Bum, tum and pelvic floor
The abdominals are such important muscles during pregnancy, childbirth and the following months that they warrant a special mention. You might think that because you have had or are going to have a baby you can kiss goodbye to that flat-tummy dream. That simply is not the case! My waist was actually smaller after I had my baby! You can look even better than you did before.
The exercises in the first part of the 3-Plan (the pregnancy plan) will help you to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles, surface abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles ready for childbirth. By working on these before you have your baby you will have a much easier job getting then back into shape afterwards.
The second part of the 3-Plan (the new body plan) will help you work towards getting rid of your baby bulge. There are 3 things you need to do to get a flat tummy
- get rid of the fat over your tummy (“there’s a six pack in there somewhere!”) by doing cardiovascular exercise
- work the deep ‘core’ muscles to strengthen and tone your tummy and back (these ‘partner’ muscles need to work together) and finally,
- tone the surface abdominals.
Work that TVA!
That what?! The TVA (transversus abdominis) is the deepest abdominal muscle, which you can think of as the body’s own internal corset. You can activate it simply by first breathing in deeply and letting your chest expand then as you exhale, pulling in your tummy all the way round (as if you are wearing a corset!) and holding it in for a couple of seconds, then releasing. Make sure as you do so you can still breathe deeply and slowly. Getting control over the TVA and working it as often as possible is key to having a flat tum after you have had your baby. We also call this working your ‘core’.
Do these ab squeezes as often as possible! Aim for 50 a day.
The pelvic floor muscles are located between your legs, and run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They give you control over your bladder and can be weakened by having children. But fear not! By doing some simple, regular exercise you will be able to strengthen them, whether you have already given birth or not. Not only will these exercises help your bladder control, they may also increase the pleasure of having sex – so get started! If you have stitches during childbirth these exercises will also help blood flow to the area to aid the healing process.
While doing any pelvic floor exercises, put your hands on your belly and buttocks to make sure you can’t feel your belly, thighs, or buttocks moving (unless exercise specifies otherwise). Breathe normally and relax all other muscles. Don’t squeeze your knees together or tense any other part of your body.
A quick way of finding the right muscles is by trying to stop the flow of urine when you’re in the toilet and the correct movement is an upward and inward contraction. Don’t make a habit of this though as it is not good for you!
Try to do pelvic floor exercises 5-7 times a week (or more often if you can!) Make it easy for yourself – at work, on the bus or sitting watching TV. Here are a couple of ideas. Aim for 50 a day.
1. Slow contractions
Pull in pelvic floor muscles. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times. This may be hard to start with but try to build up to 10 seconds.
2. Medium contractions
Pull in pelvic floor muscles. Hold for 2-3 second (as tight as possible) and release, do this 10 times. Repeat 3 times. This may be hard to start with but try to build up to 10 repetitions.
3. Fast contractions
Pull in pelvic floor muscles. Hold for 1 second (as tight as possible) and release, do this 10 times. This is like switching a light switch on and off. Repeat 3 times.
It is quite common for the old botty to get quite big and saggy during pregnancy. Some of this may be due to healthy pregnancy weight gain, but sometimes is down to spending too much time just sitting on it!
Try doing bottom squeezes – clench your bum cheeks really tight, hold for a couple of seconds, then release – as often as you can to keep those bum muscles awake and pert.
Aim for 50 a day.