This function has been disabled for postpartum-program.
The Transverse Abdominis (TA) is the innermost abdominal muscle that wraps cirumferentially around the belly and tightens like a belt or corset when it contracts. This is the muscle that holds everything in, and when working gives you a flat belly and defined waist.
Lying on the floor in neutral position (as shown), place your hands on your belly. As you breathe in through your nose, the belly rises, as you breathe out through your nose, the belly lowers. Repeat 10 times.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart, adjust your hips so you have a natural curve in your low back (enough you can slide your fingers under). Relax. Place your finger tips on the lower part of your abdomen just inside your hip bones.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart, adjust your hips so you have a natural curve in your low back (enough you can slide your fingers under). Relax. Place your finger tips on the lower part of your abdomen just inside your hip bones.as you breathe out contract the Transverse Abdominis then hold this contraction as you continue to take 3 breaths. (work up to holding for 5 breaths). Then relax.
1. Elevator - Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Relax – inhaling move the belly button away from the spine/floor 1 to 3 floors up.
b. Contract all abdominal muscles – exhaling move the belly button toward the spine/floor 1 to 3 floors
down – The last 2 floors you have contracted the TA and the obliques.
c. To isolate the TA, exhaling move the belly button toward the spine/floor only 1 floor down and hold
while breathing. Remember the TA is the first to contract. 2. Fog the Mirror – Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Inhale and relax the belly.
b. Exhale and “fog the mirror” pulling in the lower belly toward the spine/floor. 3. Skinny Jeans – Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Inhale and relax the belly.
b. Exhale draw the lower belly inwards like your trying to button up a pair snug fitting jeans. 4. Draw a line – Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Inhale and relax the belly.
b. Draw a line from the belly button down to the pubic bone. Exhale and draw the lower belly inward as
you shorten the length of that line. 5. Close a book – Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Inhale and relax the belly.
b. “Imagine a line that connects the inside of your two pelvic bones (front of hips). Think about
connecting along this line as if closing two book covers.” (Lee).
Transition your exercises to sitting, standing, walking and more movements. Remember core system activation and correct alignment go hand in hand. They work together to help you feel, move and perform your best, day-in and day-out. They work together to help you feel, move and perform your best, day-in and day-out.
Mastering the co-contraction: After you have successfully isolated the Pelvic Floor. Start performing your exercises to include the TA as well. Breathe in, Relax both muscle groups. Breathe out contract both muscle groups and lift the pelvic floor. Then hold as you continue to breathe doing both Fast (2 seconds) and Slow (5 to 10 seconds) holds.
The Pelvic Floor (PF) is a system of muscles that
interweave in a network surrounding the urethra, vagina
and anus. Pelvic floor muscles can become deactivated with childbirth either directly through
stretching or injury during delivery or indirectly through deactivation of the transverse abdominis
with a c-section or rectus diastasis. Pelvic floor exercises are done correctly when the muscles
both in front and behind the vagina are tightened like closing a drawstring bag and lifted upward
and forward toward your belly button; Over-activation of outer muscles, straining, holding your
breath and poor alignment all counteract a correct
contraction. You can avoid mistakes by using the following
Learn to find balance between strengthening the pelvic floor and relaxing it to promote a healthy pelvic floor during recovery. Many women who are experiencing pelvic pain, hip or groin pain, low sacral (butt) pain or frequent muscle tiredness should focus first on gaining the ability to consciously relax the pelvic floor prior to attempting multiple contraction exercises. The pelvic floor is a dynamic muscle that should be able to both relax and contract. Use the imagery found below.
Pelvic Floor Relaxation: 1. Blooming Rose - Imagine the pelvic floor opening up like a blooming rose in every direction as it descends. 2. Raindrop - Imagine the hole of the vagina enlarging and the perineum dropping like a raindrop onto a lake. 3. The Poop - Imagine relaxing the perineum and the anus as if you were opening the anus to pass a bowel movement.
A lucky mommy to 4 boys, the youngest born in 2014. Heather practices evidence-based medicine and works to create practical applications to help medical providers incorporate the latest research into everyday clinical scenarios using modern technology. Since starting clinical practice in 2005 she has applied principles of preventative medicine to advance the wellness of her patients through proper nutrition and physical fitness. Heather helps women improve postpartum recovery at her clinic The Centre of Health and Functional Medicine in Anacortes, WA.
Amanda is the mother of three children. After living in Anacortes, WA for 15 years, we have ventured to the east coast to Newport, RI for the next year. Amanda has been practicing physical therapy for the past 18 years with an emphasis on musculoskeletal imaging and women't health for the past 3 years. She became the Program Director for Mommy Ready in 2017 after working closely with Heather as a Core System Specialist starting in 2015.
The Multifidus spinae is a muscle that runs along the
length of the spine from the sacrum (at the hips) to the
head. The Multifidus is made up of layers fasciculi or muscle and tendon strands that
interconnect on the spinous processes of the vertebrae at varying lengths from adjacent
vertebrae to vertebrae 3 or 4 above. In a working core-system the
Multifidus contract after the TA/Pelvic Floor co-contraction to
increase stiffness along the spine and stabilize the spine and pelvis.
Because the Multifidus is surrounded by the TA fascia, it creates
exponential force as the muscle expands in a smaller space when it
contracts after the TA has tightened the surrounding fascia. The
multifidus also contracts when you are THINKING about moving to
prepare your core system. Like the TA and Pelvic Floor we can use
imagery to help you identify this muscle and learn to use it correctly.
Lying in neutral position practice Core System Breathing by using your imagery and the techniques you've just learned in Phase Two.
• INHALE - belly goes out, pelvic floor relaxes and opens
• EXHALE - belly goes in, TA contracts and PF cinches and lifts.
• (Repeat 10 times.)
Imagery: Use the following queues to isolate the multifidus muscle. This contraction will take
place prior to moving your limbs and feels like a swelling or rise of the muscle nearest the spine. 1. Sacral Book - Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Co-contract the TA and Pelvic Floor.
b. Draw the Left and Right Sacroilliac joints together like closing a book
c. Lift the spine from the tailbone up to the top of the neck 2. Draw in the Tailbone – Maintaining neutral spine and with no movement of hips or back.
a. Contract the TA
b. As you contract the Pelvic Floor imagine a line from under the pubic bone drawing in the tailbone
c. As you lift the Pelvic Floor, continue up from the lumbar spine lifting each vertebrae off the one below
TIP: Try doing this exercise without a core contraction. Then try the exercise as described above, with the coresystem
contraction. Lifting the arm and leg should be easier when the core-system is activated correctly.
Starting position: Lying face down (with a thin pillow under your upper abdomen if needed). Place hands resting above your head with your forehead resting on the floor or mat. Feet extended straight, shoulder width apart. Inhale relax the core.Exhale co-contract the TA/PF, then lift the oposite arm and leg off the floor 4 inches. Hold 2 seconds while you breathe in. Exhale and return to starting position. Repeat alternating each side.
The Rectus Abdominis muscle is ready to be exercise
after you have re-activated the initial series in the coresystem
including the Transverse Abdominis, Pelvic Floor and Multifidus. When the core-system
is working, you are able to draw the belly in/flat, aligning the rectus muscle prior to contracting
it. This is how the rectus is effectively strengthened and a rectus diastasis is closed. Closure
of the diastasis is important for proper function of the core. It may take several weeks to
months to close a diastasis depending on its size. If you have questions about a rectus
diastasis and would like further evaluation and guidance, please see a Core System
Specialist. Your specialist can measure the tension across the diastasis separation and assure
you that you are ready to begin strengthening of the rectus abdominis muscle with the following
Even if you don’t have a diastasis rectus, after pregnancy, the rectus abdominis (or your six- pack) muscle still has been stretched out and needs some attention. Now that your core-system is working you can safely exercise the rectus because the TA contraction creates proper alignment of the muscle, and the pelvic floor contraction helps support the pelvis and the pelvic organs with increased abdominal pressure. Imagine a core-system contraction before contracting the rectus abdominis.
Inhale, relax. Exhale, draw in the transverse abdominis, contract and lift the pelvic
floor. Continue to breath as you lift the head only (not the shoulders) off the floor
keeping a fist space between your chin and your chest. Return to starting
position. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Inhale, relax. Exhale, draw in the transverse abdominis, contract and lift the pelvic
floor. Continue to breathe as you lift one knee until the lower leg is parallel with the
floor. Return to starting position. Repeat on opposite side. Increase the core-system
hold to last through 1 set. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
Starting position: In hands and knees position. Adjust your pelvis so you have a gentle curve in
your low back. Place hands and knees comfortably about shoulder width apart. Make sure your
hips are directly over your knees, and your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Roll your
shoulders back away from your ears flattening the upper back. Inhale, Relax. Exhale, draw the belly up, lift the pelvic floor and hold as you lift one arm straight forward. Return the arm to starting position as you inhale, then exhale
as you lift the opposite arm. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each arm.
The Butterfly: Strengthens the adductor muscles on the
inside of the legs as well as the core-system as you hold a
contraction with the leg movements. This exercise can be made
more difficult by dropping both knees to the sides at the same time
(full-butterfly), or easier as demonstrated below lowering one leg at
a time (half-butterfly). Start with relaxing the core after each leg
movement then build up each day to holding the core-system
contraction through all repetitions.
While doing the Mommy Ready exercises,you are training your body to use the core-system to support your spine and pelvis as you move, lift, bend and carry objects. Using your diaphragm is part of that system. You should breathe in and out as you hold a TA/PF and multifidus contraction with your movement. Counting outloud as you do your exercises can help you breathe. You will get better at breathing correctly as you practice. Now as you carry your baby up the stairs, imagine contracting the core and breathing continuously as you move up. Watch for those times you are holding your breath. Correct your approach by breathing and contracting your core-system first – then moving as you continue to breathe. You will find that movements such as lifting, carrying, bending are all easier when you are using your core-system correctly.
Inhale, relax. Exhale, co-contract the core-system. Hold
this contraction as you drop one knee out to the side only as
far as you can keep the pelvic floor lifted. Then return to
starting position. Breathe continuously. Then repeat with
the opposite leg.
Inhale, relax. Exhale, co-contract the core-system. Hold this contraction as you drop
both knees out to the sides only as far as you can keep the pelvic floor lifted. Then
return to starting position. Breathe continuously.
Inhale relax the belly allowing it to lower down toward the floor. Then as you Exhale,
imagine tucking the tailbone under. Lift the pelvic floor as you pull the belly upwards
by drawing in with the transverse abdominis. Hold for 2 seconds as you envision the
spine lengthening rolling up like a wave all the way to your head. Repeat.
Starting position: In hands and knees position. Adjust your pelvis so you have a gentle curve in your low back. Place hands and knees comfortably about shoulder width apart. Make sure your hips are directly over your knees, and your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Roll your shoulders back away from your ears flattening the upper back. Use a mirror at ground level or ask someone to help correct your starting position.
Starting position:Standing with your feet shoulder width apart with your heels about 1 foot away from the wall. Spine and pelvis in neutral position.
Draw in the transverse abdominis and lift the pelvic floor as you shift your weight back on your heels. Lean back bending at the knee until your back touches the wall and your upper legs are at a 90 degree angle to the floor.
Your hips shoulders and head should touch the wall.
Tuck the breastbone down toward the belly button to engage the upper TA. This move will press the back into the wall.
Breathe as you keep your core system contracted and hold this position pressing on your heels for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Keep the knees pointing straight forward.Make sure your knees do not bend past your toes.Straighten your legs and slide up the wall and back to standing. Repeat 3 times.
Now that the lower TA is strong, focus on engaging the upper TA during exercises where the hips are bent at 90 degrees such as in the following two exercises. To contract the upper Transverse Abdominis, use one of the following imagery:
1. Tuck the breastbone down toward the belly button.
2. Draw in the abdomen from the pubic bone all the way up to the breastbone like zipping up a long zipper.
3. Tip the front lower ribs down, hollowing out the upper belly.
4. Draw the belly button in toward the floor and then up toward the heart.
As you contract the upper TA you will feel a drawing in and eventually a “hollowing out” along the rib line of the upper abdomen. Differentiate this contraction from the tightening in the sides of the ribs you noticed early on in the program with over-activation of the Internal Obliques.
To do this pose correctly - DON'T make a straight line with your body. Instead, lift your hips slightly to keep alignment in the low back and allow a small bend at the hips (like a bad pushup). Forearm Plank: Starting from hands and knees lower down on to your forearms keeping your hands the same distance as your elbows, lift your chest foreward. Keeping your elbows aligned directly under your shoulders. Maintain a gentle curve in your low back by adjusting your hips, and contract your core system as you breathe out. Now step your feet back onto our toes, straightening your legs. Tighten the core contraction. Hold this posistion as you continue to breathe for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. Then lower your knees to relax. Repeat 3 times. Side Plank: Now that your core system is working separate from your main compensating muscles (the obliques) you can begin to integrate strengthening the obliques into your workouts with side planks. Modiications for discomfort in the wrists or to make this exercise easier or harder can be found in progessions.
Listen to your body – if you are feeling out of balance – reset and concentrate on keeping your core contraction (balance comes from the core). Are you maintaining your pelvic floor lift with each direction? (good) Are you holding your breath and pushing your belly out as you return to standing? (bad)
Coordinate your breathing to exhale and increase your core contraction during the most difficult part of the lunge. How do you feel afterwards? are you getting muscle spasm, groin/hip pain or are you feeling stronger than ever! Pay attention – even write down how you are donig and involve your program coach to help you finish this Phase with active conficence! Starting Position:Standing with feet shoulder width apart and hands at hips. (Make sure you have a clear space all around you.) 3-Way Lunge: In starting postition, exhale and contract the core system. As you inhale step forward with the right leg 3 to 4 feet, bending the right knee, keeping the knee centered over the ankle. Lower the left knee toward the floor (not touching). Pause 2 seconds.
Place your knees just wider than shoulder width apart with your large toes together. From hands and knees sit your hips down toward your heels with the arms extended forward, straight with palms down and hands shoulder width apart, thumbs facing eachother, fingers spread. Rest the forehead on the floor.
For discomfort in the knees, place a bolster or pillow the head and chest.
An alternative is to lie on the back drawing the knees up to the chest then out toward the armpits. Hold the legs with the arm over the shin bone or behind the knees. Relax.