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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

Does core exercise help a weak pelvic floor?

Hi, After having 4 children I have a weak pelvic floor, I am doing the exercises recommended to strengthen this but I never know if I'm doing them right :( I have been doing some core training (with the total core workout machine) to help my flabby stomach also from having the children - are these muscles the same as the pelvic floor ones???? Are there any other exercises you can recommend???

A.

Our expert says...

Hi,

The core/abdominal muscles are comprised of two different systems (or groups of muscles): 1) the movement system (which includes the superficial ‘six pack’ and oblique muscles – that your core workout machine will target primarily) and 2) The stabilization system (or deep core muscles which includes the pelvic floor muscles). The best solution for you is to train both groups that make up the ‘core’ so your workout machine is beneficial and you simply need to incorporate some more exercises that are more specific to the deep transverse abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. Here is how to activate the deeper muscles:

- On a DAILY basis you need to be re-training your deepest abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals and pelvic floor) so practice the 'drawing-in manoeuvre' as often as you remember. You can do this anywhere (nobody will know!) and it is great to do when you are in a car or at a desk (i.e. any sedentary position), simply start by taking a breath in and as you do, draw your belly button in towards spine. You should feel a tension develop in your midriff (like you have put a belt on!), then as you breathe out, keep your belly button drawn towards your spine and breathe normally. Hold the tension for as long as you remember, although it will not be long to start with.

The more you practice this manoeuvre the more automatic it will become. By strengthening your TVA and retraining it to automatically activate and stay where it should, you can visibly reduce the size of your waist as well as protect your lumbar spine in the long-term (a common site of pain during and post-pregnancy).

An exercise called "the plank" is a fantastic exercise designed for core strength and incorporates shoulder stability and upper body strength. For the starting position, lie on your front and have your elbows underneath your shoulders and feet tucked under your ankles, then lift your body off the floor so only your forearms and knees and shins are on contact with the floor.

Concentrate on drawing your tummy in towards your spine against the pull of gravity. If you can do this and hold for 30seconds and prevent your lower back from activating and getting involved then your core strength is strong enough to try a full plank where you progress the hold by lifting the knees up so only your forearms and toes will be in contact with the floor. Aim to hold for as long as possible and do it 2-3 sets.

It is difficult for me to provide detailed programs/exercises for specifics in written format, especially without even a visual aid, i.e. photos, however, check out my "core exercises" article and the "lower body workout" on the resources page of the website as this contains details of the 'drawing in manoeuvre' and another exercise for you to work up to.

Hope this helps,

Kelly

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