In fitness, many people think of the core as having a six pack or flat abs. It’s the number one goal for many mums when returning to exercise following the birth of their baby. Unfortunately not all mums understand the core and pelvic floor as a whole. They focus on one part of the structure. This results in building strong parts of the core, leading to increased pressure on the weaker parts. In this blog, I aim to help with understanding the core and pelvic floor as a whole.
What is the Core and Pelvic Floor?
Imagine that the core is a canister. It has a top, a bottom and sides that wrap around. In our body our core has muscles at the top, bottom and those that wrap around the sides. A strong core supports all major movements we complete, supports our spine and supports our internal organs. It also has functions connected to breathing, posture and preventing incontinence. It’s not normal to wet yourself during physical activity, I promise!
What Muscles Make Up The Core?
1. Diaphragm: At the top, we have the diaphragm. This muscle sits along the lower part of your ribcage and when activated correctly expands or contracts to assist with breathing.
2. Pelvic Floor: At the bottom (no pun intended) lies the pelvic floor. It connects to the tailbone, pubic bones and pelvis to create a sling type structure that supports your pelvic organs.
3. Transverse Abdominis: Sitting along the lower abdomen at the front and is often the focus when beginning to rehab your core.
4. Multifidus: These muscles run along either side of your spine in your back and provide the support for your back.
5. Gluteals: These muscles sit along the back of the pelvis, supporting your hips and lower back.
These are the most important muscles of the core. Others include your rectus abdominis, obliques and hip flexors which are all impacted by pregnancy but let’s not overwhelm you today.
What Happens To These Muscles in Pregnancy
Due to the size and placement of your bub, breathing is often impacted. Do you remember the feeling of being kicked in the ribs? Well your baby was having a great time beating up your diaphragm. Once your baby is delivered, the diaphragm often struggles to expand or contract correctly to allow proper breathing. This can lead to shallow breathing which recruits muscles of the chest and neck to help lift the ribcage during a breath.
As our belly grows and abdominal muscles stretch, much of the strain is taken on by our lower back and hips. We get tightness occurring in the multifidus and glutes as they try to support the hips and spine. Retraining the core to activate, helps to take the pressure off these overworked muscles.
The weight of our babies also puts pressure on the pelvic floor. If we fail to keep up our ‘Kegal exercises’ and weakness occurs, we may experience urinary incontinence. During a vaginal delivery, you may have had a tear or needed an episiotomy. An episiotomy involves the muscles of the pelvic floor being cut. Both need a little more care and attention with recovery. If you had a c-section, don’t think you got out of it easily. The weight of your baby during pregnancy has put immense pressure on your pelvic floor. This pressure puts you at risk of incontinence.
Fun Fact: Men have a pelvic floor too. When instructed to activate, their cue is “nuts to guts”.
How Can You Rebuild Your Body From the Inside Out
- Restore Your Breathing: Releasing the diaphragm and retraining your diaphragm to expand will take pressure of those secondary breathing muscles of the neck and chest.
- Improve Your Posture: Posture is important in preventing pain in your back and hips as you undertake the responsibilities of motherhood.
- Learn to Activate Your Core: Knowing which muscles to activate and how they work will help to reduce that ‘Mummy tummy’ and create a stronger body.
- Learning to Coordinate It All: Do you know how to co-ordinate your breathing and pelvic floor activation all while performing a squat? It sounds tricky but once you have the understanding of each part, we can teach you how to bring it all together.
Our Pregnancy and Post Natal Fitness Services aim to provide more than just a workout. You will learn to identify areas impacted by your pregnancy, how to breathe again, activate your core and pelvic floor in all movements and prevent injury. If you would like to find out how we can help, Contact Us and we can discuss a plan for your individual needs.