This post was written by Kim Vopni. Known as the Fitness Doula, Kim is a certified pre/postnatal fitness consultant, co-founder of Bellies Inc. and owner of Pelvienne Wellness Inc. Follow her on Twitter: @VaginaCoach
One in three women experience some form of bladder leakage or urinary incontinence. In my last post, I talked about how our obsession with core exercises can actually be harmful. “The Core” is the part of every fitness class that we dread: the endless crunches, the two-minute plank holds and the straight leg lowers – they all hurt so they must be doing something, right?! Truth is, the burn is causing more harm than good, and it’s time to re-think your core training (actually all of your training) and incorporate more natural movement into our lives.
Natural core strength. To truly build your core you need to first of all learn what it is and how it works, then find it so you know how to activate it and then be able to incorporate it into movement.
The core is made up of the breathing diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the transversus abdominis and the multifidus. They are what I like to call the Core 4 and in order for this team to work properly, it needs to be aligned.
In an ideal functioning core the rib cage needs to be overtop of the pelvis so that the diaphragm and pelvic floor can work synergistically with the breath. Most people however have a pelvis that is actually thrust forward with the tailbone tucked which means it inhibits this synergistic relationship which in turn leads to a poochy tummy, a flat butt and pelvic floor dysfunction.
How to improve your core without crunches and kegels:
1. Sit Less and Move More | Watch Video
Because of the amount of sitting that we as a society do, and because of the typical posture that we sit in, and because of the activities we choose for exercise (to make up for the amount of sitting that we do) the core isn’t working as it should. When you do sit or stand or move, you need to do so with your core well aligned.
2. Learn and Practice the Core Breath | Watch Video
Please watch this video before you do the exercises below or the inhale/exhale instructions won’t make much sense.
3. Core Breath + Movement
Incorporate the core breath into movement with the aim of retraining the Core 4 so it knows what to do without you having to think about it anymore. Here are a couple of movements that you can add the core breath to that will re-train your core and improve your overall form and function.
a) Bridge | Watch Video
- Lying on your back with knees bent, feet pelvis width apart and pointing straight ahead
- Place a small ball between your thighs then arms are at your sides
- Inhale to expand then exhale to engage your core now press your hips off the floor then inhale to expand as you lower back down
- Repeat 8-10 times using slow controlled movements
b) Squat with Band Lat Pull Down | Watch Video
- Grasp a theraband in your hands with arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart and hands over head
- Feet are pelvis width apart with feet point straight forward
- Inhale to expand as you lower down into a squat then exhale to engage and stand back up while pulling your hands away from one another allowing the band to come down to your chest.
- Repeat 8-10 times using slow, controlled movements
c) Stability Ball Push Ups | Watch Video
- Kneel in front of a stability ball and place your abdomen on the ball
- Slowly walk your hands out in front away from the ball allowing your thighs to be on top of the ball. The farther you walk out, the more challenging it is so start with a shorter lever – hands closer to the ball.
- Inhale to expand as you lower down into a push up then exhale to engage using the core breath as you press back up with extended arms
Now, after all this, if you feel you still must do kegels, “be like a jellyfish” and check out this post. Finally, it can’t be repeated often enough: if you are experiencing chronic bladder leakage problems, walk, don’t run, to your nearest pelvic-floor physiotherapist and find out how to engage and, more importantly, how to relax your pelvic floor properly.
 One in 3 women reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476070/
Kim Vopni holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario and a Post Graduate Diploma in Health and Fitness from Simon Fraser University. Kim is a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Pre/Post Natal Fitness Consultant, a Certified Fitness For Fertility Specialist, a Certified Pfilates Instructor and is trained in the Hypopresive Method. She is also a Trained Post Partum Doula which has many clients referring to her as The Fitness Doula.