wrap horizontally around the body and, when engaged, feel like a corset or girdle support. As you activate these muscles, you should feel them hugging in, versus sucking in your belly. The TVA strengthen to gradually bring your rectus abdominis back towards each other, closing the gap of diastasis recti (DR.) See the photo below to help you visualize these muscles in your body, and scroll down to learn a few exercises you can do to help close the DR gap.Core-Abdominal-Muscles

 


Motherhood is more than just a million acts of love from the heart, it’s pretty darn physical! Here are some reminders of all the work you’re doing and why a stronger, better functioning core is important. This deeper core strength might just help you handle the juggling act of motherhood with a little more ease:

  • Carrying baby (who’s getting heavier and heavier every day!)
  • Lifting baby in and out of the crib.
  • Hauling baskets of laundry up and down the stairs.
  • Climbing up and over car seats to retrieve the lost toy.
  • Getting out of bed or up from the floor.

Think of engaging the TVA each time you perform these tasks throughout your day to better support your body as it heals.


If you do have diastasis recti, it’s important to avoid:

  • Crunches
  • Sit-ups
  • Forward plank pose
  • High impact cardio
  • Running

Once you regain strength and stability within your core and close the gap (2 finger-width or less) in the abdominals, you should be able to mindfully return to these exercises.  With committed focus on your core, you can heal DR, even years after birth. Some tips to help you heal:

  • Have patience.
  • Focus on what your body CAN do.
  • Aim to do a little exercise every day.
  • Be gentle with yourself when you get off-track.

You’re doing a lot.  In fact, you’re doing it ALL! Remember to move with love and gratitude as your body heals. We’re cheering you on each step of the way!

Here are some exercises to safely strengthen your deep core muscles:

Inner Thigh Squeeze

 

Level 1:

    • Lay on your back, bended knees, feet flat on the floor.
    • Place a playground ball between your knees. 
    • Engaging the abductors, or inner thighs, squeeze the ball and simultaneously engage your TVA.
    • Feel your belly button move towards your spine. (Try to exhale as you engage your core.)
    • Your head, shoulders and back remain on the ground.
    • Release the TVA and release the inner thigh squeeze with the ball.

Repeat 10x. Gradually building to 20x.
*Move slowly through each pulse.

Level 2:
Same exercise but with legs lifted. Knees bent and stacked over hips.
Engage abductors squeezing the ball between your knees, simultaneously engaging your TVA.
Release
Repeat 10x. Gradually building to 20x.
*Move slowly through each pulse.

Supported Leg Lowering
exercisingbalance
Level 1:
Lay on your back.
Lift legs with knees bent and stacked over hips.
Use your hands to support the core by holding on to your thighs.
As you exhale, engage your TVA and slowly lower one foot to the ground. (Letting go of the hand supporting the leg that is moving.)
Slowly bring the leg back to the starting position.
Inhale.
Exhale (switching sides) slowly lower the other leg to the ground, keeping your knee bent.
Slowly bring that leg back to the starting position.
Repeat 10x total. (10 on each side.)

Level 2:
Same exercise, just keep hands flat on the ground instead of supporting on the legs.
Keep your TVA strong and engaged on each exhale
Think, belly button moving towards the spine, never bulging forward.
Repeat 10x. Gradually building up to 20x.

*The slower you move through these exercises the greater the benefits.  Use your own core strength versus momentum.


amygriffithbio

Amy Griffith, Exercising Balance

 

Amy Griffith is a pre/postnatal yoga instructor (RYT 200, CPYT) and mom of 4, including twins. As a former Broadway dancer and Radio City Rockette, she has always kept movement a priority in her life. Amy is passionate about inspiring and empowering women along their journey into motherhood. Her pre/postnatal yoga DVD’s encourage moms to find more confidence and trust in their bodies. Amy knows how challenging motherhood can be. She shares her real-life experiences as a reminder that we’re all stumbling along, just doing the best we can. She makes the most of these challenges by living with an “attitude of gratitude.”

Follow Amy’s adventures with her 2 + twins on Instagram and Facebook. To get moving and feel great for pregnancy or postpartum, her yoga DVD’s are available at ExercisingBalance.com