ABS AFTER BABY: 5 HEALING PILATES MOVES

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Whitney Port works with Pilates instructor Ali Handley after pregnancy to work on her post baby body

How have your abs changed & what do you need to do to repair them?

I’m the mom of two toddlers so I know how crazy life with little ones can be – the juggle is real. As a pilates instructor I know how important it is to correctly strengthen and prepare the body during pregnancy, safely reconnect and reactivate the body postpartum. I founded the online studio BodyLove Pilates as a dedicated space for strong mamas to be able to access workouts that are tailored to their exact condition, Prenatal, Postnatal and Beyond – anytime, anywhere.

Ali Handley doing pilates with childrenI met Whitney during her pregnancy and we are now working together during her busy postnatal period to address the reconnection of core and strengthen her for the challenges of being a new mom. The first and crucial step is to reactivate the core and ab separation that occurs during pregnancy.

So as if being a new mama didn’t throw enough challenges at you – now you have to navigate the process of healing your abs. You’re time starved, sleep deprived and the idea of getting into gym gear and working out almost laughable! As a mom I get it, but as Pilates instructor I want to educate you on how & when it is best to start repairing your core and make it super easy for you to do! (in your PJ’s)

Before we get started with the moves a few tips:

#1 You can begin these gentle core breathing exercises the day after you have given birth! The sooner you begin, the quicker you will progress.

#2 Belly band, Spanx – whatever sort of support wear you prefer wear it! Immediately & as much as you can bare. The core muscle we are targeting to repair your abs is called the Transverse Abdominus (TVA). This muscle actually looks like a corset – wrapping around your midsection. It cinches, lengthens and importantly pulls the separated abs closer together. By wearing support underwear you are effectively “faking it – til you make it”.

#3 Your Pelvic Floor is part of the core repair process – don’t ignore it or you will peeing in your pants every time you sneeze,cough you get the drift.

#4 Slow & steady wins the race – it’s not fair but there is no quick fix for reconnecting your abs. Consistency, patience and dedication to your progress is the only way.

#5 Learn how to assess your abs – Diastasis Recti refers to separation of the 6 pack layer of your abs & the stretching of the connective tissue that runs down the midline of the body called your linea alba. You need to learn how to assess how far apart your abs are so you can track your progress.

#6 NO CRUNCHES or PLANKS – please. This will only create a larger Diastasis. All in good time!

Learn more about Diastasis Recti – how to test & how to heal

THE  5 MOVES

Bellybutton to Spine

Ali Handley Pilates

SET-UP – Get seated comfortably in neutral – on a physioball, yoga block, household chair – just make sure your weight is evenly distributed on your sitting bones.

INSTRUCTIONS

INHALE – through your nose and allow your belly to fill up with air and your stomach muscles to completely relax.

EXHALE – a long, slow, even breath out your mouth as you imagine your TVA wrapping around your midsection, pulling your bellybutton in all the way to the spine, knitting the two sides of the abs together.

Rep – 20

TIP –  If you are having trouble feeling the wrapping sensation of the TVA – wrap a scarf around your midsection. As you exhale pull each side of the scarf away from the body. This process is called Splinting.

TVA Counting

Ali Handley Pilates

SET-UP – On All Fours – wrists under shoulders, knees & hips and spine & pelvis in neutral.

INSTRUCTIONS

INHALE – through your nose and allow your belly to fill up with air and your stomach muscles to completely relax down toward the ground

EXHALE – a long, slow, even breath out your mouth as you imagine your TVA wrapping around your midsection, pulling your bellybutton in all the way to the spine – keep your belly button on your spine and begin to count out loud. Start by counting to 10 and build to 25.

TIP – Make sure you are verbalizing the counting. The goal of this exercise is to be able to maintain belly button spine connection while you breathe. Holding your breath creates tension in the body and strain on the organs.

Bird- Dog

Ali Handley Pilates

Set up – All Fours position

INSTRUCTIONS

INHALE – through your nose and allow your belly to fill up with air and your stomach muscles to completely relax.

EXHALE – a long, slow, even breath out your mouth as you imagine your TVA wrapping around your midsection, pulling your bellybutton in all the way to the spine, knitting the two sides of the abs together, then reach your left arm and right leg out away from the body. Nothing in the spine should change.

INHALE – through your nose again and bring the arm and leg back to the start position.

EXHALE- out your mouth again and switch.

REPS – 8 each side

Pelvic Tilt

Ali Handley Pilates

SET-UP  – Lie on your back with your knees bent and find a neutral position of your pelvis by placing the heel of your hands on your hip bones and your middle fingers reaching toward your pubic bone. You want these three points to be in line with each other.

INSTRUCTIONS

INHALE – through your nose and feel your ribcage expand out and up to the sides.

EXHALE – a long, slow, breath out your mouth, feeling first your pelvic floor lift, next your TVA knits together and oblique and 6 pack also activating to hollow out your low abs and gently rock your pelvis back off your sitting bones – creating a small C shape between your bellybutton and pubic bone.

INHALE – again and gently rock back to the start position by lengthening the pubic bone way from the belly button.

Reps – 15

CHALLENGE – Maintain the pelvic tilt and add a head float. This is not a crunch, the range of motion is small. You must maintain the bellybutton to spine connection and pelvic tilt and on the next exhale you nod your chin and float the head and tops of the shoulders up. Reps 8

Bridging

Ali Handley Pilates

SET UP – On your back, pelvis & spine in neutral. Knees are bent, feet are parallel and in line with the sitting bones.

INHALE – through your nose  and prepare for the movement.

EXHALE  – out your mouth and first feel your pelvic floor lift, your belly button pull into your spine to gently tilt the pelvis back to connect ribs and hips. Maintain this connection and slowly articulate the spine as you peel the pelvis up.

INHALE – again through your nose and maintain the hip lift and deep core wrapping.

EXHALE – again out your mouth and slowly articulate the spine back down vertebrae by vertebrae..

REPS – 15

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