The One Exercise You Should be Doing After You Have a Baby

After I had my babe, I was itching to get moving again. I had a c-section and had a really hard time being grounded by surgery recovery. Finally, by week 5 I was able to engage in light weights and gentle exercises. Because my belly was loose, I initially felt that I had to jump right back in to ab exercises. But, on my first sit up session I ended up experiencing a really uncomfortable sensation that lead me to dig a little deeper. It wasn't the tenderness of my surgery scar, nor the burn of an effective workout, instead it felt sort of like a weird pulling with the potential of even subtle tearing. What I discovered inspired me to learn all I could about postpartum muscle recovery. 

Make sure to ask your doctor before starting any exercise program.

 Rectus abdomen

Rectus abdomen

Most common abdominal exercises, such as crunches, work the rectus abdomen which is the top layer of abdominal muscles. This is the muscle group responsible for creating the 'six pack.' The problem with jumping straight into standard ab exercises is that many women experience a split in their abdominal muscles. If you are one of these women, then the standard crunch may be doing more harm than it is good. One study of 300 women found 60% of women to have this separation at 6 weeks postpartum and 32.6% of the women to still have at least a mild separation by 12 months postpartum [1]. In its severe form, this separation of abdominal muscles is called diastasis recti.

Here's how to do a self test for diastasis recti:

  1. place your fingers vertically over your belly button 

  2. measure the separation 
  3. if the split is 2 finger widths, you may have mild diastasis recti; 4 finger widths would be severe

If you feel a significant separation, you should see your doctor.  They may refer you to a physical therapist. 

 Diastasis recti

Diastasis recti

 Transverse abdominus muscle

Transverse abdominus muscle

If you have a milder split, then it is important to work the underlying abdominal muscles instead of focusing on your six pack (for now). Arguably, the transverse abdominus is the most important muscle to work post-pregnancy (there are also arguments for the pelvic floor). The transverse abdominus pulls horizontally and works much like a corset to tighten your abdomen on a deeper level. 

Working this muscle group is so effective that there are entire workouts dedicated working the transverse abdominus.

Tim Ferriss also claims a very similar exercise in his book The Four Hour Body to be one of two exercises that will give you allow you to attain the ever elusive 'six pack'.

How to do the TA Squeeze:

  1. Lay down on your back or get on your hands and knees.

  2. Take a deep breath in.
  3. Exhale deeply envisioning your inner abdominal muscles squeezing in like a corset.
  4. Hold everything in and take another regular inhale and exhale.
  5. Inhale, release and repeat.

 

 

 

[1] Sperstad, J. B., Tennfjord, M. K., Hilde, G., Ellström-Engh, M., & Bø, K. (2016, June 20). Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: Prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2016/06/20/bjsports-2016-096065

MovementJacqui Somen