The hottest topic in the Prenatal/Postpartum world right now is Diastasis Recti. This is the separation of the middle of the abdominal wall of 2.7cm or greater thanks to the stretching of the Linea Alba (the connective tissue that holds it together like glue).
As you can imagine, our abdominal muscles, along with the connective tissue, experience great pressure as the belly expands and takes on unusual weight. It is extremely important that we take special care of our midsection, as to not further the separation which can so easily happen with our day-to-day activities. The simplest example being in maintaining neutral posture (the natural curvature of your spine and placement of head, ribs and pelvis). The constant awareness of good posture increases abdominal muscular strength and endurance as well as reducing stress on joints and muscles. I’m not going to cover all the anatomical pieces of the core today, but it is important that we understand the do’s and don’ts in our efforts to gain back that core strength and stability.
The following “do” exercises are deemed generally safe for pregnant and postpartum women, as long as you are cleared for exercise and don’t have any contraindications. The “don’t” exercises below, generally carry a high “risk to reward” ratio. They should be avoided during certain phases of pregnancy and immediately postpartum.
During Pregnancy Do’s
- Squat: Bodyweight, Dumbbell, Goblet
- Glute Bridge: Regular, Single-Leg, Band-Resisted, Feet-Elevated, Back-elevated/Hip Thrust
- Row Variations: One-Arm DB Row, Seated Cable Row, Standing Band Row, Single-Arm Band Row
During Pregnancy Don’ts
Front Planksor any exercise where the belly is “hanging” down or feels unsupported (this recommendation often applies after 20-24 weeks). This includes, but is not limited to: Push-ups, Mountain Climbers, and Shoulder Taps. Plyometric/High Impact Exercisesor any exercises where you feel increased downward pressure on your pelvic floor and/or experiences any lower back or pelvic pain, or leaking of urine (this is often after 20-24 weeks). This may not apply to advanced/high level athletes. Consult with your pelvic health physio for specific recommendations.
Post Pregnancy Do’s
(6-12 weeks, prior to 6 weeks consult with your primary medical practitioner and/or pelvic health physio)
- Glute Bridge: Regular, Single-Leg, Band-Resisted, Feet-Elevated, Hip Thrust
- Clamshell: Regular, Band-Resisted
- Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch (with optional reach)
- Squat: Bodyweight
Post Pregnancy Don’ts
Traditional/Advanced Abdominal Exercises:Examples being Traditional sit-up, GHR sit-up, and Jackknife/V-up. Plyometric/High Impact Exercisesor any exercises where she feels increased downward pressure on her pelvic oor and/or she experiences any lower back or pelvic pain, or leaking of urine. Avoid exercises that cause pain or anything that doesn’t “feel right” to the core or pelvic floor.
Always be sure to ask yourself, “How does this exercise make me feel?” or “Do I feel strong, supported, and stable during this exercise?”. Keep in mind that some exercises might also feel good, but might not be appropriate for you yet. For some basic level abdominal exercise ideas, follow along with me on “Level Zero Abs”, The HIIT Hustle.
“Exercises Your Clients Should Do and Avoid During & After Pregnancy“, Girls Gone Strong, LLC. 2017, http://www.girlsgonestrong.com.