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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Train Your Abs During Pregnancy (16 Weeks)

Consult your physician or obstetrician before you try any of the exercises I recommend below.

Abs, what abs? I don't see no stinking abs...anymore. Actually, I never used to be one of those women who was blessed with the ability to have 6 pack abs that other people could actually see, no matter how much I trained them. The only way I would have been able to show them off would have been to diet to the point of emaciation, which I was never prepared to do. Besides, I think other people like me better when I'm not irritable because I starved myself of carbohydrates for prolonged periods of time.

In spite of the lack of what was visible, I had really strong abs before I became pregnant. And shortly after I became pregnant, I still had strong abs. I trained them in the same way I had trained them pre-pregnancy, using many variations of crunches with equipment like the stability ball and bosu. These were intermediate-advanced types of exercises.

Over time, my belly has stretched as my baby grows inside me. Now, as I approach my fourth month, the advanced ab exercises have gone out the window, replaced by the good-old-regular crunch. Not that I planned it that way, but crunches have become enough of a challenge for my abs that I don't need to do all the fancy-dancy stuff I used to. This goes to show how important it is for you to listen to your body, especially as it changes during pregnancy.

The Benefits of Training your Abs During Pregnancy

Keeping your abs strong during pregnancy can help prevent the common occurrence of back pain as your growing belly puts more stress on your lower back. Strong abs also will help you push during delivery, as well as help to speed your recovery. 

The Not-So-Nice News: Diastasis Recti
"Diastasis what?" Yes ladies, there's something weird and wonderful that happens to your abs as your belly expands into the later months of pregnancy: they separate. This is known as Diastasis Recti, and while most women go though pregnancy without experiencing dramatic changes to their abs, about 45% of women get some degree of ab separation during pregnancy. 

Let me explain what actually happens. The muscle you are looking at when you see someone with a 6-pack on their tummies is called the Rectus Abdominus. This muscles is made up of two sections, one that runs from your ribs down past the left of your belly button, and one on that runs down the right side (see pic below). In the middle holding both sides together is a strip of tissue called the fascia. As your belly expands during pregnancy, this fascia stretches. The bigger you get, the more the fascia will stretch. This creates the appearance that your abs are separating. This is a painless condition, and it tends to happen to women who are overweight, have short torsos, or who've had multiple pregnancies.

I can't tell you how unimpressed I was to learn about the possibility of this happening to me. Although I am not overweight, nor have I had multiple pregnancies (yet), I have a short torso. I won't post any of the pics I saw of post-partum bellies showing separated abs, but suffice it to say it wasn't pretty. Yes, this is purely in an issue of vanity: Diastasis Recti is not a dangerous condition and will not cause you any pain. 

The best way I like to handle a problem is to see if I can do something about it. So I researched ways to minimize the chances that this could happen to me. I'm pleased to report, I found some light at the end of the tunnel.

Prevention and Treatment of Diastasis Recti
While there's no real way to completely prevent your abs from separating during pregnancy, there are ways you can reduce your chances of it happening. First, it's best to start out in good shape: having strong abs and a healthy weight is the first step.

Next, you need to change how you train your abs when you are pregnant and after you give birth. Most ab exercises you did before pregnancy like crunches and oblique crunches (your obliques are the muscles located to the sides of your rectus abdominus; also known as "love handles") focus on our external ab muscles (the ones directly below your skin). You need to change your focus to your inner ab muscle, the Transverse Abdominus (see pic below). Your Transverse Abodominus is your natural stomach girdle; it's the muscle that pulls in your bellybutton whenever you tighten your abs.

Ab Exercises to Do During Pregnancy
Until you reach your 2nd trimester, there's no need to stop doing crunches. In your second trimester onwards, you need to modify these exercises. I'm not going to re-invent the wheel here. There are plenty of great resources online that explain the kinds of ab exercises you can do while you're pregnant. Here are the ones that I liked:



  1. Good day! Did you somehow manage to execute all the options of your portal by yourself or you asked for some help?

  2. I obviously know very a lot referring to that crock. Is using that Vitax Extreme Fat Burn a puzzle for you? This takes blood and guts. It was rare craftsmanship. That needs some training.