The Key to Safe Ab Workouts during Pregnancy

Did you know that we have 4 layers of our abdominals? All these layers are a part of our core along with other muscles like our pelvic floor, paraspinals, psoas, multifidi etc. Pregnancy safe abdominal exercises include those that work our deeper abdominal muscles.

This is important because when you are pregnant or newly postpartum, it means that some abdominal exercises can be great for you but others, not so much.

Top Layer: Rectis Abdominis

The top layer is our “Rectis Abdominis” commonly thought of as the “6 pack muscle”. Exercises that target these include crunches or sit ups. We want to avoid these during pregnancy because of the additional pressure they put on the tissue thats in between the abs called the linea alba. This can worsen Diastasis Recti. This is also the reason why you want to roll to your side first, instead of sitting straight up, when you get up from a reclined position.

External and Internal Obliques

The next two layers are our External and Internal Obliques. They both help us to side-bend, rotate and twist. 

Our external obliques help to narrow the angle of our ribcage. If they are overly dominant and you are not balancing them out with your internal obliques, they can create the appearance of a “lower belly pooch” or worsen pelvic floor issues. 

Our internal obliques help to widen our ribcage. They also work with the deepest later, our transverse abdominals, to help with spinal stability. 

We can safely strengthen our obliques through exercises like modified side planks, bear hover rotation and pallof press with rotation. They are also important for “resisting movement”. For example, say you twist to the side as you put down a heavy box or you are at an awkward angle trying to get your toddler into a car seat, they help protect your back during that rotation. 

Deep Core: Transverse Abdominis

Finally, we have our deepest layer, our Transverse Abdominis or our “Deep Core”. We absolutely DO want to strengthen these during pregnancy. They wrap around from the front to the back of our body and connect to our pelvic floor in the front.

They are important for supporting our pelvic organs, alleviating pressure on our back and aiding with birth and recovery. Exercises include bridge with a mini ball, deadbugs, bird dogs, bear hovers, pallof press. 

To activate your TVA in these poses, exhale out of your mouth like you are blowing up a ballon while you think of “hugging and lifting your baby” up and in towards your body. 

Examples of Exercises

Check out this reel HERE to see some examples of these exercises. 

I hope this helped clear up confusion about which ab exercises are helpful to do during pregnancy/newly postpartum and which ones you may want to avoid for now.

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