I think it's generally accepted that CRUNCHES are not a positive choice for 'Core Restore' for the Post Natal client if they are experiencing issues such as Diastasis and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and moreover have a poor ability to truly withstand Pelvic/Core PRESSURE.
So while the client is healing, you need to think a little outside the box...really consider the components of THE CORE and what really activates it. If our aim is about activating all components (abdominal wall, lumbar and thoracic muscles and fascia, Pelvic Floor and Diaphragm and we use the breath as the orchestra leader and progress by adding a little load via a simple resistance band... guess what? We start to create intelligent programming that is MOVING TOWARDS HEALING Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Diastasis, not AWAY FROM. Which is surely the key goal of the client. Try these 2 exercises and feel the difference - the goal is true integration and restoration of deep function - not muscle bashing 🙂
1. Kneeling Scapular Retraction - Looks simple but there's a lot's going on here. This exercise is great for activating the lumbar and thoracic musculature/fascia for the recovering Post Natal client. Holding the kneeling hip flexion position 'turns' on this musculature and fascia whilst simultaneously performing scapular retraction by pulling the band wide activates deconditioned thoracic musculature (really common in the Pregnant and Post Natal client).
Emphasize NEUTRAL PELVIS (not an arched back) to ensure you are strengthening in the optimal position and create a pre-tension using the SET CUE not strengthened in a lengthened position associated with an anterior pelvic tilt. Also neutral pelvis provides the perfect position for the Pelvic Floor muscles to do their job. Start with hands at shoulder distance apart and finish with arms taken further apart to create scapular retraction. In order to ensure total core activation and co-ordination, cue the client to exhale as she pulls the band apart, exhaling purposefully (so you can hear). This will have a synergistic benefit to the pelvic floor muscles and muscles and fascia of the lumbar region also.
You can regress this exercise by performing it in a standing position (still with hip flexion but less so) to reduce the effect of gravity on still weakened abdominal muscles. If the client experiences any bulging of the abdomen in this position and demonstrates an inability to maintain TVA activation, THIS EXERCISE IS TOO ADVANCED and substituted for a more suitable alternative (see below).
2. Kneeling Straight Arm Press Downs with NEUTRAL PELVIS! - A great way to strengthen the abdominal wall and entire core without creating the usual intra-abdominal pressure associated with crunches etc. Emphasize NEUTRAL PELVIS to ensure you are strengthening in the optimal position and create a pre-tension using the SET CUE not strengthened in a lengthened position associated with an anterior pelvic tilt. Also neutral pelvis provides the perfect position for the Pelvic Floor muscles to do their job. Start and finish positions are shown. Suitable for all levels of recovering including clients with a small Diastasis. In order to ensure total core activation, cue the client to exhale as she simultaneously presses her arms downwards - she needs to exhale purposefully (so you can hear). This will have a synergistic benefit to the pelvic floor muscles and muscles and fascia of the lumbar region. PS Ensure this doesn't turn into a tricep pressdown! This kneeling version is a progression from the easier standing version.
Caveat: This information is intended for use by Certified Specialist Professional seeking inspiration when programming for the Post Natal client. If you are a mom looking for suitable exercises after your baby, please seek professional help/advice before commencing any exercise programme.