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Even if you decide to work at a lower intensity, pregnancy is a great time to develop an awareness of your deeper core muscles.
Interactions between the transverse abdominal muscle and low back pain were researched at the University of Queensland, Australia. The transverse should activate prior to movement to provide stability. Muscle tests showed that individuals without low back pain activate their transverse abdominal muscle before using the muscles needed for specific movement. People with back pain activate the transverse after the other muscles, thus compromising spinal stability.
Core activation may alleviate some of the back pain associated with pregnancy. Practicing your Kegels will activate another core stabilizer, the pelvic floor. Although many images are used to find these muscles, some women like to imagine it as a hammock drawing upwards. Try it now! Does your back feel straighter?
To find your transverse abdominal muscle, exhale. Upon exhalation, this muscle presses against your diaphragm to expel the air. Give it a try! Gently place your hand against your belly. First inhale. Now exhale. Notice how your belly pulls away from your hand? You can also activate your transverse abdominal muscle by gently drawing your abdominal muscle inwards. Think of “hugging your baby with your belly.”
During labor, your transverse abdominal muscle and pelvic floor will be active. Activating them at will, serves as a “dress rehearsal” for the big event. Using your breath to find the transverse abdominal muscle enhances strength training efficiency. And as your labor coach will tell you, breathing is important during labor.
Strength training coaches advise us to “exhale on exertion.” The exertion phase of a movement is called concentric contraction. The muscle shortens as it goes through the movement cycle. During this phase, exhaling on movement initiation enhances form. Inhale in preparation for the movement. Exhale as you move, “hugging the baby with your belly.”
The return phase of a strength training exercise is called eccentric contraction. The muscle lengthens with contraction. Maintaining good form during this phase doubles the exercise benefits. Practice your Kegels during eccentric movement. Inhale and return. Draw your pelvic floor up like a hammock.