Today, I thought I’d touch on the issue of unsafe abdominal exercises to perform after birth. So many new mums ask me “When can I perform (insert exercise name)?”, and often my response ranges from “Never!” to “Once you’ve regained strength back in your abdominals again!”.
I’ve selected 3 of the worst abdominal exercises/body movements which postnatal women often ask me if they can perform after birth, so I hope this article makes good reading.
I must reiterate that if you are suffering with any of the following conditions listed below, then NONE of the “3 worst abdominals exercises” mentioned further on, should ever make it on to your exercise list:
Please do not perform any of these popular exercises if:
a) You have a pelvic floor dysfunction
b) Your core is weak
c) You have an abdominal separation of wider than 2 finger widths
d) You did not perform any core/Pilates-based exercise during or prior to pregnancy
If you’d like to know what exercises ARE safe for you to perform if any of the above applies to you, have a read of this post here: “What exercises should be performed if abdominal separation is present?”.
Now, next to each of the “3 worst abdominal exercises”, in brackets, you’ll notice I’ve listed either:
a) the category the exercise falls in to, or
b) the body action that the exercise itself involves, which I’m hoping will help you distinguish what other types of activities and/or movements are also unsuitable for postnatal women to perform straight after birth.
SIT UPS (RESISTED FORWARD FLEXION)
Resisted forward flexion eg a sit up is possibly one of the worst exercises you could perform postnatally, hence the reason it’s at the top of the list. Performing a sit up with a pelvic floor dysfunction/abdominal separation and/or limited strength in your core actually does 2 things:
a) it puts a considerable amount of intra-abdominal pressure on your pelvic floor and,
b) makes any separation in your abdominals worse eg it widens the gap that’s already in existence.
THE PLANK (HIGH-INTENSITY)
The Plank is a particularly popular exercise, performed in many group exercise classes, and therefore, I’ve entered it at number 2 on my “worst abdominal exercises” list. Clients will argue that it works the core muscles. Yes, indeed it does, but if your core/pelvic floor are weak (which they will be post-birth), similarly to the traditional sit up above, it puts tremendous pressure on these muscles.
If, during any exercise, your abdominals resemble a loaf of bread/poke out or “dome”, the exercise is unsafe. Performing The Plank will do this, I’m afraid. Any abdominal separation will become worsened, your pelvic floor will be put under immense pressure and other “cheating” muscles eg NOT your core, will kick in to try and stabilise you.
OBLIQUE CURLS (RESISTED ROTATION)
An oblique curl is where you lie on your back, legs bent, hands behind your head and you then lift up into a sit up, and the twist the waist, eg your right elbow travels across to your left knee. This is a rotational movement, and any twisting action which uses resistance eg your body weight in this case, is a no-no for postnatal women.
Why? Well, your oblique muscles at the side of your waist are actually attached to your six-pack muscle which runs vertically down your stomach. If you have an abdominal separation and you perform this exercise, your oblique muscles will then pull your six-pack muscle further apart.
The movement also involves forward flexion eg a sit up which as you’ve already read about, puts an awful lot of pressure on your pelvic floor and has no focus on your “core”.
Want to learn more about postnatal exercise?
Check out my Postnatal Pilates Worksheets, Your Pelvic Matters Exercise Class if your pelvic floor isn’t as strong as it was pre-pregnancy, and/or my indoor buggy workout Mummies and Buggies fitness classes.