Postnatal core exercise, core strength, ‘Fire the Core’ (a favourite Pilates phrase), ‘deep’ abdominal muscles… Yada Yada. You are forgiven for being confused and/or wondering why you should care.
What’s the difference between ‘core exercise’ and Pilates? Is there a difference, or is it a fancy name for the same thing? Well yes there is, but yes it sort of is… and sort of not. Clear now? Great. I’ll move on.
WHAT IS YOUR CORE?
Your ‘core’ is made up of 4 muscles (or groups of muscles). They are: Your Pelvic Floor muscles (at the bottom); Your Transverse Abdominus muscle (around the sides and at the front); Your Diaphragm (at the top); Your Lumbar Multifidus muscles (at the back)
All of these muscles are ‘deep’ muscles, which means there are other muscles (like your obliques and the ‘six pack’ muscle) that sit on top of them. You can’t see them (however buff you get), and their main function is stabilization. This means that they do not move your body in the sense that contracting your bicep muscle makes your arm bend at the elbow joint, or that contracting your rectus abdominus muscle or ‘six pack’ makes you bend forwards or crunch.
They are ‘anticipatory’ muscles, which mean that your body switches them on automatically prior to movement, to stabilize your trunk, supporting your spine as you move and protecting your back. And they’re all attached in some way to each other, so when one (such as your pelvic floor) switches on correctly, then so does another (your transverse).
SO IF THEY’RE AUTOMATIC, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Well, sometimes the automatic button kinda malfunctions. Unsurprisingly, pregnancy and childbirth takes a toll on the strength and the alignment of all the muscles of your midsection. They are stretched and weakened. They are subjected to heavy loads as your bump grows and your alignment, your posture and centre of gravity shifts. If a diastasis occurs in the rectus abodminus muscles on top, they take the transverse muscle with them, creating a lack of stability at the front. Muscles are not cut during a Caesarian section, but nerve pathways are, which means that you lose sensation and the ‘connection’ to them. A vaginal birth results in at least some (occasionally severe) trauma to the pelvic floor muscles, again temporarily cutting nerve pathways or tearing muscle fibres which need to repair. Your pelvic floor is stretched and weakened by postural changes and the weight of your growing uterus, regardless of how you give birth.
That’s a lot of reasons why everything may NOT be happening quite as *automatically* as Mother Nature intended.
So we need to switch our core back on, the first stage of which is to find our core. Like I said – it used to happen automatically, and now it doesn’t (or not very well), so we’re trying to feel something we can’t see working and that we haven’t had to consciously think about before. MUTU System takes you step by step through some very specific exercises to restore your core over a 12 week period (it may not even take that long if you do it right!).
But then you move on. The most important thing MUTU System programs teach you is how to incorporate these muscles into EVERY movement you make, without even thinking about it. Not only into every exercise you perform in the fat-dropping, toned-backside-producing interval training workouts … BUT ALSO into every time you pick up your child, your laundry or a car seat, every time you change a baby, feed a baby, grab an escaping toddler or turn around to yell in the car… It teaches your body how to make these muscles work *automatically* again.
Every time you move your body, you’re doing a ‘core exercise’ (or at least, you should be). Exercises performed lying still on on your back whilst breathing deeply, are FUNDAMENTAL to rediscovering your core when you’ve lost it, but are NOT in my opinion, necessary to do ad infinitum once you’ve found it.
Every single day, most healthy mums will squat, balance, lunge, push, pull, rotate and bend. All these movements need your core. You don’t have to be lying on your back in Pilates class to use it. Better to find those muscles and MOVE! Which might just have a rather nice effect on your waistline too…