When we think about core muscles, the first image that comes to mind is the 6 pack. But the core group encompasses much more than this. We are talking about all the major muscles that assist with the posture, globally stabilizing the thorax and pelvis during dynamic movement. Creating inner pressure to expel substances.
These muscles are the pelvic floor muscles, the transversus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis, the erector spinae, and the diaphragm, among others.
Strong core muscles help us to align our pelvis, ribs and spine, allowing us to stand straight and keep this alignment in different postures while resisting external charges (weight or simply resisting gravity).
They are also here to provide continence, which is the ability to withhold bowel movement, and in the case of pregnancy, they help the process of birth and delivery, especially the transversus abdominis.
During pregnancy maintaining strong core muscles is very important, but some of the exercises used to do so have to be adapted or avoided altogether.
Crunch movements practiced flat on the floor and restricting the space for the belly should be avoided. First of all, with a growing belly, it will be very uncomfortable and second, you could strain your back. You could practice them using a birthing ball as long as it feels comfortable. Trust your body on this one!
The main focus of these core exercises for pregnancy is to strengthen the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of the abdominal wall. It is attached to your spine, your lower ribs and your hips covering the back and front of your belly section and holding the digestive system in place.
This muscle is also called the “baby blanket” as it is wrap all around the expanding uterus, providing extra support for your baby’s first home on earth, you!
During the active part of labour, you know that moment when your midwife starts telling you to push? This muscle plays an important role in supporting the work of the uterus by creating more inner pressure to push the baby out.
Just like a big bowel movement (more or less!)! So making sure your core is strong will help you to have a successful delivery.
Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and place your hands on your belly. With every inhalation, let your breath go down into your abdomen, allowing it to expand.
With every exhalation, draw your belly button in towards your spine, sucking up everything as much as you can. Repeat this for 10 to 20 breaths.
This gentle exercise will help to strengthen your transverse.
From a Table Top position, with the wrists aligned with your shoulders, extend your feet back, lifting your body off the ground in a straight line.
Make sure your hips stay in alignment. If this is too uncomfortable for your wrists, you can do this exercise by placing your forearms on the floor instead. Breathe deeply in this posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
This will engage your back muscles, your shoulders, as well as your transverse.
Place your right forearm on the floor and extend your legs back, feet separated or stacked one on top of the other. Extend your left arm to the sky and keep your body in a lateral line. If this is too difficult, you can place your right knee on the floor to get more support.
Stay in this posture for 30 seconds up to 1 minute, breathing deeply. Then repeat on the other side.
Lay down on your back with your feet close to your hips and the knees pointing up. Raise your head and shoulders slightly off the ground and extend your arms by your sides, palms facing up. Reach towards your feet with your hands, alternating between each side. Reaching out on both side counts for one rep. Do 20 reps and take a break. Then repeat another 20 reps.
This exercise will engage your transverse and your obliques.
Still laying down on the floor with the feet close to the hips, extend one arm by your side and one arm overhead. Brace your abdomen muscles by pushing the floor with your back and pulling your belly button in. Coordinate your respiration with the arm mouvement, keeping the arms extended.
Inhale switch the arms, the one by your side goes up, the one up comes down by your side. Exhale switch again. This is one rep. Do 20 reps.
Stand up with your feet hips-width apart. Without moving anything else, raise one hip up, trying to shorten as much as possible the space between your hip and your ribs.
Come back down and do the same motion on the other side. Perform 20 repetitions of this movement.
Static holds, deep breathing and bracing will be the top core exercises for pregnancy.
This short workout works best when it is done frequently. You don’t need to workout one hour every day to make a difference.
Try to include in your schedule little 10, 15, 20 minute workouts to perform throughout your week. The ideal is to move everyday even if it is only for 10 minutes. With time, it will become a habit and you will be able to enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle