If you have just had a child, you should be cautious about when to resume your abdominal workout routines. Although crunches are not very hard to get wrong, doing them immediately after childbirth can cause further damage to your abdominal region, leading to a loss of muscle tone, in addition to back problems and other more serious ailments.
During pregnancy, hormones loosen the bilateral strip of muscle that connects both sides of your abs, known as the linea alba, in order to make room for the expansion of the uterus. The linea alba becomes so loose that many women who were pregnant, suffer a complete detachment of the linea alba from the abdominal wall. This condition, known as diastasis recti, effects roughly 30% of pregnant women, putting them at an elevated risk of having complications associated with the condition. To test if you have diastasis recti, all you need to do is place a finger on your belly button and perform sit-ups or crunches. If you have diastasis recti, you will feel a crevice open up when your abdominal muscles contract .
Even if your linea alba is not fully separated from your abdominal muscles, doing crunches the wrong way can cause your external abs, known as the transverse abdominis, to overpower your weaker inner abs. This in turn causes your weaker inner abs to buckle. Crunches and sit-ups put a strain on your external abs, making it very easy to cause damage to your inner abs. If done excessively, these exercises could lead to a permanent bulging of your abs, which will cause postural issues as well as pelvic instability, and even urinary stress incontinence.
What should you do?
Fortunately, this is completely preventable and even reversible. All you need to do is make a conscious effort to suck in your abs back towards your spine during contractions. This trains your transverse abdominis to stay flat instead of ballooning out. Training your transverse abdominis through proper abdominal workouts, will allow your inner abs to develop enough strength and muscle tone, to prevent them from buckling.
Also, avoid abdominal belts and other myostimulation devices. The electricity generated by myostimulation devices only affects the external abdominal muscles, which will accentuate the disparity in muscle tone between your inner and outer abs.
If you have recently given birth, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure it is ok to begin exercising again. It usually takes around 6 weeks post-child birth, for women to be begin exercising. Once you have been authorized by your doctor to kick off your workout routines, find a workout partner, and try the abdominal workout below. It is different from the regular monotone crunches routine, and is fun to do with a friend.