This always is a start to a good conversation, plus a BIG reason I was motivated to create my prenatal DVD’s/programs to start with. I see too many trainers, prenatal DVD’s, etc. teaching crunches during pregnancy. Not to mention those post-pregnancy workouts that mostly just focus on ab exercises. Trust me, I’ve wanted my abs back after each of my 3 pregnancies & with each one it took longer (can’t even say I’m 100% after my 3rd, it’s been 18 months), but it’s the last area that really comes through for us moms. Give yourself credit as you lose the baby weight, fit back into your jeans, sculpt your amazing arms, & lift your booty! Your abs will come, eventually…..

 no crunches

I’m the opposite of what you typically see out there for pregnancy & postnatal “ab” exercises. For good reason, unless you want to possible create more abdominal separation (diastasis recti) of course, although I don’t know who wants that!

 

Why? I know you’re asking that right now…..

 

Well, if you put a lot of added stress directly towards your rectus abdominals (those are the muscles that create that “6-pack” look) you could actually cause ab separation or make it worse when you are pregnant. Plus there is no benefit to doing crunches for pregnancy, it doesn’t give you back support or any of those reasons you may think. I don’t say that to be harsh but I’m just being honest.

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Rather I always teach clients, & in the Knocked Up Fitness® Pregnancy and Beyond Baby Programs, to focus on strengthening your core (I don’t really like the term “ab exercise”). Strengthening your “core” is waaayyyy more beneficial & there’s actually a purpose to it. Here’s why:

  • Your “ deep core” is made of these 2 basic (but Important) components:
    • Pelvic Floor Muscles = Doing Kegels
    • Transverse Abdominals = Hugging Your Baby
  • Kegels/Deep Core Strengthening {read more here with my full conversation and suggestions for properly doing your kegels, because yes you can do them incorrect and yes you can do them to tightly} = represent the base of your deep core & are VERY IMPORTANT!
    • Strong pelvic floor muscles are important for all women to be healthy – just don’t over activate your pelvic floor, as it is possible to over-activate your pelvic floor. Your connection should always be a ‘light connection’
    • To avoid incontinence – no one likes to pee their pants when they sneeze, laugh, or jump on the trampoline! Yikes!
    • Help activate your entire deep core by always having your pelvic floor slightly engaged.
    • Think about always doing a gentle Kegel when you exercise, walk, bike, site, you name it, do it!
    • Sex can be oh so much better! That’s reason enough right ladies (especially if you’ve ever had a really bad tear or episiotomies, but that’s another post can’t get started on that one now)
  • Transverse Abdominals = represents the bulk of your deep core
    • These muscles DO give you back support.
    • They do help you support the growing weight of your baby.
    • They do help you avoid/minimize ab separation during pregnancy.
    • They help you PUSH OUT BABY during delivery (ever think about what you actually use to push with?).
    • They do help you get your rectus abs back together after baby if you have separation.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles & Transverse Ab Muscles must work together.

 

When you join my Knocked-Up Fitness Membership you will receive full access to my videos on how to properly activate your deep core muscles and so much more!

 Pelvic Tilts are a great exercise to practice doing your kegels & engaging your transverse abs.KUF_PelvicTilts

Ab Exercise Guidelines During Pregnancy:

  • Once you can see that your belly starts to pouch out when you do a crunch please STOP doing them. Usually around 8-12 weeks for most women.
  • You CAN work your “core” however:
    • Rotational exercises are great. Try this one: Squats with Rotation
    • Sitting on an exercise ball makes your engage your core.
    • Change your focus to always gently engaging your core muscles.
    • “Hug your baby”
    • Practice your gentle pelvic floor activation {i.e.KEGELS – not only gently lifting but relaxing as well}.
  • If ever there’s an exercise that doesn’t feel good for you, simply “DON’T DO IT”.

 Reach & Curl is a great core (& balance) exercise both during & after pregnancy.KUF_ReachAndCurl

Ab Exercise Guidelines After Baby:

  • Start strengthening your deep core muscles within the first 24 hours after delivery.
  • Be sure you get clearance from your doctor before you get back to exercising (doing more then walking & deep core strengthening that is).
  • Then start doing what you were in your 3rd trimester for exercise.
  • NO crunches! Yet, anyways….You knew that was coming
  • What about Planks? To Plank or Not To Plank?
  • After 10 weeks post-baby you need to check to see if you have any separation. Lye flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on floor & do a little crunch (ok so you have to do a crunch too check), try drawing your abs together as best as you can. Then press up & down your midline of your belly from your sternum to your pubic bone with 2 fingers. If your abs are connected they should feel pretty solid (that’s not to say there isn’t a layer of baby fat on top – which will eventually go away). If you are able to press in-between your muscles then you have separation.
  • If you don’t have separation then I guess I can give you the green light to do crunches, however I HIGHLY recommend that you start with the exercise guidelines that are below for those with separation. Then as your abs feel stronger (cuz trust me I know they are weak & stretched after baby(ies)) you can start to incorporate some crunches if you must.
  • If you do have separation (or even if you don’t) these are great exercises you can do to help strengthen your deep core muscles. Always thinking about doing your kegels by gently lifting your pelvic floor, then ‘zipping up’ your abdominals while lengthening tall through the top of your head.  Don’t be frustrated if you can’t get all those tips or even feel any “ab” muscles in the beginning but you gotta start somewhere.
  • Squats with Rotation
  • Pelvic Tilts (at the top of this post)
  • Reach & Curl (in the middle of this post)
  • Cat Cows
  • While you’re getting impatient waiting for you abs to come back gives these 3 thigh exercises a go!
  • One last thing I’ll leave you with is wear a belly wrap to help you re-activate your core/abs. Don’t use it to just squeeze your belly but use it to help remind you to always engage your deep core/abs. Sometimes we just have to have a little extra help.

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You’ll find more info & exercises regarding this very BIG topic in both my Prenatal & After Baby DVD’s. Plus, a bonus video in the prenatal & bonus booklet in the after baby, more specifically about deep core, kegels, transverse abs, preparing for baby exercises (prenatal), and abdominal separation (after baby).

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Showing 17 comments
  • Main Line Childbirth
    Reply

    great pregnancy exercises!

  • Main Line Childbirth
    Reply

    great pregnancy exercises!

  • Kerry
    Reply

    I am currently 31 weeks pregnant. I am in the gym a couple times a week and I am doing 1/2 hour of cardio (usually elliptical) and then a circuit that is a mix of squats, plank variation, donkey kicks and fire hydrants. Are these all safe to avoid diastasis recti?

    • Erica Ziel
      Erica Ziel
      Reply

      Planks can be ok as long as you have your deep core muscles engaged and your belly is nice and rounded and not protruding out/cone-like, that indicates that you may have some separation. So if that’s the case modify your planks and skip them for the rest of your pregnancy, not sure what you mean about fire hydrants? As long as it feels good for your body and your deep core in engaged and not cone-like then they should be fine.

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