I think one of the most surprising things after giving birth to my son was how long it took to get my stomach back in shape. You know that your stomach stretches (obviously) but I, like most people, thought it would shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size in no time. Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening and it took about a year. With the birth of my second child—this time via c-section—the awakening has been even ruder. I seem to have a permanent bulge and am eager to get rid of it in time for swimsuit season. However, I was confused on what I could and couldn’t do since I had a cesarean—I’ve heard you can’t do crunches, then I heard you could—I’m sure most moms can relate. So, Breezy Mama contacted personal trainer Katie Kohn to see what the real deal was. Listed below are some beginning exercises to get you in shape—although written for those who have given birth via c-section, Katie recommends starting with these for those who have given birth vaginally as well. —Alex
If you’ve had a cesarean birth, you shouldn’t start abdominal work until after about six weeks—when your stitches have fully healed and you have doctor’s clearance. You should also check to see if you have diastasis, which is a separation in the abs. If so, then you need to be careful about starting abdominal exercises because you want to allow time for the abdominal muscles to come back together. A good way to check for diastasis is by putting your fingers in between your abdominals horizontally about an inch above your belly button. If you can fit more than three fingers in between your muscles then you have diastasis and should proceed very slowly with abdominal exercises or talk to a doctor about this concern.
One important point to know is that there is no such thing as lower abs—you have one long muscle from your sternum to your pubis and unfortunately the lower section of the stomach is where we hold body fat. Women are always asking me, “How can I loose my poufy stomach?” My reply is not one they want to hear! You can’t spot reduce, meaning loose fat in this or that spot on your body. Genetically we hold fat in different places (i.e. pear shaped, apple shaped). In order to lose unwanted fat you need to combine cardiovascular training with resistance training and proper diet.
When working the abs for the first time after birth, you want to concentrate on doing isometric contractions. This means contracting the muscles without shortening or lengthening. In other words, you contract the muscles and then hold still. The first isometric contraction is a pelvic tilt. It may seem easy but it will start the strengthening process of your abdominals and target the lower portion of your rectus abdominus.
Note: The following two exercises are only to be done when exercises one and two become easy and your abdominals are feeling stronger. Exercises three and four are good starting points for people getting back to abdominal exercises after vaginal delivery. (However, if you had a vaginal delivery and this is the first time you’ve exercised, you need to start with exercises one and two.)
Written by Katie Kohn of Kohn Fitness.
Katie is a certified personal trainer and aerobic instructor. She currently trains clients and instructs for Baby Boot Camp in San Clemente, CA and Dana Point, CA. For information about personal training or Baby Boot Camp you can email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.babybootcamp.com
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