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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.

How can I tone up my stomach after my C-section?

Hi,

Have you any ideas how I can tone up my stomach? I had a C-section 16 months ago and I cannot get rid of the fat. I can not go to the gym as I never get time. I do a lot of exercising from home I got the wii fit and some gym equipment but nothing is happening.

A.

Our expert says...

Hi,

The reason you will not be seeing results is because the exercise you have described, (i.e. Wii fit and gym equipment) is not specific enough to deal with the effects of a C-section and pregnancy generally. To retrain the muscles and develop tone in them after pregnancy requires very specific methods of which I have detailed below, the great news is that no equipment or gym is needed so you should be able to fit this in at home in your allocated training times very easily.

The following paragraphs have been taken from previous answers I have given regarding addressing the stomach after a C-section:

Following a C-section, a specific approach is necessary to help re-align the scar tissue and re-activate and strengthen the deep and superficial abdominal muscles. Both a C-section, or the more standard method of labour as well as the process of pregnancy itself, is very traumatic on the abdominal muscles and this is why without specific focus, it can be quite difficult to achieve a pre-pregnancy stomach. It is very achievable though!

This is what I would suggest to you:

1) 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 its great to do when your 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).

2) As well as the above, you need to be retraining the more superficial muscles of the abdominal area which will include the rectus abdominals ('six-pack' muscles) which is the muscle tissue that is cut into with a C-section. Due to the scar tissue present following your labour, the core exercises you do need to be performed at a slow, controlled pace, with a full range of motion, with conscious attention given totally to the abdominal area you are trying to strengthen.

A well executed basic floor crunch with your knees in a bent position would be an excellent way to start, doing 2-3sets of 15 repetitions. At the top of each crunch movement, (which wouldn't be a big movement and would not involve your lower back leaving the floor) pause and hold for 1 second while trying to consciously squeeze your abdominal muscles. The most important thing about this exercise is not the repetitions but that you REALLY feel the muscles waking up, working and tiring out!

Another good core exercise would be opposite arm and leg crunches. This exercise activates the lower, middle and the upper portion of the abdominals and so is a fantastic exercise for achieving an improvement in muscle tone. However, it is a test of co-ordination and should only be attempted if you are able to do the drawing-in-manoeuvre effectively.

Firstly, activate your core muscles using the drawing-in manoeuvre before you start the exercise. Your start position should resemble that of a 'dead fly' with you lying on your back with your legs and arms up in the air.

Legs can be slightly bent (relative to hamstring flexibility) but need to be at 90 degrees to the hips. If the legs are not brought in enough towards the centre of the body you can end up activating your lower back muscles which is not the aim of the exercise. Slowly take one arm and the opposite leg outwards away from the body and down to towards the floor.

IMPORTANT: the range of movement is determined by the individual's level of core strength so start SMALL!

Keep drawing-in as you lower your opposite arm and leg, you will reach a point that feels like clutch control on a car where, if you go any further, the activation may go into your back - DON'T go past this point!

Bring the limbs back to the middle and swap so the other arm and leg now follow the same pattern. The key to this exercise is keeping your core muscles doing the work and keeping the whole movement very slow and controlled! Aim to work up to 10-12 reps each side, with slow, controlled movement

You really want to do 1-3 core exercises that could be incorporated into a whole body approach training program, with an emphasis on targeting your core muscles through the entire workout, at the same time as working the other parts of the body. This structure would be ideal and would significantly enhance the strength and tone of your stomach!

It is difficult for me to provide detailed programs/exercises for specifics in written format, especially without even a visual aid, i.e. photos, though hopefully the aforementioned exercises will provide you a reasonable starting point.

What you really need is a 1-2-1 with fitness professional where you have visual, verbal cues and feedback on your technique, and to monitor the improvement of your C-section scar tissue. Therefore, long-term I would recommend that for optimum results you get support from a well-qualified fitness professional, (if they are level 3 with the Register of Exercise Professionals they are qualified in special populations including pre/post natal). You wouldn?t need many sessions and they work around your time and can visit you at home for your convenience.

Good luck

Kelly

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