TAPER YOUR WAIST + STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
EXPERT TIPS FROM REVOLUTION MOTHERHOOD’S RACHEL WELCH
Rachel Welch, is a women’s health advocate, and postnatal fitness expert + pioneer. Her life-elevating fitness method, Revolution Motherhood, empowers women with the knowledge and skills to understand, heal and embody motherhood from the inside-out. With 20+ years experience teaching and studying human physiology, yoga, barre, Eastern medicine, and fitness, Rachel has forged lasting relationships across the medical and fitness industries. She frequently partners with physicians and pelvic PT’s to treat + strengthen pre and post-natal conditions including; rehabilitating scar tissue adhesions, organ prolapse, incontinence and diastasis recti.
As we all know, working out at home can be challenging in many ways, but most of all, not having a teacher’s eyes on you can make it difficult to know if you’re doing things ‘right’. So, we asked Rachel for her top tips to help us all better understand our core strength and how to get better results for our invested workout hours.
1) BREATHE + RELAX
Your respiratory muscles are your core muscles and vice versa. If you want to be able to engage your entire core, it begins by lying on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor, taking 10, long, deep belly breaths that allow your diaphragm to fully expand and contract in your ribs, loosens the grip of your hip flexors and initiates full spectrum transverses abdominal glide.
2) YOUR TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINALS (TVA)
These are the baseline of your core. They work beneath your visible, external abs and form the foundation for external strength and stability. They function very subtly and respond to deep breathing more than ‘bracing’. They begin in your back and wrap around you like a corset coming together beneath your 6-pack muscle (rectus abdominus) to form a strong, stable base for all of the twisting, bending and lifting that you do with your trunk. When you feel ‘stuck’ in your abs or you feel like you’re distending, pushing outward or can’t draw a tapered waist into your spine, most likely you are not engaging your TVA. In order to find them, continue lying on your back, feet on the ground. Continue your deep, belly breaths, but now begin to focus on your exhales. When you exhale, imagine that you are zipping up a tight pair of pants that you need to pull your belly button away from in order to get them all the way on…take a slow, deep exhale that rises from your pubic bone to your sternum, strait up your mid line and allow your belly to slowly draw in and up. This shouldn’t feel like you are ‘crushing your abs’, more like a piece of silk that is gently gathering your waist together. Notice if you feel gripping in your shoulders, low back or hips, shake out those compensating muscles and continue relax and isolate your TVA through deep breathing.
3) TOE TAPS
Once you have a strong connection to your TVA, now we strength challenge them. Still on the ground with your feet on the floor, continue to use your exhales to engage your waist. Take one hand and press gently at your belly button and try and tighten the muscles beneath your fingers. When you feel tension in your abs, use those muscles to lift your right foot off the ground a couple of inches and then replace it to the ground. Breathe. Reset your abs and try to life your left foot. This is called near-strength repatterining. We are training your brain to use your abdominal wall to move your legs instead of your hips, knees or feet. Repeat this sequence several times and notice that the longer you stay with it, the easier it is to engage this call and response exercise…that’s your brain getting better at turning on your abs while you strength challenge your TVA to remain engaged against the resistance of leg movement. When you feel like you’ve lost the connection, stop, reset with a breath and try again. If you feel your lower back gripping, stop, breathe and make the motion smaller.
4) TABLE TOP
Now that you feel your TVA, turn over to hands and knees. We are taking the activation you just set up and now challenging your abs against gravity. Do a few yoga like cat-cow stretches to move your spine, pelvis and shoulders. Then, set your pelvis to neutral, meaning the your pubic bone is pointing back between your inner thighs towards your knees, your ribs are lifted and your armpits feel like they have balloons under them holding them up. Now, take 3-5 deep TVA breaths and isolate your abs here. It’s common for your shoulders and hips to want to take over. This is an integrating exercise that brings your whole body to attention = better results for the time you invest in your workout. Once you have a good TVA brace, extend your right leg back strait behind you, toes on the ground and left arm forward along your ear. You’ll need to feel the zipping or your abs from public bone to chest as well as your right glute starting to fire. If you can hold your abs here, then the next step is to lift your right foot off the ground to hip height. Hold here. Reset you’re abs. Begin to squeeze your belly button into your body as you bring your left elbow and right knee in to touch each other under your chest and then re-extend. Repeat 5-10 times. Switch sides.
5) INCLINED PLANK + REVERSE SIT UPS
Take a quick Childs pose to stretch out your shoulders and then come back to hands and knees. Walk your knees back a few inches and keep your shoulders over your wrists. This will begin to create an incline in your body, making your trunk heavier on your abs, chest and arms. I call this ‘incline plank’. Take 3 TVA breaths here to remind your body to hold up the bulk of your weight from your abs. Notice if your back is gripping and imagine being ironed out smooth so that nothing is lifting up in your back or dropping down in your belly. Look under yourself and see if your belly button is hanging down or if you are able to hold the zippered feeling up the front of your body. If you have a lifted abdominal wall, then begin to do small ‘reverse sit ups’ by squeezing your belly button up and allowing your ribs to curl in and up. The key is to stay open in the chest and keep the motion small. If you get too bit, you’ll get stuck in your low back and hip flexors. Isolate your 6 pack and just begin to crunch it into itself against the brace of your TVA. You won’t be able to breathe deeply while exercising. You take one good breath, exhale to engage your abs, do the sit ups until you lose the connection and then reset with another deep breath. Repeat 3-5 times and then take a child’s pose.
This sequence, if done a few times a week, will begin to transform how your abs spontaneously engage and work for you in both your daily functional activities of walking, sitting, bending and standing, to your favorite workouts like running, bootcamp, barre, pilates and yoga. Have fun and remember that embodied fitness is the gift of your lifetime. It’s never about perfection. It’s about self-love, awareness and empowering yourself with the knowledge and skills to stay strong and active for the rest of your days.