If there is one exercise to master, it is the squat. Chances are, as a mum, you have an abundance of opportunities to squat in daily life, so let’s maximise this opportunity for some great glute activation while connecting with our core and pelvic floor in an optimal way.
Here are my top five tips for getting the most out of your squats:
This can be a rather personal thing when squatting. People have different shaped hip sockets that can make some squats more comfortable than others or allow some people to have greater range in a certain stance than others. Most people prefer to have their feet at shoulder width, if not a little wider. Also, you may find it more comfortable to turn your toes out slightly which will allow for the weight to be in the heels and a deeper range of motion. It is also recommended that women with prolapse use a narrower stance so that the pelvic floor isn’t as stretched (and compromised) during the movement.
How we breath when under load has a big impact on our pelvic floor. For our squats we want to inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. It will give you more power as you come up and help lift the pelvic floor rather than pushing down on it during the exertion part of the movement.
3. The Movement
There are usually two errors I see made with posture during the squat. Either mums tip forward too much when they come down into their squat so they are hinging at the hips, or they are keeping too upright and flaring their ribs out with an arch in the lower back. Think about staying tall as you squat but keeping your ribs down. Also, aim to keep your knees behind your toes as you squat down and push through your heels to come up.
When I was first being trained as a PT at 16 years of age, my mentor was big on visualising the muscle/s you are wanting to work. It stuck with me and is possibly why I have always had the ability to activate a muscle on request. Very handy at the physio. Here is a visualisation for your squats. As you descend into the squat inhale and imagine the weight being back in your heels, as you exhale visualise pushing down through your heels, lifting up through the pelvic floor and squeezing the buttocks.
5. Exercise selection
There are a plethora of squat exercises to choose from so you are bound to find some faves. Narrow squats, sumo squats, split squats (aka lunges), single leg squats, etc, etc. Listen to your body, check in with your pelvic floor and pick the squat that feels good for you.
I vividly remember my first kickboxing class. I was 21 and had recently broken up with a boyfriend who I thought had sapped every last bit of my confidence. But for some reason I felt it was a good idea to take up kickboxing at my local PCYC. I didn't know anyone, they were mostly male participants and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Maybe my sub-conscience knew that it was time to stand up or be stood on forever!
A magical thing happened at that first class. A guardian angel in the shape of a petite, blonde competitive kickboxer gifted me my first pair of boxing wraps and showed me in one hour how strength and fragility, kindness and fierceness can coexist in the one body at the same time. My confidence was restored and I hit and kicked that bag with all I had. I was hooked.
I kept up with the boxing side of kickboxing over the years and it was something my husband and I enjoyed doing together pre-children. After I had our second child I remember doing my first boxing session thinking, "this doesn't feel right". My core stability was not yet able to cope with the twisting and impact and subsequently my pelvic floor was bearing the brunt of every blow. Boxing had to take a back seat for a while until my core was stronger and functioning well and my pelvic floor had regained some strength.
Another important factor in my return to this much loved sport revolved around changing how I thought about boxing and what I was really trying to achieve. I was no longer trying to punch out the imaginary face of my ex-boyfriend on the focus mitt with everything I had, and I realised I needed to modify my boxing to get the benefits I enjoyed previously but within my body's current abilities. So I applied what I had learnt about pelvic floor health and exercise to boxing and ran it past some physio friends for good measure.
Here are the top tips for pelvic floor friendly boxing we came up with:
Boxing doesn't have to be like Fight Club and you don't need to be an expert before you put on a pair of gloves. At Go Mum we pride ourselves on having a relaxed, fun atmosphere where everyone is welcome and we can support mums to get the most out of pelvic floor aware training.
If you haven't tried boxing before, here are some of the benefits you can expect:
To work on your pelvic floor friendly boxing technique, join us on Thursday's at Enoggera for our Boxing Mums class. Kids of all ages welcome to play while mum works out. If you are not sure if you are ready to start back at boxing due to pelvic floor or abdominal separation please call Christine to check the best course of action 0402 211 927.
Christine is the owner of Go Mum! Group Fitness and is a prolapse and diastasis survivor with a passion for pelvic floor and abdominal safe exercise.
Mums often list strengthening their core as a priority when returning to exercise after baby. However before you get stuck into training your "core" muscles, there is one simple thing you can do to get you on the fast track to using your core effectively. Breathing!
You take approximately 20,000 - 30,000 breaths per day so it is easy to see how poor breathing habits may impact your health. While the desire to get stuck into core exercises may be strong, if your breathing is dysfunctional you won't be getting the most out of them anyway. Dysfunctional breathing could also make it more difficult to heal a diastasis (abdominal separation) and be putting unnecessary pressure on your pelvic floor.
So What Does Functional Breathing Look Like?
The picture below shows the connection between your diaphragm and the pelvic floor. They move up and down together with each breath. As you breath in, your diaphragm pushes down to make way for the air coming into your lunges and in doing so, pushes your organs down onto your pelvic floor causing it lower also. As you exhale, your diaphragm lifts and so does the pelvic floor.
Ideally, breathing should expand the rib cage in a 360 degree range. Your ribs should go out to the side, front and back to allow air to fill the chest cavity while keeping the shoulders relaxed.
There are three main ways that breathing can become dysfunctional:
1. Belly breathing
This is where the belly expands outwards with each breath (to look like you have swallowed a balloon) with very little movement of the ribs. This type of breathing is particularly detrimental if you have abdominal separation as the connective tissue is being stretched each time you inhale.
2. Chest breathing
This is where you breath high into your chest or shoulders. This is usually a tense, restricted breath that sees your shoulders rising and doesn't allow correct rise and fall of the diaphragm and pelvic floor. This style of breathing is also often related to 'sucking it in' (see below).
3. Sucking it in
If you are sucking in your tummy your breathing is going to be restricted (see point above). The air is going to have nowhere to go. In the video below, Harriet the chook demonstrates what happens to your pelvic floor when you suck in your tummy. Poor Harriet.
An Exercise in Breathing
Try this breathing exercise daily or whenever you think about it.
1. Place your hands around your ribs (like photo) Inhale and try to feel a 360 degree expansion of your lower ribs and into your tummy. Your hands should go slightly further apart.
2. Now exhale for 6 counts and feel your ribs lowering and coming together and tummy deflating. This should bring your hands slight closer together.
3. Repeat 2 x 10 repetitions.
If you have any concerns about your breathing there are osteopaths (and some physiotherapists) that specialise in dysfunctional breathing correction.
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