When it comes to losing your mummy tummy, baby belly, pooch, muffin top or whichever is your preferred affectionate name for that extra belly fat. There are a number of areas of confusion on the best way to tackle it so let me help you by dispelling a few of those myths.
If you search YouTube and Google you will come up with the following: an exercise for diastasis recti which showed a pregnant woman doing oblique crunches; an eminent plastic surgeon stating categorically that a mummy tummy was caused by “muscle weakness that no amount of exercise will improve”; and a number of ‘postpartum exercises’ that involved lying flat on your back and crunching into a sit-up type movement.
PLEASE STOP RIGHT THERE! If you’re doing these things you are wasting your time and will not get flatter abs after having babies, even a long time after having babies.
So if you do want to get rid of that mummy tummy, let me tell you 4 Facts your doctor or fitness instructor won’t tell you…
1. Sit-ups or crunches (including oblique crunches where you twist as you raise your upper body) are NOT SUITABLE for any woman who has had a baby. The reasons why are covered extensively on this blog (they make a Diastasis Recti (or abdominal separation) worse and exert pressure in all the wrong places…). But it is important to understand that you are not ‘waiting for the gap ( diastasis recti) to close’, so that you can then do them. YOU NEVER NEED TO DO THEM! Crunches are absolutely, categorically, without question NOT THE BEST EXERCISES TO GET FLATTER ABS.
2. *Going through the motions* of Pilates-style or core exercises without ensuring that your tranvserse abdominus muscle is correctly engaged; or *just sitting* on a Fit Ball / Balance Ball now and again is not going to flatten your abs. It’s better than nothing, in the sense that your transverse muscle will need to ‘wake up’ a little. But Unless you consistently focus on correctly ENGAGING and WORKING your Transverse Abdominus… then whatever exercise you’re doing, isn’t working.
Note: whilst this will be a very conscious effort at first, it won’t always be so. Your weakened muscles simply need to re-learn what they are meant for!
3. Unless your pelvic floor muscles are integral to all your ab exercises, you won’t get a flat tummy. This applies if you had a c-section too!
Your ‘core’ is made up of: your transverse abdomnius, your diaphragm, the multifidus muscles of the spine and your pelvic floor. They are all connected and they all need to be strengthened following pregnancy and childbirth (regardless of the type of birth(s) you had). There is more to strengthening your pelvic floor than ‘squeezing as if you’re stopping yourself from urinating’.
Newsflash: there is more than one hole down there… eeekkk.
4. Except in the case of an excessive gap (or hernia) You DO NOT need surgery to repair a diastasis or abdominal separation. But also remember that surgery will not solve all your tummy problems. A tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty) fundamentally involves cutting away loose skin. It may also involve (“while you’re in there Doctor… ;)”) suturing the gap between the 2 halves of muscle, and maybe a bit of liposuction for good measure. You CAN strengthen your abdominal muscles and close a diastasis with corrective exercise – however long ago you had your babies and however weakened they might be. They’re MUSCLES. So you can strengthen them like any other. But you have to do it correctly, and in the right direction, if you want a flat tummy.
BIGGEST POINT OF THEM ALL… Diastasis Recti is not the only reason for your mummy tummy. Unless you tackle nutrition, digestive issues, correct your posture and core strength AND lose the flab that sits on top, don’t blame it all on the gap in your abs!