Kira Mahal, a personal trainer and CEO of Motivate PT, quit her day job – a career in The City – to help busy employees fit fitness into their long schedules. Through her service, she can help a range of varied clients, from runners to seniors to women preparing for their wedding. Here, she gives her top tips for how to prevent stomach muscle separation whilst exercising during pregnancy.
Pregnancy takes its toll on the body and it’s important to work on exercises and techniques which help strengthen it for the birth itself and for post-natal life, rather than weaken it. There are several exercises which can actually cause long-term health problems post-pregnancy so it’s important to have specialist advice from those with pre and post-natal qualifications before you begin. There are some great pregnancy personal trainers in London, and pregnancy group classes too. One of the most common issues women face after birth is abdominal separation. However, not everyone is aware that they can help their body reduce this by avoiding certain exercises and focusing on others during pregnancy.
What exactly is Abdominal Separation?
A lot changes after having a baby including your work schedule, social life, money patterns and the most daunting; your body. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing but the recovery process isn’t so glorious. Abdominal separation, also known as “Diastasis Recti” or stomach muscle separation, is the condition during pregnancy when the uterus stretches and separates the muscles in the abdomen. This causes your stomach to bulge out, which can make a woman look pregnant well after their pregnancy. After you have your baby, you want to get back into your exercise routine, the last thing you want is to have people asking if you’re pregnant..again. There are a few exercises that you can perform while pregnant which will lower your risk of abdominal separation.
How do you know if you have abdominal separation?
Some people are more prone to abdominal separation and there are a variety of exercises to reduce this risk. To determine if you have this condition, simply lay on your back as if you are going to perform a crunch. Place your fingers right in the center of the abdomen and while supporting with one hand, raise your head. As your head rises, slightly press your fingers down on your stomach and feel the space between each abdomen muscle. If the gap between the right and left muscle is more than two finger-tip widths wide, you may suffer from abdominal stretching. In order to mitigate this condition, you can perform exercises whilst pregnant that will target those deep core muscles.
Exercises that work the deep core muscles
It is always important to speak with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine whilst pregnant. Although you are looking to better your health, exercising without permission may cause more harm than good. There are some exercises that should be avoided while pregnant and may actually increase your risk of and always talk to your doctor before implementing new exercises into your routine.
The most important exercises to make sure you don’t get that frustrating stomach pooch is to target the deep core muscles. There are two key muscle groups that you want to focus on; transverse abdominis and lumbar multifidus. Exercises that target these muscles are as follows:
This exercise is an isometric contraction that tenses the muscles without putting too much pressure on the abdominal muscles. Simply stand upright and place your hands on your hips to keep stable. Expand your chest and pull your stomach inwards as much as it can possibly go. Hold this position for as long as you can. You can implement this exercise standing, sitting, kneeling or even lying down. As you get practice, this exercise should become more intense and longer each time.
Side leg lifts
This exercise is very popular in pilates and is great for targeting those deep core muscles. Lay on your side with your legs bent. Extend the arm closest to the floor by supporting your head. Raise the top leg until it is fully extended and bring the leg down slowly. Repeat this 10 times and do the same on the other side. Make sure to properly breath as each leg is extended and lowered down.
For all the yogi’s out there, keep doing what you’re doing! The famous cat-cow pose is great for targeting those deep abdominal muscles. This exercise is often recommended for back pain as it releases a lot of tension that has been built up. A combination of a stretch and an extension, it is perfect for supporting the abdominal muscles.
This exercise has many benefits for the body, but most important; glutes and abdominal muscles. As well as making your booty look great, it’s also improves your hip mobility and strengthens your lower back which is important for those abdominal muscles. This exercise can be performed anywhere and is incredibly simple and has many different variations to test your limits.
Single leg kickbacks
As well as being great for the abdominal muscles, this exercise targets the glutes and will make them burn in a good way. Stand facing a wall or a sturdy surface and study yourself using only your hands. Lean at a 45 degree angle against the wall and lift one of your legs up and kick back as high as you wish. Try performing this on each leg 10 times. This exercise can also be done on all fours by raising each leg alternatively as high as it seems fit.
Exercises to avoid:
There are some exercises that will cause too much strain on the stomach, which then will put stress on the abdominal muscles and these should be avoided. Stress on the abdominal muscles will elongate the healing process, therefore you might have that little ‘pooch’ for longer. It is important to focus on your optimal health and long term goals, rather than the instant gratification.
- Oblique Crunches
- Heavy Lifting
Is it too late to fix abdominal stretching?
Activating and engaging your core muscles can be performed at any stage during pregnancy and postpartum. It may be better to focus on developing strong core muscles earlier rather than later because it will be easier to recover after pregnancy when you have strong muscles. It is important to remember to consult a doctor before performing any exercises as it could be dangerous. It is never too late to work on your fitness. Fitness is not only about the end results, but the journey it takes you on.
Kira Mahal is a Personal Trainer and CEO of MotivatePT, a service matching Londoners with PTs for sessions anytime, anywhere.
After five years in The City, it became very apparent to me that very few people in London have time to work the long hours expected of them, maintain a social life and find time for fitness. It is also a fact that companies are only as strong as their workforce, and many business leaders struggle to keep employees motivated, productive and happy. I founded MotivatePT to help all companies, big and small, find a solution to this very common problem.