My understanding of the Fit for Birth curriculum is that front planks are OK for women with diastasis recti – that they are even good/a component of rehabilitation. This conflicts with a lot of what I’ve read online (planks and other front loaded exercises are bad). Can you further explain the Fit for Birth position on this issue?
Let’s be clear: First, the majority of pregnant women should not be doing planks during pregnancy. The reason is in part due to the altered core mechanics during pregnancy, but also simply because their core does not function properly.
Second, there are some women who have great core function who can do some version of planks without risk for diastasis or other core dysfunction. The reason is because the human body, even pregnant, is a resiliant amazing piece of machinery that has been built upon a foundation of strong inner core muscles. That is the great possiblity for our professional athletes and other functional athletic women. And that is important to know because there are indeed women do planks druing pregnancy and do not get diastasis.
As a prenatal fitness professional who is considering doing a plank, you would have to make sure that it is a version that is regressed enough that the woman can breathe easily through it and demonstrate a strong connection to her Core Breathing Belly Pump™ (CBBP). A progression could start with Quadruped, then go to Quadruped with limb lifts, then Quadruped “Beast” with both knees lifted in place. Then she could try a modified (hips in the air) plank on her knees, then see how her core breathing works when she lowers her hips a bit into the more classic plank position. Another option for a modified plank is placing forearms on a raised surface like a couch. In all of these regressions/progressions, the key is to make sure that her CBBP™ functions throughout.
There has been a history for adoption of blanket-statement rules in the fitness realm. As in the case of pregnant women avoiding planks, these rules sometimes have basis in validity. In the case of doing planks for Diastasis, it IS a good rule for the masses to “NOT do a plank” because most people will do it poorly, reinforce poor core mechanics, and actually aggravate their condition. But this same outcome occurs in both pregnant and non-pregnant populations. The main difference with pregnant women is that they are more prone to risking diastasis recti (although men can suffer diastasis as well).
There is an intention at Fit For Birth to really educate and expand awareness, rather than to simply follow blanket statements. Here are some reasons to remain thoughtful on this topic:
- Sometimes a plank-like position is being demanded of the prenatal client as an aspect of her daily life. Perhaps she finds herself in a plank-like position when she is rising out of bed or from the floor, playing with her other kids, etc). In this case, there is a possibility that she would be better off being taught how to do a proper modified plank, rather than avoiding it altogether.
- Prenatal yoga places pregnant moms into modified planks every time they flow through a sun salutations or down dog. A down dog is literally a full plank with one’s hips in the air. And yoga is where most pregnant moms are told to go when they are looking for safe ways to keep fit in pregnancy!
- Sometimes the plank may actually be the most available exercise progression for helping improve the core and/or diastasis condition. Sometimes the craziest things happen and I am surprised to see what helps when I least expect it.
- Sometimes the human body exceeds expectations in powerful ways when belief and open-mindedness combine to expand possibility. Like the famous man who broke the four-minute mile even when contemporary science said that the human body would never do it, I think it’s worth holding our pregnant moms with that level of beautiful expectation. I personally believe that evolutionary development has bestowed an inner core that remains fully functional even during pregnancy. I have seen it in my best clients. High functioning pregnant women can be in a plank-like position without an absolute risk of diastasis recti or other complication.
If you are in doubt of your ability to qualify whether or not the plank is too much, don’t do it with your clients. It’s not worth it when there are so many other exercises you can improve over the nine months. Work where you feel totally confident, always.
Q: In my continuing research about the pre- and postnatal exercise field, I’ve come across the program “No-Risk Abs” in the book “No-Risk Abs, A Safe Workout Program for Core Strength” by Blandine Calais-Germain.
In the book there is a specific bit about the TVA and how it pulls on the line alba which confuses me immensely. And I’m hoping you could shed some light on it for me.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the book or the program, but a snippet of page 37 goes:
“The contraction of the transverse abdominis pulls on the aponeurosis that runs perpendicularly along the entire length of the line alba. It tends to pull the line alba apart, a little like a zipper splitting it in half.”
I cannot make sense of this, since I always teach my clients that the only way to shrink diastasis recti is through engaging of the TVA and pulling the “corset” tight around the waist.
But according to “No-risk abs” drawing the belly in actually worsen the “hole” in the connective tissue/linea alba.
Can you clarify or dismiss this theory? Or simply de-confuse and enlighten me on this?
This is exactly why “Blanket-rules” are so problematic. The rule applies to many, but not all.
James Goodlatte is a Pre & Post Natal Holistic Health Coach whose passion is to heal families by inspiring the use of natural methods and by building a global team of fitness & health professionals to reduce infertility, avoid mechanized childbirth, and lower chronic disease in our infants. As the founder of Fit For Birth, Inc., he is a driving force for providing Continuing Education Credits for the Pre and Post Natal World. As a writer, his articles have been published in a dozen languages and have inspired contact from Pre & Post Natal women as well as health professionals in over 150 countries.