It was five months after I had my first baby when I finally understood the term "Mom butt." I tried on a pair of jeans that used to fit like a glove and the backside was loosely hanging. What happened to my booty? Did it get shriveled up and redistributed to my stomach? Did my husband not follow my washing instructions again?
It's actually less of a mystery than that.
Think of the typical posture of a pregnant woman - the butt is tucked under, hips jut forward as we adjust to the weight of carrying a baby in front. The upper back in turn sways back. This shifts our center of gravity and we start to look like the woman on the right.
Then, we have our baby and it's hard to turn off this posture. The butt and pelvis remain tucked under and it gets harder to reconnect to our abs. In addition, we are holding our babies and feeding them so often in the first few months that our upper back stays in a hunched over, shoulders rounded position.
The "mom butt" is actually the result of muscular imbalances. Basically, the back side of our body becomes overstretched and the front becomes shortened and tight. We stop using our booty muscles and our upper back muscles and they become weaker and harder to connect to.
Why do we need strong booty muscles? The glutes are the largest muscle in the human body and we need them to stabilize our pelvis (critical when pregnant), give us balance, and prevent pelvic floor muscle dysfunction such as pelvic pain and incontinence. We need our butt muscles to drive our legs forward as we walk and we need upright shoulder muscles to breathe well, otherwise we compress the space for our lungs.
Makes sense, right? So how can we stop this cycle from even happening? Strengthen your booty and shoulder blades while pregnant. Here's 3 exercises that can help you.
1. Booty Buddy
I love monster walks; they are your butt and hip stabilizers (important for postpartum recovery) best friend.
Take an 8" resistance band loop and put it around your ankles. Keep feet wider than shoulder width and walk forward, knees bent. Walk till it burns. Build up to 3 sets, 1 minute each, 3 times a week.
2. Sexy Back
Take a standard 5 foot long piece of thera-band (any resistance level). Attach it to your doorknob and perform rows.
- Lift shoulder upwards towards your ears.
- While lifted, bring them backwards.
- Drop them down.
Then, perform a row with your band by imaging squeezing a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Do three sets of 12, three times a week. Engage your lower abs and pelvic floor as you do this.
3. Open Up
Addressing the front of the body simultaneously helps as those muscles get shorter and tighter, which in turns pulls on the back. We need to work on opening up the chest.
Lay on a large yoga ball and then drape your back over the ball as the arms are out to your sides. Relax into this for at least 30 seconds.
Alternatively, you can do a doorframe chest stretch. To do this, stand in front of a doorframe and place your forearms on the edges of the frame. While there, lean your chest forward. Stay here at least 30 seconds. I try to pick one doorframe in my house can do this every time I walk through it.
These exercises are gentle and can be done throughout your pregnancy. Start this week and we can fight "mom butt" together one exercise at a time!
Photography by 485 Creative.
This piece was originally published by Lindsey Vestal on Well Rounded NY. Lindsey Vestal owns The Functional Pelvis, a private practice specializing in pelvic floor therapy "house calls" for pre- and postnatal women. As an OT, she is a passionate promoter of bridging pelvic floor rehabilitation with lifestyle modifications while addressing the psychological impact that pelvic floor issues have on our everyday lives.
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