The core is the muscles which surround the trunk of your body! These include muscles of the abdomen (Inner and Outer) Back, Pelvic Floor and even our breathing muscles (the diaphragm).
Ideally these muscles should work as a team, but quite often during pregnancy and childbirth the integrity of these muscle can be affected. Due to a combination of hormone changes, weight changes and a growing baby these muscles are stretched over the months during gestation. As a consequence of these changes during pregnancy and subsequently birth these muscles may become too weak to support the trunk and this could be the reason some of you experience re-occurring back pain, pelvic pain or even pelvic floor problems.
In regards to your abdominal muscles there are two sets to be aware of:
The Inner Abdominal Muscles – (Transverse Abdominis):
This is the deepest innermost layer of your abdominal muscles and should contract the same time as your pelvic floor. These muscles are like a corset covering the abdomen and spine and providing support to the joints and pelvis.
These muscles are designed to be gently active for long periods of time.
Then there are the Outer Abdominal Core Muscles – (Rectus Abdominis & External Oblique’s) :
Also known as the ‘6 pack’! ‘ It sits above the deeper core muscles. Intense exercises that work these, such as the sit up, contract this muscle strongly and this increases downward pressure on the pelvic floor, if your pelvic floor is weak and unable to counteract this pressure, pelvic floor problems can occur.
A sit up, or as some people know it, a ‘crunch’ is a very popular exercise performed in many gyms and exercises classes over the world. The fact that during the movement of the sit up, the pelvic floor is forced downwards is important to bear in mind.
The safety of a sit up/crunch for your pelvic floor/core depends on:
- Your current Pelvic Floor Strength
- History of Pelvic Floor Issues
- Prolapse Surgery
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (Prolapse, Incontinence)
- Rectus Diastasis (Abdominal Separation)
At Shape Up mums we recommend that it is not advisable to do sit ups, in the first 12 months of giving birth, you should also consider the above factors.
The overall aim should be to safely maintain, restore and strengthen the Core muscles without compromising your pelvic floor.
If you are wondering…’is it possible to train the abdominals and protect the pelvic floor?’ The answer is yes! We include a Core section at the end of our classes, which are completely pelvic floor safe and help you to activate those core abdominal muscles.
Eventually when your trainer feels you have the core integrity to safely start sit ups. We can guide you into safely, slowly and affectively engaging your core and pelvic floor to do this type of exercise in a VERY controlled manner!
If you have any questions or feel you are ready to do a sit up, please speak to you trainer who will be able to ensure you are doing them with correct technique and start you off slowly.
Ali Broomfield – Personal Trainer