Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NO MORE CRUNCHES! (Guest post)

I'm thrilled that Bonnie from the Beautiful After The Belly Blog is enlightening the FitMePink world with her extensive knowledge of why CRUNCHES are BAD for us! Bonnie is a Prenatal/Postnatal Personal Trainer who specializes in the Diastasis Recti ( Besides blogging about health and fitness (and you really should read her's chock full of amazing tips), she also teaches and trains in several locations in Chicagoland. Here's what she has to say about crunches...

Yes, its true. Crunches are absolutely TERRIBLE for the post partum woman’s body. Then why are they taught in gyms all over? I call it “False Traditions of our Fitness Fathers.”

A very high percentage of women - as high as 98 % - have a split in their recti muscles (the 6 pack muscle on the abs) following a pregnancy. The split creates a look and condition known as the “Mommy Tummy.” It is caused by continuous forward pressure during pregnancy. The official name for this split is DIASTASIS RECTI.
Doing a “Crunch” or “Rolling like a ball” or “jackknife” or “V sit” or “Teaser” or “Pilates 100” is the worst thing you can do for this condition because is makes the split WIDER!

SO…..WHAT is the answer?

Seated Tuplers and Headlifts are the best bet because they will actually BRING your recti back together and eliminate the “mommy tummy.”

How are they done?

SEATED TUPLERS: Imagine your belly is a sideways elevator and the 1st floor is where your belly is normally at in its relaxed position. Bring your belly all the way back to your spine (5th floor) and hold it there for a second, then release to the 3rd floor (in between the 1st and 5th), then back to 5th floor again (squeeze and hold for a second) then back to 3rd floor. Continuing doing until you reach 100.

100 may seem like a lot, but a set of 100 only takes 2 ½ minutes. Do 5 sets a day, altogether, or spaced out, whatever is easiest. Do this exercise sitting down with firm back support. You should be able to feel this in your back, as it also works the lower lumbar muscles. This is the FASTEST way to repair your recti and bring them back together, closing the diastasis.

Yes you DO breathe. You “sniff” to bring air in, and COUNT as your exhale, which forces the air to work through your body.

Once you get good, you can do this while driving – like at a stop light, or during highway driving. They are EXTREMELY POTABLE exercises.

HEAD LIFT: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Expand your belly to allow air to come into the body, Exhale, bring your bellybutton all the way to the spine (this is working the TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS – the key to bringing in the recti). Hold the belly there and you slightly tilt your pelvus to bring the small of the back pressed into the floor, tuck the chin, and then lift up your head and bring it back down fairly quickly.

If your abdominals show any movement, then it means your TRANSVERSE is not quite strong enough. There should be no visible movement on your abdominals.

ONE LAST QUESTION: How do you get the transverse strong enough to do the headlift? THE SEATED TUPLERS – it is the fastest way because it strengthens your abdominals in a seated position, which is the MISSING LINK of abdominals. You will not have gravity working against you in a seated position. Then when you begin to do abdominals while laying on your back where gravity is working against you, you will already have a mind body connection to the muscle to tell if your transverse muscle is actually engaged.

Quick story to rap up: I was in a Yoga Class today, and there was a girl who was 33 and pregnant with her 6th child. She is quite fit, loves to run, etc. and was doing some of the worst abdominals you can do while pregnant – ROLLING LIKE A BALL, V SIT, JACKNIFING. I knew she had a HERNIA after her 5th child (which is due to the split in the recti ) and had to have surgery and comprehensive physical theraphy with her abdominals and pelvic floor. I just cringed. The damage you can do with these particular exercises is so much greater when you're pregnant because you already have the forward pressure of the uterus on your abdominals!

Thank you, Bonnie! For more tips on strengthening the abdominals, losing the "mommy tummy," great recipes, and other healthy-living tips, check out her blog!


Kimberly said...

That sounds extremely cool! I'm going to try it.

Diane said...

Good info! We'll have to do it together when I come this month. Maybe Kimberly will do another Zumba class for us too!

Jill said...

How soon postpartum can you do these exercises? About how long does it take for the gap to close if you do these exercises diligently? After the gap closes, do you then go back to your regular ab exercises? What are "pilates 100?" Is the plank good or bad postpartum? Sorry I have so many questions. I just want to be prepared. Thanks!

Tami H. said...

Jill, (I am also trained in this technique and couldn't resist answering some of your questions).

You can do those exercises the day you give birth! They are gentle and help your muscles (that are super overstretched) start to activate in the correct way. You can do these exercises ALL the way through pregnancy so that your muscles have some muscle memory and will come back quicker after birth.

Planks are fine IF you can keep your belly button TOTALLY to the spine(not bulging). IF not, then just modify your plank, go elbows and knees or something.

You have GREAT questions. You would benefit from buying the book Lose Your Mummy Tummy by Julie tupler. But, no, you don't go back to your regular exercises - only those that you can do and still keep the transverse abdominal all the way at the fifth floor.

Cindy said...

I've never heard this before. I wish I would have heard this during any one of my last three pregnancies... This should be shared with everyone who has or ever will have children. Thanks!

Robyn said...


You can read about the Pilates 100 here:

I think it's actually fine to do (correct me if I'm wrong, Bonnie) under NORMAL circumstances, but definitely NOT when you're pregnant. Also, when you move back to your regular ab routine, you should continue doing the Tupler's everyday as well. When you've trained your core muscles to engage correctly (keeping your transverse abdominals all the way to the "fifth floor"), then you won't be training them to pooch out with normal ab exercises. But actually, I don't think normal "crunches" are good unless you can really focus on keeping the tummy in, otherwise you will train it to actually have a bulge...the plank, however is great.

Bonnie Wayne said...

So the pilates 100 is fine ONLY if you leave your shoulders on the ground. This is forever postpartum or you could re open your diastasis. Anytime the shoulders come off the ground on a backlying abdominal (which is why crunches are included in this) then it is IMPOSSIBLE for the transverse to stay engaged.

I posted the HEADLIFTS, which is the correct version of a crunch that shortens your recti from the top, bottom, and MIDDLE (a traditional crunche shortens the recti from the top and bottom, but bulges out the middle) and if you DO crunches ANYTIME postpartum, you will most likely resplit your abdominals.

So postpartum modifcation - LEAVE YOUR SHOULDERS ON THE GROUND, and dont do any exercise where you have to jacknife up or down - 1 jacknife can undo THREE WEEKS of Seated Tupler progress, and can resplit your diastasis if you have closed it.

Planks, as stated are great if you can keep your tranverse in. If you can't YET, then do seated tuplers until you are strong enough (1 to 3 weeks of 5 sets a day).

scarlet said...

I hate crunches. It really hurts. Thanks for sharing this. More power to you! ~ five fingers ~

natalie said...

I love crunches especially when I am wearing my vibram. Love it!

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