This is the number one thing I hear, "When will I get my abs back? How do I get my abs back? How do I get abs?" Maybe that's the second most common complaint next to back and hip pain, but it's all related to the abdominal muscles. Without a strong core, you will not be able to create the abs you're trying to get.
Building a foundation of strength in the inner abdominals and building strength in the muscles that support the spine and hips will allow you to build strong abs and go through daily activities and exercise without pain and without worry about injury.
Below you'll find 5 tips to building a strong core so you can get back into CrossFit, weightlifting, yoga, running, walking, or just get through a day getting up and down off the floor with your little one without aches and pains or moans and groans.
Tip # 1: Breath work
Learn how to breath 360 degrees from your chest to your ribcage to your abdomen. By building the ability to regulate your breath throughout your body, you learn how to improve your ability to handle different loads (ie. carrying your baby as s/he gets older and being to weigh more or squirm more, or lifting that barbell or set of dumbbells off the floor or just getting up off the floor while trying to carry your child).
Tip # 2: Start with Deep Core Muscle Strengthening
When working with women recovering from childbirth or who have back and hip pain, we start with the basics. Learn how to turn on and keep the contraction of your lower abdominal muscles without using your glutes or hamstrings or other compensations. By learning how to "turn those muscles on" you learn how to control the movement of your pelvis and hips and then begin to learn how to translate that into more complex movements such as lifting your child or lifting weights or shifting your weight while running or walking or holding your weight while changing positions in yoga.
Tip # 3: Abdominal Bracing - Using your Muscles
Learn how to make your abdominal muscles work correctly in a safe pattern so that they are supporting your trunk in all movements. Think about drawing your abdominals together like you're zipping up a zipper from your pubic bone up to your ribcage. Make sure you check with a professional if you suspect you may not be doing this exercise correctly, may worry you have abdominal separation or are just unsure and want a second set of eyes and cues to do this safely.
Tip # 4: Work on Functional Movements
What the heck does that mean? Well...it means take the breathing exercises and the deep core muscle strengthening and put them into action every day. You can't lay on the floor or bed or couch and just do exercises laying down and expect that to magically work for you when you get up/down off the floor or in other daily activities. You have to practice and slowly build up.
Tip # 5: Slow is Fast
The slower you progress, the more you build your foundations, the faster you'll be able to recover and get back to the higher intensity exercises. You will have fewer "set backs," fewer injuries or pains that will take you out of the game, and less down time between heavy or hard workouts. By building up your core muscles from the inside out, you will improve, prevent, or heal what was stretched and changed during and after pregnancy. Be patient (easy for me to say, right?) and try to respect what your body is trying to tell you.
If you still have questions or want to learn more about getting back into your exercise routine without injury or risk for injury, we have expert physical therapists who can make a plan that meets your individual needs based on your fitness and childbirth history. Just reach out to us and we can chat more about next steps.
Until next time, stay health, stay positive, and YOU'VE GOT THIS!!