“Mummy tummy.” Oh yes, us moms know all too well what this is. That pesky protruding belly that doesn’t seem to escape us postpartum. While we may associate this with “I just had a baby,” it’s important know the real reason behind this occurrence.
Most new mothers develop what’s called Diastasis Recti Abdominal Muscle (DRAM). This is the medical term for the abdominal muscles separating during pregnancy due to the fetus making his/her room to grow in the uterus. While few women luck out with minimal separation, the majority develop a 1-inch (or greater) abdominal gap.
Knowing if you have DRAM is important before returning to your normal training routine, to prevent further separation.
How To Check If You Potentially Have DRAM
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Put your 3 middle fingers vertically right above your belly button and press down gently.
- Lift up your head, tucking your chin towards your chest (keep your shoulders on the ground).
- If you feel a gap between the muscles that is wider than an inch (usually 2 finger widths), this could be a sign of DRAM.
Importance of Repairing DRAM
Strong core muscles are important in supporting our spine, which will improve posture and prevent injuries. It also aids in daily functions such as standing, walking, and carrying our babies, etc.! Most importantly, core muscles create a layer to protect our internal organs.
Many promote wear a waist trainer or corset as a viable way to tighten this area back up, but this can actually do more harm than good by preventing your core form working as it should during everyday activity. Instead of immediately jumping back into your regular ab workouts, first focus on some recovery-specific movements.
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Below I have provided a list of them, which to be honest, are not the most exciting. They require a great deal of concentration and controlled movement. These exercises are beneficial even to those who do not have muscle separation. They work the innermost layer of the abdominal muscles, called transverse abdominis. When this muscle is built strong, it helps cinch the waist giving that “corset tight” stomach. Strengthening this allows for better control and power in your lifts, and the perks of creating a slimmer waist!
When performing the exercises, it is crucial to draw in – not suck in – your stomach, navel to spine. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, draw your belly button in towards your spine. It is natural to feel the need to hold your breath, this is fine but as you become stronger, strive to breathe throughout.
Perform the below for a total of 3 rounds. Rest as needed.
- Lying stomach vacuum – 10-15 seconds hold, repeat for a total of 60 seconds
- Brace marching – 10 reps each side
- Heel slides – 10 reps each side
- Short-barbell (“broom stick”) trunk rotations – 15 reps
Making the mind-muscle connection to draw in your belly can be challenging at first, so be patient and perform these slowly and with great concentration. You may implement this core routine several times a week. After a few weeks of being consistent, you should see a noticeable change!
By Claudia Virgil, personal trainer and fit mom
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