Frequently the area of the body women worry about the most is their stomach. There are those who would like a flatter stomach or some tone in the muscles. It is also common that women would like a stronger core for back issues and pelvic floor strength. The core requires very specific neuromuscular exercises if it is to be most effective, and it needs to be based on the person’s personal anatomical needs. However, there is some advice that is generic.
Muscles are made up of muscle fibres which are connected to motor nerves. Motor nerves affect the extent to which a muscle is contracting. When we perform exercises with maximum contraction, as many experienced sports men and women do, our muscles fatigue more quickly, more energy will be used and results can be progressive. Some exercise goers only partially contract their muscles, or maximally contract the same muscles every time which is why some do not see the results they were hoping for. Connecting the mind to the muscles we are trying to strengthen and improve is one way of being more likely to reach maximum contraction. If we apply this to the core area of the body, it is far more likely that abdominal muscles post-childbirth will return back to their original position and the abdomen and pelvic floor will regain strength and tone. It is therefore vital to visualise and concentrate on all of the core muscles involved in whole body and core specific exercises.
For quite some time after giving birth, traditional abdominal exercise (e.g. crunches) pose a risk so avoid them for your safety and anatomy. This is due to low relaxin levels that may still be present in the body and also Diastasis Recti. During pregnancy, as the baby grows, the abdominal muscles separate to create more room for the womb. Once the baby has been born a mother’s abdominal muscles will return together at differing rates. In some cases they remain separated on a long-term basis but the chance of this can be reduced by breast feeding and core rehabilitation exercises. A good exercise to begin the core rehabilitation process with is the core engaging pelvic tilt. You can do this in a lying or standing position and it is a useful exercise for anyone wanting to improve their core strength or the appearance of their stomach.
Contract your abdominal muscles towards your spine a few centimetres by slightly tilting your pelvis forwards and up, without compromising the capacity of your lungs. As you do this or whilst holding this position, draw your pelvic floor muscles up towards your spine. Visualise all of the deep core muscles wrapping tightly around your spine and hold this for 10 seconds. Rest and repeat 3-4 times.