It helps with injury prevention, gives renewed body awareness and boosts mental wellbeing.
Photos: Instagram.com/rosiehw, Instagram.com/beyonce
After you give birth, your tummy muscles have been stretched to the limit. You’ve had a baby, after all and it takes time and smart training to get to a new, optimal state of fitness. Gentle core training post pregnancy is super important for new mums. It helps with injury prevention, gives renewed body awareness and boosts mental wellbeing.
“Initially, I suggest just gently activating your pelvic floor,” says female fitness expert and Barre Attack founder, Renee Scott. The pelvic floor is the stabilising muscles through the pelvis, glutes, back and hips. “The easiest way to gently activate them is to draw up by imagining you are stopping the flow of urine,” she suggests. “It’s also good to start some strengthening moves to improve your posture and balance.” Make sure you ask your doctor or midwife if it’s okay to start training again, she adds.
Here Renee gives us four gentle moves to strengthen your core.
1. Beginner abdominal activation
This is a great breathing exercise to slowly engage the core. It gently and effectively stretches the muscles in the lower back to improve your posture.
Start position: Hop down into a four point kneeling position, with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips.
Movement pattern: As you exhale, gently scoop the lower back to the spine as you exhale so you are slightly rounding through the back. Extend on the exhale, slightly arching through the spine.
Move through with flow, connecting with the breath. Next, find a neutral position between your arch and rounding of spine. In this position hold for 5-10 breaths, creating an internal corset through the torso.
Advanced: “Once you’ve got this, you can try the hover,” says Scott. “Tuck your toes under and gently lift the knees off the floor. Hold for two to four breaths and gradually progress to longer holds.
2. The supermamma
This is a progression from the gentle abdominal activation. It adds a balance and co-ordination challenge for your core.
Start position: Hop down into a four point kneeling position, as before.
Movement pattern: Lengthen the spine from the crown of the head to the tailbone. Your back should be like a table top with a small arch – your ‘neutral spine’ position.
Reach your right arm and left leg out and away from the torso. Hold and lengthen as much as possible, feeling like your lower back is lifting up to the ceiling.
Try to keep your hand and leg directly in line with the shoulders and hips. Return with control to the start position and swap to the opposite arm and leg. Keep alternating 10 times each side, holding for two to three breaths each side.
“Keep your torso light – don’t let it sink towards the floor,” says Scott.
Advanced: Try reaching your arm and leg out on a diagonal line away from each other.
3. Pillow squeeze pelvic lift
This exercise helps improve pelvic stability. It works the deep muscles of the core, pelvic floor, glutes and inner thighs.
Start Position: Lie on your back with legs bent, hip-width apart. Place a small, firm pillow between the inner thighs. Find a neutral position with your spine and pelvis.
Movement pattern: Draw the abdominals in and up while squeezing the pillow. Squeeze it as much as you can while keeping a normal breathing pattern. Release the squeeze after three to four breaths. You’ll feel the inner thighs and the pelvic floor activate.
Tip: “Remember to engage your core by imagining an internal corset or belt gently tightening,” says Scott.
Repeat 10-15 times
Advanced: Once you feel your core engaging, keep this connection and slowly roll up through the spine so the pelvis pushes up to the ceiling. Then, slowly roll and peel back down through the spine. “Think of the spine being like string of pearls and you are rolling up through each 'pearl' or vertebrae on the way up then peeling slowly back down,” suggests Scott.
Repeat 10-15 times.
4. Toe taps
This exercise continues to progress your tummy muscles, by strengthening the deep muscles of the abdomen. “When done correctly, this helps prevent lower back injuries,” says Scott.
Start Position: Lie on your back with legs bent and hip-width apart. Place your hands beside the body, or on the lower belly for more tummy awareness.
Movement Pattern: Float one knee up so the knee is in line with the hip. Engage through the stomach and keep the pelvis as stable as possible. Hold for a moment then return your foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: “Try and keep the core engaged the whole time and ensure your lower back and pelvis stay in a neutral position.”
Repeat 10-15 times, alternating legs
Advanced: Lift both legs up so both knees are in line with your hips. Tap one foot down to the floor trying to not puff the belly out, and then return the start position. Keep alternating the legs, being conscious of drawing the stomach in and up, relaxing the shoulders and concentrating on the breath.
Renee Scott is the founder of Barre Attack. For more information visit balancemoves.com.au.
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fitness | body+soul