Huffpost Parents
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Wendy Powell Headshot

Three Reasons Your Workout Isn't Flattening Your Post-Baby Tummy (and What Will!)

Posted: Updated:

The biggest body issue for many women is the 'mummy tummy' that just won't go away, no matter how many boot camp sessions, crunches and planks they do.

In more than a decade as a pre/postnatal exercise specialist, I have worked with thousands of women to restore their stomach and pelvic floor, find their lost waistline, and a little bit of lost mojo.

To heal and flatten a tummy that has carried and birthed a baby - however long ago - requires you to build the foundations before any 'shred', 'blast', crunch or plank is going to touch that pooch tummy. It requires understanding and focus first, before strengthening and toning will
have any impact.

A number of factors could be preventing you from achieving flat abs - here's a few likely culprits - and what you should do instead!

1. Crunches or sit-ups will make your stomach bulge and your core weaker.

Why? Because a crunch exerts pressure inside your abdominal cavity that encourages your 'six-pack' muscles to separate (diastasis recti) your core muscles to strain outwards, and your pelvic floor downwards. If your abs bulge outwards during any exercise - then the exercise isn't working.

What works instead? Using your deep core muscles effectively in whole body, weight bearing movements like squats and lifts, means your core does its job correctly, stabilising and bracing your body and in turn building stronger abs. Hardcore ab moves that promise to 'shred' and 'rip' and 'blast'... will flatten a strong, stable optimally functioning core. But if you don't have that to start with, (which most mums don't) they won't help. You need to build the core first.

2. Endless repetitions of ab exercises won't melt away belly fat

Why? Because muscle and fat are two separate types of tissue - one doesn't turn into the other and you can't spot reduce fat by focusing on one area. You may be building strong abdominal muscles - but you won't see them because there is fat on top!

What works instead? Your food choices determine fat loss, not the ab exercise you do. Balancing hormones, reducing stress and exercising smarter will reduce belly fat storage. Eliminate sugar and refined grains as much as possible from your diet. Vegetables should make up the biggest portion on your plate, followed by protein, with the smallest amount being starches. Increase your intake of essential fats, reduce stress and get more sleep. Exercise at high intensity and include resistance exercises like squats, push-ups or pull-ups.
These lifestyle factors will have an infinitely bigger effect on the fat around your tummy than any ab exercise will!

3. Going thorough the motions at Pilates class or sucking in your stomach does not constitute 'working your core'

Why? Because sucking in your stomach simply displaces pressure and mass - it doesn't work your muscles. Excessive pressure inside your abdominal cavity is the root cause of diastasis recti, weak core and pelvic floor muscles, even hernia and prolapse. If your shoulders are hunching or tensing, if your chest thrusts, if your butt tucks under, then your vital core muscles simply aren't working.

What Works Instead?You need to connect with, and train your muscles, before you can strengthen them. Very often after childbirth (and long afterwards) there is a 'disconnect' for women, as the brain sends signals to the deep muscles of the abdomen and pelvis. By focusing on re-connecting through breathing techniques, adjusting your pelvic alignment to relieve pressure, strengthening glutes and working your core as an entire system of muscles to stabilise you, you can re-establish a functioning core.

When you have found and trained your core, then you can strengthen your core!

I created the MuTu® System programs to help women achieve the post-baby stomach and body they're after. It's the step-by-step, need-to-know, approved by pelvic health physiotherapists and created by a specialist and mum who's done it.

Around the Web

Your post-baby belly: Why it's changed and how to tone it | BabyCenter

Post-baby bellies - Photo Gallery | BabyCenter

Toning Your Tummy: Four Ways to Tackle Belly Fat After Pregnancy

How can I lose post-baby belly fat/this stubborn pooch? - Ask Georgie

Battling the post-baby bulge - Health - Fitness | NBC News

6 Signs You May Not Be Ready to Have Sex Post Pregnancy

Alessandra Ambrosio flaunts rock-hard abs

Get back your body post baby

Alessandra Ambrosio Shows Off Yoga-licious Post-Baby Body

Kelly had 2in trimmed off her waist and back - without the need for surgery ...