A strong, fully functioning core involves more than just the abdominals and pelvic floor. It covers balance, movement, pelvic health (including resistance to prolapse and incontinence), the ability to develop whole-body fitness and strength; to be able to get the most out of being a mum. Quite important then!
Too few ladies are given any sensible guidance on the very particular needs and vulnerabilities of their core system. Being told, “it’s weak, exercise to strengthen it” is next to useless.
Many new mums come to me concerned and confused; What is it? What does it do? Why is it weak? What will strengthen it?….
The core, what is it anyway?!
Four groups of muscles working together, as a system, bracing and supporting you when you sit, stand, move, lift. Even the simplest action requires your core. It stops you loosing balance and collapsing in a heap.
1. The pelvic floor muscles
Forming the base of the pelvis, these muscles are a big deal for several reasons. I feel very strongly about the lack of key information ladies are given on pelvic floor strength and how it impacts their health. I’ll keep it short here but I strongly advise you to read my ebook for greater detail; bit.ly/2WQsjWZ There’s also a separate ‘Pelvic Floor’ blog linked below. For now, the strength of these muscles is necessary for the overall function of the core.
2. The deepest abdominal muscle (Transversus abdominis) when contracted, pushes back towards your spine. It acts like an internal corset.
3. The muscles supporting the vertebrae of your spine, especially the lower, lumbar region.
4. The diaphragm, controlling air flow in and out of your lungs as you breathe.
Every time you exhale the core is activated. The diaphragm and pelvic floor rise, the whole core tensions.
It’s not about just doing pelvic floor exercises or ‘ab work’. It’s about strengthening the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles by activating them correctly, combined with the correct breathing pattern. Then using them whilst performing strengthening functional exercises. These are designed to target the muscles that matter in a way that promotes strength whilst being respectful and safe for the healing, fragile postnatal core. In other words, not doing more harm than good, as many ‘traditional’ ab/core exercises are inclined to do.
As well as exercise, many factors can help or hinder your core recovery and strengthening; how you lift, your nutrition, posture, if you have a separation of the top layer abdominals (diastasis), if you had a C-section or assisted birth….. it’s all connected. Mums really do need to be aware of how their general lifestyle, their day-to-day activities all have an effect on their core recovery.
Your body is unique and the best way to strengthen your core will be unique to you.
My job is to find the most effective and safe strengthening strategies for every individual lady who comes to me for help. We’re talking deep down healing, strengthening and a return to full function.
All mums need physical resilience for the intensive sport of motherhood and a strong core is the foundation!