Hey there, mama! As much as you’re doing for everyone else, we want to make sure you’re taking care of YOU, too! Things such as body posture, hip and pelvis alignment, breathing and core strength all play a role in your overall health and shouldn’t be overlooked. Kelly from Priority PT is sharing three tips every mom needs to know along with exercises to help your strength! Keep reading to see what she has to say!
Tip #1: Body Awareness and Posture – How can moms be more aware of this? What are some tips?
Kelly: A lot of us know we need “better posture.” What I’ve noticed is that until someone actually calls us out on it or shows us with a picture, its hard to correct what we don’t actually see! Awareness begins with someone telling us what we need to do…so that when we feel ourselves out of that placement we can adjust. Tips for this are – (1) having a pillow on the couch/car to cushion your back and help sit you up taller, (2) placing pillows under your arms for nursing (think those big nursing pillows), (3) placing a timer on your phone to get up from the workstation every 30 minutes or at least buzz you to self evaluate. (4) placing your feet on a stool or something to support from the bottom up. Posture bracing is ok but not preferred – I actually like the kinesiotape or Rocktape to pull the shoulder back and give you the sensation of pulling to make you realize when you are falling out of bad alignment. It will cue you to correct vs hold you there with the posture bracing which ultimately is what we need to do. I think most ladies tend to overcompensate too and arch trough the low back to help with the upper body posturing so really getting someone to SHOW you physically what you should be doing is best. And NO – we don’t ALWAYS need good posture – our species would have fallen apart a long time ago if that was the case! I like the cue: ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over heels when standing.
What are some exercises moms can do to help with this?
Kelly: Stretching the chest/ribs/spine and strengthening the back muscles are key here. I like to say – Lets lengthen before we strengthen – which allows the front muscles to be stretched enough while we are strengthening the back muscles to hold you where you belong! Stretching: Doorway stretches, open books and threading the needle are great ways to stretch, even just breathing deeply to get the anterior fascia of the abdomen moving. Strengthening I love I/T/Y and rows with an emphasis on keeping the shoulder blades down and back. Also the below listed core exercises can help hold your upper and lower body in a better alignment to help with posture.
Tip #2: Be aware of where your hips and your pelvis lay. What signals can moms be aware of when their hips and pelvis are out of line?
Kelly: Signals for poor alignment include low back pain, pubic bone pain, headaches/neck pain, mid back stiffness, difficulty breathing, rib pain, belly pain if you have a scar from a C-section, SI joint pain or sciatica, even knee pain and hip pain. Sometimes this does occur for a while after because our body does a great job of compensating. The best way to notice this is lying down but functionally we need to know how to stand, walk, run and hold our kids with better alignment. If you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the table. Feel the pressure of the floor on your back, shoulders or hips. Where do you feel it? Where are you hip bones (ASIS)? In order to find neutral: (1) Place your palms on that bony point (ASIS) and your finger tips downward towards your pubic bone. Can you feel if the palms or pubic bone is higher? (2) Try to get the pubic bone and the hip bones to be in the same plane by tucking and untucking your pelvis (think about a dog tucking her tail under or arching your back). Most are too arched and we need to get the pelvis in a little more neutral. I like to place my hand under the small of the back and make the patient roll to squash my hand. Try not to push with your legs but use your lower tummy and gluts. (3) Rock back and forth until you can feel you are in the midpoint. This may or may not be uncomfortable but this is the best way to start to learn to feel and find neutral. (4) Try in other positions too (hands and knees, on a ball sitting, standing, slightly bent forward)
Do you have any strengthening tips for this?
Kelly: I love doing manual release for this area because often the bones are just a little out of alignment which makes the muscles a little tighter and not fire as well. The muscles to fire more easily when they are where they belong! I love pilates-based exercises like clamshells or variations of, pallov press, lat pulls or rows with good alignment, segmental bridges, squats and split squats, and retraining the lower abdominals with modified dead bugs, hundreds or planks if appropriate.
Tip #3: Learn how to breathe and activate the core to cinch it up – how do we do this?
Kelly: Shortened version: (1) Rest on your back (or some can do better on the hands and knees) let your belly rest and just take a couple deep breaths in. (2) Place your finger tips right inside the pointy bones on your hips (ASIS) on the muscles of the tummy. Just feel the belly move gently. (3) After the next inhale, gently exhale and think about the cues and draw up and in with those muscles. You should feel those muscles firm up and NOT bulge out (4) Repeat this with slower breaths and work towards longer holds, marching, leg raises, arm raises or progressing towards feet in the air in table top position. (5) practice in different positions – sitting on a ball, hands overhead, twisting, marching, Side stepping and so on! The activation of the deep core is best learned with breathing because theres an automatic connection. Inhalation the belly/core expands, pelvic floor drops, and diaphragm contracts to pull air in the lungs. During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes while the core and the pelvic floor gently recoils or returns to baseline with a little lift. It’s counterintuitive for some and can take some time to learn. When we exhale with force, the obliques help and we then can also activate the pelvic floor and deep core muscle called the Transversus Abdominus. If we are not careful the obliques will do all the work so learning to activate the deep core is key to stabilize the spine and support the organs (ie.keep from peeing on yourself!!) The cues I like to give with breathing out is “pulling the pubic bone behind the belly button,” “gently draw up and in while blowing through a small straw,” or “pull the hip bones together and ribcage down.” when contracting. You should feel the insides of the lower tummy stiffen and NOT bulging out. If you feel a bulge, you are activating the obliques. I often cue a “Kegel” or pelvic floor contraction too because this muscles group and the Transverse abdominals or deep core fire together. After just a regular activation and connection – then you can use that activation for lots of other upper and lower body exercises to challenge your stability more.
Are there any exercise tips to activate your core?
Kelly: (In addition to the above) try not to overthink it. It’s good to tap in (activate specifically) before and after you do some higher level impact exercises. It’s like giving them a little wake up call to help them remember their jobs. We are so busy we tend to just rush through the workouts and get our reps. Take the time to tap in and be aware of the little things at some point during your workouts. I like before so you can slow down and just be aware of what you are feeling for the day or specific workout.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Kelly: There are a lot of exercises that overlap – and there is not just one thing for everyone that’s the best. Find a trainer, PT, instructor or yogi that helps you understand how to fire you body. A women health physical therapist can help you feel if the internal (pelvic floor) muscles are firing when they should be. and palpate (feel) the outside too. Sometimes they do too much or too little and we can give you some clues for what your body tends to do. Make it fun and enjoyable!
Thanks so much to Priority PT for sharing these three tips every mom needs to know! This is all such great advice and we hope it helps inspire you moms to take the time and care for yourselves too!