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Importance of core strength & prenatal core training for pregnancy

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Pregnant woman laying down after exercising

Core strength is essential for not only a successful pregnancy and delivery but also for the recovery period after the birth of a baby. The ability to maintain core strength when pregnant should always be encouraged because your body goes through a lot of changes in preparation for the birth of your baby, and you begin to carry your weight differently.

What is the core?

According to Harvard, the core is a group of muscles that stabilises and controls the pelvis and spine (and therefore influences the legs and upper body). For the ordinary individual, this helps them preserve their ability to move on and off the floor to play with their children or grandkids, rise up from a chair, sit comfortably at a computer, or vacuum and rake without experiencing pain or discomfort. It encourages athletes to move more efficiently, hence reducing the risk of injury and increasing their overall performance levels. Strong or stable core muscles are important for preventing overuse injuries, increasing resilience, and easing the recovery process after acute injuries. Also included in this group are the pelvic floor muscles. It is possible to cure and prevent certain kinds of incontinence by maintaining a stable central nervous system.

that is responsible for maintaining your spine and torso, managing continence, and supporting your pelvic organs and reproductive organs. During pregnancy, these muscles are stretched, and the coordination between them is broken, which causes them to not work as well as they should. This results in typical pregnancy symptoms like urinary incontinence, back pain, and heaviness in the cervical and pelvic areas.

Increasing your core strength

Having strong abdominal muscles before falling pregnant can help mothers-to-be have fewer back issues, have an easier time pushing during childbirth, and have a quicker recovery after giving birth. Some women even claim that having a strong stomach and lower-back muscles before birth helps labour progress more quickly. A strong core is a key to achieving the winning trifecta of a pain-free back, easier labour, and a speedier postpartum recovery. Having a weak core will mean that the rest of your muscles and body will have to work harder to support your body weight, putting additional strain on them, often leading to muscle strains and back discomfort.

Good posture helps reduce pressure and strain on the spine and enables you to breathe more deeply, assisting oxygen to pass to your muscles more easily and allowing them to contract more effectively. Maintaining a strong core helps maintain proper body alignment, reduces back pain or discomfort, and can boost your overall workout output.

A true core-building exercise focuses on the abdominal muscles deep in the abdomen rather than the upper abdominis rectus muscles, which are primarily responsible for giving you six-pack abs and helping you bend forward.

Aesthetics aside, if you don’t strengthen the correct muscles, you could end up with a diastasis recti (abdominal separation), which occurs when the outermost abdominal muscles separate from the rest of the body. The condition might be noticeable only when the abdominal muscles are tense, such as when you move from lying down to sitting up. Diastasis recti can weaken the abdominal muscles, causing lower back pain and making it difficult to lift objects, including your newborn child, or do other routine daily activities. Diastasis commonly occurs when the rectus abdominis muscles (six-pack ab muscles) separate during pregnancy from being stretched. The separation can make a person’s belly stick out or bulge months or years postpartum.

People with diastasis recti are more likely to develop a hernia, incontinence, and have lower back pain. Sometimes, diastasis recti can improve on its own without the need for treatment, but it is possible to speed up the recovery with targeted abdominal muscle strengthening exercises.

How EMS training improves incontinence

“For most women after pregnancy, a high focus should be placed on strengthening the abdominals, pelvic floor and overall core muscles – with a high emphasis on correct form and posture in all exercises,” says the Head of the BODYTEC Training Academy, Michael Burbidge. “BODYTEC is a perfectly-suited training solution to achieve this, as every single exercise activates these muscle groups and in comparison to most conventional training methods, also activates deeper muscle tissues in the core area, which are generally more difficult to activate, without putting strain on other body parts.”

What can you do at home to get you moving in the first few weeks?
Michael recommends the following home exercises if you’ve had a natural birth:

1. Reverse bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees, feet about shoulder-width apart and arms crossed over your chest. Press your lower back into the ground to tilt your hips. Press the soles of your feet into the floor and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up off the ground.
Reps: Hold position for 30 – 60 seconds
Sets: 3

2. Leg cycling

Lie flat on your back and place your fingers on your ears. Contract your abdominals to push your lower back flat against the ground and lift your feet slightly off the ground. While keeping your lower back pressed down bend one knee to lift it towards your chin, cycle back and forth, extending one leg and flexing the other.
Reps: 7-10 for each leg (14-20 total)
Sets 3

3. Knee Squeeze

Take a pillow or a softball (two tennis balls work well too) and in the same position as a typical crunch, place the pillow or ball(s) between your knees. Slowly squeeze your knees together and release. Be sure to widen your knees to the space of at least two fists to avoid putting too much strain on your pelvic area.
Reps: 15

For more information on rapid body transformation after giving birth, chat with a BODYTEC EMS training expert by emailing us at info@bodytec.co.za or contacting one of our EMS studios directly.

You may also be interested in RESEARCH: Treating urinary incontinence with EMS Strength Training.

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