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.

IMG_5982.JPG

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

IMG_5983.JPG

REVERSE PLANK HEEL SLIDES

IMG_5984.JPG

ZIPPERS

IMG_5986.JPG

STABILITY BALL WALL SQUATS

IMG_5987.JPG

STABILITY BALL HIP THRUSTS

IMG_5988.JPG

Health-Related Christmas Gifts

I can't believe Christmas is ONE week away!! I've been so busy getting ready for Jack's arrival that it just snuck up on me. Luckily, I got most of my shopping done a few weeks ago and I'll be getting the last couple of things on Amazon (there's no way I'm braving the crowds with a toddler and a newborn). 

If you're still looking for ideas on what to ask for, or what to get someone, I've compiled a few items that I own and absolutely love! I use them all very frequently and are things I find helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

 

BIGGER GIFTS

 

SUDIO SWEDEN HEADPHONES - $84.15

sudio_regent_back-white-site.jpg

I can't recommend Sudio Sweden headphones enough! They are 110% worth the investment! I've had mine since the beginning of the year and they have never once fallen off during a workout (even when running, doing burpees, etc). They are SUPER comfy, they cancel out noise around you, and I'm going to be honest, they make me feel pretty cool when I wear them. They carry earbuds and headphones in different colours (I have the white headphones) and they honestly make my workouts more enjoyable because I'm more focused, and I don't have to worry about cords getting in the way or them falling off. I don't make commission off this (haha I wish I did though!!), but you can use "goodfortheswole" to get 15% off (they're originally $99)!

TRUFLASK - $39.99

WHT_64_Standard.jpg

A good water bottle that can hold a lot of water is a must, in my opinion. Drinking lots and lots of water is probably the very best thing you can do for your body! Having a water bottle with me at all times keeps me drinking throughout the day. I never, ever go anywhere without one. There are lots of different brands out there, but I personally like TruFlask because they keep your water cold for 24 hours (or hot for 12 hours), plus they come in all different sizes. I have the 64 oz bottle and love, love it! You can also swap the top if you want a straw, cap, etc.

GYM BAG - $44.95

7118DCIeohL._UX385_.jpg

I've had my Vooray gym bag for a long time now, and still absolutely love it! It has a separate side compartment for shoes, lots of compartments inside the bag, and isn't too big or bulky. I use it for day-to-day gym trips (for my keys, headphones, water, towel, and resistance bands), but also used it when I thought spin classes in the morning before work, and had to pack my work clothes along with stuff to get ready for the day. The bag always fit everything perfectly!

SENITA ATHLETICS

DSC04977_2_400x.jpg

I would say Senita Athletics is my favourite brand of workout clothes. I have tons of their stuff and every single piece has been awesome quality (no weird see-through nonsense) and is still in great condition. All their products are great prices too! I wore their workout leggings throughout my whole pregnancy, and when my belly got bigger, I just had them sit right under the bump. It worked great and they always felt super comfortable!

POLAR GLOBAL - $129.99

81OUPun30pL._SL1500_.jpg

I'm not a runner, so if you want something tailored specifically towards that, I would go with a different brand, but I love my Polar Global for everything else! It has the basics of everything you need to easily monitor your heart rate and tailor your workouts towards it. It does track your distance and pace when you go on a run, swim, and bike too! This brand is awesome, especially if you're new to tracking your heart rate! I have THIS one.

DUMBBELLS - $19.98

717GHIlue5L._SL1500_.jpg

If you want to/have to workout from home, I would HIGHLY recommend investing in a pair of dumbbells. It gives you SO many more exercise options, and you will get so much more out of the time you put in if you have some resistance to add. I have a set of 10lb dummbells and a 35lb kettlebell, and I use them for every.single.workout I do. Again, I strongly, strongly recommend getting some dumbbells if you workout from home, especially if you're a mum and are limited on options and time! 

STABILITY BALL - $13.99

51ZWYfGJ66L._SX425_.jpg

I wrote a whole post HERE about why I strongly recommend investing in a stability ball for pregnancy and postpartum. It is a great tool to SAFELY work the core during both of those stages. This ball on Amazon is a great deal!

FOAM ROLLER - $13.95

91JeUcE8ldL._SL1500_.jpg

Jordan bought me a foam roller a couple of years ago for Christmas, and we both still use it almost every day! It's been great for releasing tension in overactive muscles, releasing stress, and aiding in recovery. I always use it as part of my cool down. 

DAY DESIGNER - $59.00

I LOVE my Day Designer! I swear I would absolutely lose my mind without it. They have the cutest patterns but, more importantly, they have everything to keep me on track - a monthly calendar, a daily schedule, a place to plan meals for the day, prioritize your top 3 "to-do's" - it's the best! They also have free printables that you can use at first if you just want to try it out!

 

STOCKING STUFFERS

 

RESISTANCE BANDS - $10.95

81w44Y9-8KL._SL1500_.jpg

I'm sure there are fancier brands out there, but I bought this pack of 4 resistance bands on Amazon for $7.99 over a year ago, and they still work great (I can't find the exact same brand anymore, but THIS is pretty much what I got)! I always use them in my workouts, and always pack them when we travel because there are so many exercises you can do with them! I loved them during late pregnancy too because it was a way to add some resistance without a lot of impact. Highly recommend these!!

DRY BRUSH - $9.95

Dry+Brush+__+goodfortheswole.jpg

I included this in my last Friday Favourites post, and it's something I have grown to love! I dry brush in the mornings to wake myself up (it really does!), but it's great for stimulating the lymphatic system, exfoliating the skin, and increasing blood flow throughout the body. I use it because it feels so good afterwards! Such a simple (and beneficial) self-care practice.

COCOKIND MYMATCH STICK - $6.79

MyMatcha.jpg

I also included this in my last Friday Favourites post, but MyMatcha stick would make a great stocking stuffer! I use it under my eyes and on my lips and it works wonders!! My lips don't get dry afterwards, and it prevents puffiness and dark circles under my eyes (which let's face it, I definitely need now I'm not getting any sleep). 

HONEST HAZEL - $12 (pack of 3)

What+To+Pack+In+Your+Hospital+Bag+__+goodfortheswole.jpg

I mentioned Honest Hazel in my "What To Pack For The Hospital" post, but these are eye gels that refresh and revitalize the eyes. They're packed with collagen, aloe vera, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and arbutin. Just a little somethin, somethin to show yourself some love! 

QALO RING - $19.99

31hhM23xYNL._SY355_.jpg

I haven't worked out in an actual gym for a little bit, but I would always wear a Qalo ring instead of my wedding ring when I did go. Holding weights with my ring on is uncomfortable, plus I don't like damaging it. I also don't like NOT wearing a ring though, so Qalo silicone rings works perfectly! 

PROTEIN BARS

Favourite+Protein+Bars+__+goodfortheswole.jpg

Is this a lame one? Haha. I guess it depends how much you like food. I get freakishly excited over a new box of protein bars, so I know I would appreciate this little gift! I've mentioned my favourite ones a million times, but they are Square Organics (the crisp bars are INSANE and you can get 20% off any product with "goodfortheswole"), Perfect Bar (I wish I had a discount code for them!), and G2G Bar (use "theswole" for 20% off). Love the ingredients in these bars and the tastes!