Why No More Abs For Your Pregnant & Postnatal Clients

Article updated in July, 2023.

Original article by Jen Dugard. Jen was one of the first fitness professionals in Australia to understand the need for partnerships with pelvic health physiotherapists to ensure best practices. She developed and launched her pre and postnatal trainer certification ‘Safe Return to Exercise’ in 2016. Safe Return to Exercise has been delivered to thousands of exercise professionals in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan & Bermuda. 

As Fitness Professionals, even if we are not properly trained in working with pregnant or postnatal clients, we have usually picked up some form of recommended information along the way.

One of these being ‘don’t do anymore ‘abs’ work’ – which makes sense given tighter abdominals would make it harder for a growing baby and for those that have heard of ‘Abdominal Separation’ we understand that this occurs at the linea alba and ‘abs work’ could add extra pressure and potentially cause or make it worse.

In this article, I wanted to give you a little more insight into why you may have been told to stop doing ‘abs’ work and also where you can start and what to add in instead – because, really you do want to continue strengthening your pregnant clients abdominals – it’s just we need to concentrate on the muscles on the inside rather than her outer abdominal wall.

pregnant and postnatal clients

Working with pregnant PT clients

So when we tell our pregnant clients we won’t be doing any more abs work, do we understand why?
And do we know what to do instead?

The longer (but still kinda short) version is that it’s not all about the rectus; in fact, in my humble (and note – not formally researched) opinion, but based on many years of working with pregnant and postnatal mums, I have a particular interest in her oblique’s and whether she walks around on a daily basis with them ‘on’. Many women do – in an attempt to ‘appear to have a smaller waist’ we develop patterns of sucking in or bracing our obliques.

As Fitness Professionals this is the perfect time to begin talking to our pregnant mums about seeing a Women’s Health Physio who will help her to learn how to properly switch on through her pelvic floor and transverse abdominus (TA), ideally, whilst keeping her obliques nice and relaxed.

We can also encourage her to ‘let it hang out’ a little aka “stop sucking her belly in” – the baby has to grow and I believe the more we can help a woman’s body adapt to this process rather than working against it, the more we can possibly help to prevent of a number of postnatal contraindications being more severe.

When we have properly taught our mums to activate their pelvic floor and TA and ideally they have been to a women’s health physiotherapist to make sure what we have taught them is ‘correct’ in our sessions, we can then check in and monitor that she is keeping her oblique’s relaxed through her basic pelvic floor and TA breathing exercises and that we are not overloading them during our sessions.

Yes, she needs to maintain her mobility but she doesn’t need excess pressure on her linea alba or further shortening of her oblique muscles.

Jen Dugard - How to Love your Body as much as you Baby

This article was written by Jen Dugard for the Summer 2018 Edition of the WNiF Magazine.

Want to know more?

It is Jen’s mission to ensure that every single fitness professional has a sound general knowledge in working with ‘mums’ and she would love to support you in making sure you are a valuable part of this mission. If this article has piqued your interest you can learn more either in Jen’s face-to-face or online Safe Return to Exercise course Jen directly at jen@jendugard.com.

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