Today, I’m going to talk to you about planks and new mums. Or in fact anyone who has pelvic floor dysfunction, back pain and/or has a mummy tummy they can’t seem to shift. I addressed this in a live video on my Facebook page recently and it definitely got a bit of a response.
You see, I get asked about this all the time by new mums, keen to strengthen their core. They want to know when they can start plank again because they think this will be the solution to their tummy that they need. And I hate to be a killjoy but my answer tends to be “don’t plank anytime soon. In fact, ideally never.”
Because, although we think a plank will make our core stronger, the fact is that you need to have a pretty strong core in the first place to do one well and effectively anyway. I never do static planks myself and don’t include them in my classes. We may move in and out of a plank position quickly (only when that client is absolutely ready!) but I threw static planks out of my exercise library a long time ago. Here’s why:
- New mum tummies, pelvic floors and backs are vulnerable. Planks can make leaking, abdominal separation and aching backs WORSE!
- Your core is like a cylinder with the diaphragm at the top, abdominal muscles at the front and lower back muscles at the back. When you plank you massively increase pressure in the cylinder. That pressure will try and escape via the weakest part. Enter prolapse, more leaking or a domed tummy.
- It’s not great for posture. I spend a lot of time getting mums out of the classic postnatal posture – shoulders rounded, head forward, overextended lower back. Planks put you right back where you started.
- With many of my clients I work on the ‘break down and build up approach’ where we start by releasing and letting go first as tight muscles and faulty breathing patterns can really hold back tummy and pelvic floor healing and cause pain and soreness. Planking involves holding yourself in a rigid position and exacerbating that tightness.
- Last but not least, there are SO MANY other ways of strengthening your core!
So, here’s the thing. I won’t sugar coat this ….. Planks are not for new mums. In fact, they aren’t a great exercise for most of us. At best they unhelpful, at worst they can be dangerous and contribute to problems you didn’t even have in the first place.
So what to do instead? Well, keep an eye on my Facebook page where I’ll be posting some quick tips to a stronger core (and less leaking!) or subscribe to my Vimeo Channel for quick tips on improving core strength.