Many women continue to perform planks while pregnant. And I often get a lot of questions from our PregActive mamas with regards to planking during pregnancy so I want to share my thoughts and advice with you. As you will see, I am not a big fan and here's why.
When performing planks during pregnancy, you run the risk of injuring your back due to the strain the baby's weight can put on your body. Not to mention, there is a lot of strain place upon your back even if you're not pregnant.
When pregnant, you will be experiencing a wide range of body changes. Some are just inconvenient, while some significantly impact on your health and daily functioning.
Let's not create additional unwanted issues by performing planks!
Toned, perfect abs. And when we think abs, we think planks and crunches. Right?
Well, I'm here to tell you otherwise.
Because when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum, planks and crunches are not your friends. And to be honest, they are your abs worst enemies.
You see, your abs (your six pack muscle in particular), gets stretched because of your growing baby.
So then, if you put unnecessary pressure - and you don't regulate it through correct core activation - then you end up with abdominal separation. Aka #diastasisrecti
Diastasis Recti of the Abdominis Muscles (#DRAM) is basically where the linea alba (the connective tissue that keeps the rectus abdominis connected) thins and widens.
Now, it's not as scary as it seems.
It's not your abs breaking.
But, it's certainly not something you want to ignore. Because if you don't acknowledge it and help correct it postpartum, you can end up with:
1. Protruding belly
2. Loose droopy skin around your belly button
There's no need for this to affect you and your body confidence.
There are ways to recovery (and even in pregnancy to reduce it worsening), and it's exactly why I'm here.
Don't be ashamed of your beautiful belly postpartum.
And don't suffer through back ache and forever feeling bloated.
Let's modify where we need to, let’s progress your strength the right way and let's get you feeling fab.
So these plank modification are in order, and make sure you master them in that order. No skipping ahead, it doesn't work that way.
1. All fours
2. All fours with arm extension
3. All fours with arm and leg extension
4. Bear holds
5. Bear holds with toe tap
6. Bear holds with leg extension
7. Kneeling plank
Remember it's all about the right core connection, which is exactly what I teach you in my Online PregActive Studio.
Related: Let me show you how to get pregnancy fit with these FREE videos >
Core training is one of the most important things you can do for your health during pregnancy.
Having a strong core can help relieve back and pelvic pain. It will help you as you enter your third trimester and prepare for childbirth. It can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. It is also beneficial as you enter postpartum recovery.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there on planking during pregnancy.
As a result, too many pregnant women are sustaining unnecessary back injuries as a result of poor advice regarding their prenatal workouts.
When pregnant, your abdominal muscles will go through a lot of stretching to accommodate your growing baby. So, can you do anything to keep them in shape and speed recovery after childbirth?
Yes, you can but planking is not recommended. Well, some people online do, but after teaching prenatal exercise classes for ten years I know what works and which exercises should be avoided. And planking is never an exercise I endorse whether you are pregnant or not.
Exercising your abs during pregnancy has lots of benefits, including reduced risk for back pain and potentially even a speedier labor. So each week I include guided, but safe, core exercises into your workouts.
Unless your doctor has restricted how or when you exercise during pregnancy, most abdominal exercises, with some modifications and exceptions (planking), are safe in early pregnancy.
What you first notice is your baby bump. Then you will likely notice an accentuated ridge that runs from the bottom of the breast bone down the middle of the belly which is called diastasis recti.
It sometimes widens by a few centimeters as your baby grows and puts tension on the area. Women who are carrying multiples or have already been through several pregnancies are particularly prone to separation.
Yes with your doctor's approval, it's safe to exercise your abs throughout each week of your pregnancy with the proper modifications. And that is the key point here - modifications!
The way you exercise in your first trimester is not how you exercise in the third trimester.
Strengthening your abs during pregnancy supports your pelvic organs as your baby bump grows. Strong abs can also alleviate pressure on your back and support proper posture to help prevent pregnancy back pain. A strong core will help you during childbirth and encourage a speedier recovery after childbirth.
There are lots, which is why your best option is to follow a guided prenatal exercise routine that has been created by a prenatal exercise specialist.
You need to avoid full sit-ups and double leg lifts as they put more pressure and pull on the abdomen. And also avoid moves that involve contortions or bending over backward.
After you've reached the end of your first trimester, avoid doing any exercises (like crunches) while lying face-up on your back.
You will likely experience ab separation. If you do have a abdominal separation in your ab muscles, it can take many months after delivery for this opening to close.
Learn more about diastasis recti and ab separation here >
If you are extremely fit, and already have a very strong core, then most people don't have a problem with planks.
But if your pregnant, or if you lack core strength, then it will be your back that burdens a lot of the weight. Quite simply, there are many other safe core strengthening exercises you can do instead of a plank.
Side planks are safer when your belly is really starting to pop, plus they're a great way to work your obliques.
Holding your abs in tightly can create issues in your core.
It can negatively affect how you breathe by not allowing your lungs and diaphragm to fully expand and contract.
This may also apply added pressure downward onto your pelvic floor. It can also cause tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck.
When you're holding your belly in tightly for long periods of time, the pressure is displaced above and below.
For many pregnant women late in their second and third trimesters, front planks can feel uncomfortable.
You see, while in a front plank, you will start to feel like your belly is unsupported. Like it's hanging down and out.
You may also feel a pulling sensation on the abdominals.
When in this face-down position, the weight of the baby, extra fluid, and your internal organs create a lot of extra stress on the front side of the abdominal wall.
This position can exacerbate that abdominal separation.
Planks can cause excessive intra-adominal pressure, which can cause damage and strain to the deep core, including your pelvic floor.
Please avoid movements like planking during pregnancy. Your pregnancy is only temporary but the damage can be long term.
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