How To Activate The Deep Core & Pelvic Floor

Happy Monday!! I have been wanting to post about this topic for a while because it is a HUGE part of exercising during pregnancy and postpartum, if not THE most important part. Activating and connecting the deep core and pelvic floor muscles is essential, because if you don’t know how to activate those muscles, how do you plan on strengthening them? It seems like a stupid question when phrased like that, but it’s so easy to just go through exercises without properly thinking about what you’re doing. I know I've done that before!

I often get asked, “should I feel a burn while doing pelvic floor exercises”, and “it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything, am I doing it right?”, and “should I breathe a certain way while doing these exercises?”. The answers are 1) no, you should not feel a burn, but you should feel a connection. 2) You may not be doing it correctly. You won’t get breathless or feel muscle fatigue, but again, you should feel a connection, and 3) YES! You should absolutely breath a certain way! The information below should answer these questions a little further, and hopefully help you effectively work the pelvic floor and reap the many benefits that it brings!

***I plan on posting a video to demonstrate this, but HERE is an amazing video of a 39 week pregnant woman properly activating her deep core.

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WHAT IS THE DEEP CORE:

All of the deep core muscles function together, and everything is connected. EVERYTHING! The main muscles to know are:

Pelvic Floor: This is a hammock of muscles that connect the pubis bone at the front to the tailbone. The pelvic floor supports the bladder, reproductive organs, and bowel and forms a figure 8 around the urethra, vagina and rectum. They also work with the multifidus and transversus abdominis to stabilize the spine, pelvic joints, bladder and uterus properly.

Transversus abdominis (TVA): This is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis. It acts as a corset that holds everything together.

Internal Obliques: This muscle is a little closer to the skin than the transverses abdominis, and supports the abdominal wall.

Multifidus: This muscle is located around the back of the spine, and functions together with the transversus abdominis & pelvic floor muscles to stabilize the low back and pelvis.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT:

Strengthening the deep core muscles through movement and exercise improves overall strength, energy, decreases low back pain, hip pain, neck pain, and incontinence, minimizes diastasis recti and prolapse, and sets her up for potentially easier, and quicker labour and recovery– all while decreasing the chances of an emergency c-section.

Most women struggle with at least one of these issues, if not many of them, and properly activating and strengthening these muscles during and after pregnancy can help minimize, and sometimes even prevent these problem. That’s huge!!

STEPS TO CONNECTING DEEP CORE MUSCLES:

1. Relax the deep core muscles on the inhale. You should feel a heaviness, and a pressing down sensation. If it helps, it’s the same type of relaxation you make while urinating. If you are unsure what it should feel like, trying sitting on a stability ball. You can actually feel the relaxing of the deep core and pelvic floor muscles this way!

2. Exhale to initiate light contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. This is a LIGHT contraction. You don’t want to grip the muscles, or strain in any way. Particularly make sure you aren’t contracting the glutes. Imagine you are lifting the muscles all the way to the top of your head, and really focus on lengthening. **Tips on how to lightly contract are below!

3. Once you have contracted the pelvic floor muscles, move into the exercise. This is why each exercise should always be done slowly and intentionally. Breath out and relax the muscles - then inhale, connect the deep core and pelvic floor muscles, and do another rep.

4. You want to breath diaphragmatically breathe throughout each exercise by inhaling out to the sides and back of her ribcage, and then exhaling as you lightly contract the pelvic floor. Feel the lengthening as stated above while also adding a light wrapping “down and around” of her lower ribcage. **I will do a separate post about this later.

TIPS FOR ACTIVATING DEEP CORE & PELVIC FLOOR:

This sounds incredibly confusing at first, and honestly feels very foreign. It can also be mentally draining too because it’s a lot to think about while also trying to exercise. I get it! The best thing to do is practice this before exercising. Take a few minutes to work on feeling these muscles and activating them. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at sensing them, and the easier it will become. Practice, practice, practice!

The most difficult part is figuring out how to lightly contract those muscles, especially if you’ve just learned you even have a pelvic floor!

  1. When making that light contraction, think about lifting up a wet towel from the corners. You want to pull the muscles together, and then up. Imagine you are lightly zipping up the pelvic floor, and really think about lifting up the way to the top of the head. That lengthening is key!

  2. Avoiding sucking the belly to spine. This is a VERY common tip I see on Instagram, but it restricts deep core activation and proper breathing. It also puts force on the pelvic floor and hinders posture.

  3. Lengthen tall through the torso and top of the head to positively affect posture and deep core strength. This also stimulates connective tissue which wraps around all of the muscles, and is what brings the abdominals back together.

Pelvic Floor Workout

Happy Monday!! I post a lot of pelvic floor workouts on my Instagram, but I wanted to post a little workout, along with some images, on my blog today!

These exercises help build new connective tissue, which is crucial for a strong pelvic floor and deep core. They rebuild the connective tissue between the abdominals, and bring them back together (or minimize the separation during pregnant). They are SUPER important if you have diastasic recti. They also reduce lower back pain, hip pain, and neck pain during and after pregnancy. They minimize incontinence which is the most common postpartum issue. They help the body recover better after delivery, and actually help you during delivery! Needless to say, pelvic floor work is very, very important and very beneficial!

***please excuse my very serious face in these pictures haha. They were taken for a project and the images are much, much smaller haha *face palm*.

PELVIC FLOOR WORKOUT - repeat 3-4x

  1. Glute bridge marching x 24-30

  2. Reverse plank heel slides x 16-20

  3. Zippers x 24-30

  4. Stability ball wall squats x 10-12

  5. Stability ball hips thrust x 10-15

GLUTE BRIDGE MARCHING

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REVERSE PLANK HEEL SLIDES

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ZIPPERS

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STABILITY BALL WALL SQUATS

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STABILITY BALL HIP THRUSTS

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Friday Favourites

Another Monday where I share "Friday Favourites" because I forgot to post it last Friday. It's hard to say if I'll ever get my act together. Oh well. Happy Monday!! Here's to a new day, a new week, and a fresh start.

THE DOTTI SHOP

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I got a couple of outfits from the DOTTI. Shop, and they are DARLING! I can't stop squeezing Piper and taking pictures of her in them because they are soooo so cute. I got this Louise Shimmer Pearl dress that Piper is wearing (it's on sale right now!) and the Blake Matching Set from the spring line which is SO cute! I got a size 2, but it was actually a bit too small for Piper, and it accidently got washed before I could exchange it. I'd learn from my mistake and properly check the size chart before ordering! They're all so cute and perfect for summer. You can use BECKY20 for 20% off your order too!

BUMBO

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I use Jack's bumbo multiple times every day. He started sitting in it around 3/4 months, when he was totally able to hold up his own head. I feed him in either his bumbo or the high chair, and he honestly just likes chilling in there. He loves seeing what's going on, and it's nice being able to keep my eye on him while I cook meals, and while we eat our breakfast/lunches. I know it's so well known already, but if you haven't heard of them yet, I love mine and highly recommend it!

INSTANT POT

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I finally got an instant pot for Christmas, after hearing everyone rave about it, and let me tell you...THE HYPE IS REAL. Especially if you are a mother. Holy moly. I can make a full blown dinner in record speed (20 minutes in the instant pot vs. 4 hours in the crockpot), and you can steam or sauce veggies, make hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, and so many other things I haven't even figured out yet. It can also be used as a rice cooker or crockpot! It's totally worth it, and everything I have tried has turned out perfect! This sounds like an ad haha, which it isn't. It should be though, because I think I'm doing an awesome job at selling it. Really though, my instant pot has been a life changing for pulling together quick meals.

LOWER BODY WORKOUT

I've been really into this type of set up for my workouts lately, because it does such a good job at getting in a good sweat without requiring a lot of time. This is the lower body workout I did at home last week, and I loved it!

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I bought this charcoal face mask for my mum a couple of months ago, but really it was a present for myself because I love it and use it all the time! She's so lucky to have me living with her again. I've brought up self care a few times on here over these past few months, but it means more to me now than ever, and is something I think is so important in general. With two little ones, I'm not able to put myself first 99.9% of the time, but doing little things to show myself some love helps me stay positive and feel like I can handle difficult situations. This mask feels amazing, and it does a great job at cleansing and getting rid of the toxins in my skin. Just a simple self care product I like incorporating once a week!

Friday Favourites

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I've been working on eating more natural foods, and finding the best sources to put into my body. I still have a ways to go, but I've also been trying to find and use better natural products that I put ON my body. Deodorant was the first one I looked into because, since it goes on the armpit, it is absorbed and goes right into the body's system. Most deodorants contain chemicals and aluminum, which have been directly linked to breast cancer and Alzheimers disease. I've tried a few different brands, but Schmidt's Naturals is my favourite! I got it on Amazon, and it works great! 

COLLAGEN PEPTIDES

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I started using collagen peptides in my diet while I was breastfeeding Piper, and I've been using it ever since! There are TONS of benefits to using collagen (an in-depth list can be found HERE), and is something I use every day in either my post workout protein shakes, energy balls, pancakes, oatmeal, and even lemon water (it's unflavoured, so you can't taste it). The two brands I love are Collagen For Her and Vital Proteins.

**It's recommended to run any product by your OWN doctor if you are pregnant or nursing. I, personally, used it while pregnant and while breastfeeding both babies. 

MADE BY MARY

 Jack's eyes are a little inflamed from his eczema. It still flares up from time to time, but it's SO much better!

Jack's eyes are a little inflamed from his eczema. It still flares up from time to time, but it's SO much better!

I have a necklace with just Piper's name on it, but I have been looking for a different one for both kids. I decided to get THIS necklace from Made By Mary, that says "piper + jack". It is beautiful and I have taken it off since it arrived. I also got THIS necklace that says "mama", and THIS bracelet. I love, love, love all of the pieces, and they mean so much to me. 

NURSING DRESS

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I bought this dress from Roolee a couple of months ago, and it has been perfect! I love dresses in the summer but, unless there are buttons at the top, they're a bit tricky to wear when breastfeeding. This dress has little zippers on the sides (that are hidden in the seam), so it's easy to nurse! They have tons of nursing friendly dresses, that are also cute and don't look so "mum-ish", if you know what I mean. 

PRE-WORKOUT

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I first tried out THIS pre-workout  a couple of months ago, and I surprisingly really like it! I tried pre-workout once before, awhile ago, and hated it because it made me so jittery and want to scratch my face off. They have other products, but I love the all-natural one. You can take it like a pixie stick, or mix it with water and drink 15 minutes before your workout. It has helped me push myself a lot more (I generally feel pretty motivated to workout, but I've noticed I get a lot more out of my workouts when I use this). I am breastfeeding, and my doctor is fine with me taking this. It has 100mg of caffeine, and is the only caffeine source I consume. As always, please do your own research and consult your doctor if you are nursing.

Week Of Workouts

Happy Monday!! I maybe got 3 hours of sleep last night thanks to the lovely Piper and Jack. If I drank coffee, I’d most likely be on my 10th cup already. I have so much to do today, and was planning on getting in a leg workout during nap time, but...well we’ll just see about that. 

I wanted to share last weeks workouts, and start doing it regularly from now on. I log in all of my workouts HERE (I started from when I was 14 weeks pregnant), but I think it's nice to sometimes see specifics and get ideas from how other people workout. 

MONDAY: 

I worked out at home, during nap time, with a set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, and booty bands. It felt like such a good workout, and left me with the ole' noodle legs. 

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TUESDAY: 

Jordan has the kids for a couple of hours, so I headed to the gym and was planning on getting in a long, sweaty workout. A power yoga class was just starting when I got there, so I decided to do that instead since I figured it would be good to help my body deal with stress. 

WEDNESDAY:

Today was a rest day! I went on a long walk with the kids, but Piper was pushing her stroller - so it may have been long, but we didn't get too far. 

THURSDAY:

Jordan had the kids again for a couple of hours, so I headed to the gym and actually did get in a long workout this time. For the sprints, I run as fast as I can. They were killer, but felt so good. 

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FRIDAY:

I did this full body workout at home, during nap time again. I don't like doing HIIT workouts back-to-back, because it doesn't allow your body to properly reap the benefits and adapt, but since yesterday's HIIT wasn't very long, I didn't feel like I was pushing it. Again I used a set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, and booty bands, and it was a good workout!

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SATURDAY:

I did this workout at home at night, once I got the kids down to bed. I wasn't feeling it, and tried talking myself out of working out 100x, but I got changed, turned on Gilmore Girls, and got down to business. The hardest step is always just getting started. Once I begin, it's just a matter of going through the motions. Plus, Gilmore Girls is a great distraction.

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!! All of my sisters (I have 4) are flying into LA this weekend to hang out, and I'm so excited to see them! They're the best. 

It's been one hot minute since I've done a Friday Favourites post, so below are some of my absolute favourite things/products. I use all of them regularly, and want to share in hopes that it's helpful!

Have the best weekend!!!

NUK BOTTLE

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I went through A LOT (emphasis on the "LOT") of different types of bottles when Piper transitioned from using a baby bottle to a sippy cup, or a "toddler bottle", or whatever you want to call them haha. She just wouldn't take any of the big kid bottles/cups I bought for her. She would take a sip and then refuse to touch it again. I didn't know this was common until other mums messaged me on Instagram asking if I found a bottle that worked, because they were struggling with the same issue. Who knew haha. 

I seriously bought and tried about 8-10 bottles before finding these NUK bottlesThey are "learner cups", so they are designed to help transition away from a baby bottle. Piper drank from it immediately, and never looked back! I threw away all of our other ones, and bought 4 more. If you're struggling with this problem too, try out the NUK bottles. I got mine on Amazon, but I've seen them at Target, Buy Buy Baby...and pretty much any baby store!

COMOTOMO BOTTLE

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On the topic of bottles, I've been using Comotomo baby bottles with Jack, and he uses them with no issues at all! I'm still exclusively nursing, but I pump as well, and Jordan has occasionally feeds him my breastmilk if he wakes up while I'm at the store, or at our apartment gym or something. I love these bottles because they are designed to mimic breastfeeding, help avoid nipple confusion (Jack has done just fine switching between the two), reduce excess air-intake (which reduces colic), and they are 100% silicone. I'm a fan! I have two 5 ounce bottles, but they also have 8 ounces bottles as well!

SENITA ATHLETICS NURSING BRA

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Okay, I know I've talked about these a few times on Instagram already, but if you are a nursing mama and are looking for a GOOD nursing sports bra - I cannot recommend Senita Athletics nursing bras enough! Seriously. GET.ON.IT! They are cute, supportive, comfy, and the clip is so easy to clip on and off. I have the blush, and stripped one, but they have a couple of other styles too, along with nursing tops to pull over your bra, or workout in. I honestly can't say enough good things about them.

**I recommend ordering a size up from your regular non-nursing size! I am pretty small chested in general, so if you "grow" a lot while nursing, or are bigger chested, maybe even go up 2 sizes.

BLOOMING BATH

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First of all, can we talk about how I want to SPREAD JACK ON A FREAKING CRACKER AND EAT HIM ALIVE!!! I can't handle his tiny little body. He's too much. Second, and more to the point, this is the Blooming Bath and I loooove it! I used the PUJ with Piper, but I have to say that I prefer this brand more, and it's cheaper so...holla! It's this padded lotus that easily folds into any compartment (I bathe him in our bathroom sink), it's suuuuper soft and you just hang it up once you're done and it dries really fast. I love how cozy and supported he is in there! 

WORKING OUT AGAIN

Is it stupid to add being able to workout again as a favourite? Whatever. I'm doin' it. It's strange working out without a bump now. I have a much a wider range of movement, that's for sure, and I don't get so breathless after doing like 2 reps of an exercise haha. I wrote a post HERE about how to properly ease back into exercise postpartum, and I'm still paying close attention to my body and how it feels. Some days I get in awesome workouts, and other days my workouts are pretty "blah" and short, but I'm moving my body and figuring out a schedule that works for us! **I'm doing workouts that are all similar to the ones in my Postpartum Workouts and Pregnancy/Postpartum Workout Subscription!