diastasis recti

Tips on how to engage the pelvic floor

Pelvic floor? What is that? Do I even care? Well you should! Before I started taking educational courses on women’s health and fitness I had no clue how big of a role the pelvic floor plays in everyday movement. You should care because in daily life tasks and in exercising it is important.  Once you begin to understand how the pelvic floor works, you can implement strategies that will improve your overall function.  One of the strategies I use and also instruct my clients to use is the Piston Strategy.  Julie Wiebe is a Pelvic Floor physical therapist who has created the diaphragm/Pelvic Floor Piston Science that I’ll talk about below.

“permission to use copyright image from Pelvic Guru, LLC”

“permission to use copyright image from Pelvic Guru, LLC”

Quick overview of the pelvic floor muscles.

Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. You can think of it has two halves- front and back. The back half being the anus and front half being the vaginal/urethral opening (for women). When thinking about engaging the pelvic floor you probably think of a “Kegel”, but it goes beyond just learning how to “engage/tighten/squeeze/hold” the pelvic floor. we also need to learn how to relax the muscles. The pelvic floor works in conjunction with the diaphragm and the transverse abdominis to create a balance in breathing, engaging, relaxing, moving, & beyond. transverse abdominis

Julie Wiebe’s Pelvic Floor Piston

The Pelvic Floor Piston Strategy promotes a balanced team working together to create a strong system as a whole. Leaking? Feel like a tampon is falling out? When holding your breath do you feel pressure downward? Does your belly push out? These are things that we can manage when optimizing our team. “A partnership of muscles acting together in a task is optimally what we want to create”- Julie Wiebe.

The Strategy

With your team you want to create a balanced breath- Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor, and Transverse Abs

How?  

·      Inhale- diaphragm descends, transverse abs & PF lengthen/relax

·      Exhale- diaphragm ascends, transverse abs & PF gentle engage/shorten   

Where do you start?

Find a Pelvic Floor physical therapist who can give you individualized cues that work for you. In addition to pelvic floor engagement comes body alignment and working to improve your tendencies. The overall goal is to manage pressure & to eliminate symptoms.  Please know the video below is not the only way to learn how to engage the pelvic floor but a good place to start!

I hope that you find this #Protip helpful, please reach out with any questions and/or if you would like more guidance during your pregnancy & Postpartum journey.

Want to learn more behind the Piston Strategy?

References/Resources:

Julie Wiebe Doctor in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

https://www.juliewiebept.com/product/the-pelvic-floor-piston-foundation-for-fitness-2/

Diastasis recti

Diastasis Recti is a mouthful, so I’m just going to call it “DR” for short. DR is the separation of the sides at the center of the abdomen and thinning of the fascia between these sides (the separation of the 6 pack muscles for short). This is a hot topic, but stay calm It’s normal to have a separation of the midline during pregnancy. Your body is compensating for your growing baby. It’s also normal to have a separation post-baby. Your abdomen may never fully close post baby and that’s okay too, as long as there is a strategy in place & your fascia is responding well. (it’s not just about the width).  This pro-tip on DR is not to scare you, but to inform you.

Where to start?

First step, find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (PFPT) that will listen to your story & goals (it may take a few PFPTs to find the right fit for you). Second step, find a trainer who can help you work towards your goals & that has continuing education working with pregnant & postpartum women. Third step, Connect the dots and implement strategies that work for you. It’s not what you are doing, it’s how you are doing it. There isn’t one way to breathe or one way you should stand & move. Everyone is different & so is your timeline. 

How do I check for DR?

  1. Lay flat on your back with feet flat on the ground
  2. Slightly tucking your chin to your chest, slightly lift your head off the ground, keeping your shoulders on the ground. **This is NOT a crunch, just a head lift
  3. Starting just below the sternum in the middle of your chest, take three fingers (horizontally) and walk them down the midline all the way to the pubic bone.
  4. You are feeling for how many fingers you can fit between your mid-section, how deep your fingers can go, & what your mid-section feels like. Is it soft like your cheek? Or hard like the tip of your nose?   
  5.  It’s great to give yourself a baseline and know how to check for DR, but I highly suggest finding a PFPT in your area for an evaluation.

Recap, it's not just about the gap. The way your fascia responds (tissue between the 6 pack muscles) is important to! Try to not obsess over DR & with the right guidance, try doing something different in your training.

“You have to stress, to progress”- Antony Lo.

-Coach K