Lose Your “Mummy Tummy”– and Why Crunches are BAD for You

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Want to Lose Your Mummy Tummy? Find out how and Find out Why Crunches are BAD for you!  This is seriously very important information and not just for moms.  Many ladies without kids have this problem too - and men can as well -- what appears to be a beer belly, might be this problem instead.

If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you know that I care about health.  I’ve got posts about adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, candida, gut health, autism, and more.  So why a post about how to get a flat stomach if it’s just about being more attractive?

Well, I do think that being attractive is good for your mental and emotional health, but there is more going on here….read on and see. 

I have something super exciting today–a way to get rid of your “post baby belly.” 

{Please note that there are affiliate and referral links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your support is very much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.}

Awhile ago I saw Beth’s teaching on diagnosing and fixing diastasis (a cause of “tummy pooch” that won’t go away)–and I knew I had it.

My stomach has NEVER been super flat. Ever.

But since having my kids, well–let’s just say that I am almost constantly holding my stomach in–and I’ve always thought that I had a more intense problem than other moms.

I asked Beth if she would write about diastasis because I know I’m not alone. And besides–good abdominal health is something we all should have.  

So let’s find out why we need to stop doing crunches–and find out how to get rid of post-pregnancy “mummy tummy” for good. Here’s Beth—

Having worked in the fitness industry for 18 years, one common complaint I’ve heard from many postpartum moms is that their bellies seems to get BIGGER– not smaller–the more they work their core.

Before I had kids myself, I was a personal trainer, and I just told these unsatisfied customers to accept that some new curves would always be a part of the blessing of motherhood. Then I got pregnant three times myself, and let me just tell you what happened:

  • My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 11 weeks, and I wondered why my abs didn’t go back to flat when I had barely even been showing.
  • Six months later, we conceived my daughter. After I gave birth to her, I wondered why my tummy got flat right after having her, but then pooched out when I started exercising again.
  • Three years after having my daughter, I had my son, and my belly didn’t even attempt get flatter no matter how many crunches and planks and cardio sessions I did. In fact, he was over 2 years old when I realized my stomach was still making an inverted V-shape whenever I sat up. Yet I was doing core work almost every day. It was the kind of core work I was doing (crunches, situps, planks) that was making my belly rip more!

Women all over the world are reading those three pieces of my personal history and nodding their heads, because our physiology is the same and most of us have experienced this… and accepted it?

Yes, we’ve been told by personal trainers who’ve never had kids (like I was) that it’s normal to have a “mummy tummy.”

Once I finally realized that my certification as a group fitness instructor and my degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Oregon State University had left out some important information about how a woman’s core works during and after pregnancy,

I went in search of exercises that truly help minimize and treat diastasis recti (Diastasis Recti Abdominus–a split in your abs that’s wider than normal).

In the July, 1988 issue of Physical Therapy, an abstract was published that showed EVERY pregnant woman’s abs splitting into a diastasis in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. ”

Its incidence peaked in the third trimester group; remained high in the women in the immediate postpartum group; and declined, but did not disappear, in the later postpartum group. These findings demonstrate the importance of testing for diastasis recti abdominis above, below, and at the umbilicus throughout and after the childbearing year.”

But have you ever been checked for it? Has anyone ever told you which exercises help it and which ones make it worse?

Has anyone ever explained how the wider your gap is, the more your lower back, digestion, pelvic floor health, and many more problems will increase?

Because if your abdominal wall isn’t holding your innards in the right spots, then your innards won’t work as well… ding! Lightbulbs going off in heads all over the world! I now believe that if every woman could learn the following four do’s and don’ts for reclaiming their cores, then we’d have far fewer pregnant-looking grandmothers out there.

Because that is what is happening with traditional core work: the stress of crunches and planks and situps upon injured abdominals just stresses the connective tissue more!

If you follow these 4 exercise tips, you can start healing your core for good, no matter how many months or years postpartum you are…

4 Exercises for Abdominal Health

  • Train Your Transverse Abdominus –

    Your TA is your own natural girdle, assisting the uterus with expulsion during birth and taking pressure off your healing six-pack (rectus abdominus) after birth.But the obliques and six-pack get so much attention in the fitness industry that many women don’t even know about their bigger, deeper, more important TA muscle.You can start activating your TA three days after vaginal birth and 10 days after surgical birth. Learn how by clicking HERE to watch my 10-minute “Totally Transverse” workout!

  • Walk! Walk! Walk! –

    Nothing is more effective at working your whole body in a safe, effective, gentle manner than walking. Walking naturally stretches and flexes your pelvic floor and activates your whole core without stressing your abdominal connective tissue.If you use a baby carrier, please make sure that it’s one that prevents hip dysplasia in the baby while supporting your core without yanking on your back – wraps and ergo-like carriers are best. If you are pushing your child in a stroller, your form matters! Read this incredible article about how to push a stroller with good posture by Lorraine Scapens of Pregnancy Exercise in New Zealand.
  • Practice Perfect Posture -Visualize the inside of your torso like two bowls; your pelvis forms one bowl, and your ribs form another upside down bowl.While sitting and standing, your rib bowl and pelvic bowl need to center with each other. If your ribs are thrust forward, that stretches the diastasis, so pull your ribs down while keeping your spine tall. If your pelvic bowl is tilted so your hips are tucked under a lot, or so that your lower back is severely arched, that will also yank on your connective tissue.Read more about these incredible concepts at Katy Bowman’s site, Aligned and Well.
  • Can the Crunches -Yes, I know this flies in the face of all those cute pictures of moms crunching up to play “peek-a-boo” with their baby floating on their shins.But crunches bulge the belly, not flatten it.If doing 300 crunches a day worked, you’d have a flat belly by now.Sit ups are even worse, in fact, any crunch-like motion – this includes anything where the shoulders come off the floor – contributes to diastasis by very nature of biomechanics. (Yikes! I’ve been adding these to my exercise regimen recently. :(.)Planks are also inadvisable until while your diastasis recti is still open because of the gravitational pressure pushing down and out on your damaged core.

In short, you have one body. If your hurt it, you cannot trade it in for a new one, and replacement parts are very expensive. If your workout makes you hurt more or “shreds” your belly apart to the point that your abs can’t even hold your own guts in (that’s not a beer belly, it’s a diastasis, dude!) then your workout isn’t improving you health; it’s ruining your health. Fitness should be a fun time of healing and re-energizing your body so that you can be a better mom, partner and volunteer. Don’t settle for a broken body. Click here for wholesome workouts for the whole family that are:

  • diastasis aware
  • safe and
  • effective!

**(It’s Adrienne again here. Isn’t this amazing? I’ve just started my Transverse exercises and I’m already feeling a little better. I plan to do a before and after photo and touch base with you in a few weeks to see how it’s working. I can’t believe how long I’ve been doing crunches [when I did exercise]–all this time thinking I was doing the right thing.  Sigh. If you’re as impressed with Beth’s knowledge as I am, you’ll want to check out her fitness site, Fit2B.

(By the way, I’m an affiliate of Fit2B so if you sign up and use SAVINGS CODE adrienneurban (all one word), I’ll make a commission, and you will get savings off a 1-year membership :). Thanks for your support of my blog, by the way:).) Fit2B is an amazing online gym that is:

  • Tummy Conscious (every exercise routine encourages healthy abs)
  • Modest (that’s sooo important to me)
  • Understandable – no “what are they talking about” exercise mumbo-jumbo
  • Geared Towards Busy Moms (but anyone can do it). No videos for clutter. No driving to the gym. Doable exercise.
  • Encouraging (they have a network of supporters on Facebook and Twitter to help you along)

I LOVE what Fit2B has on their About Us Page:  “Our goal for members of Fit To Be Us is that you will feel fit to do anything! Fit to run and jump on the trampoline with your kids. Fit to go hiking and biking. Fit to fit into your favorite jeans that have been on the floor of your closet for way too long!” If that doesn’t make you want to check them out, I don’t know what will :)! Here’s to all of us getting our abdominals in good shape so they can support all the important stuff that’s inside of us–so we can be healthier and be better moms, wives, and citizens–Yippee

Hope that helps you save some money while saving your abs!

Oh – and one more thing. While we’re on the topic of healthy abs and all that, make sure you check out Healing from Autism, Hypoglycemia, Eczema, and More. I can’t believe how far we’ve come as a family!

So–do you have a “post-baby belly”? Did you know crunches are BAD for you?

Beth Learn of Fit2Bus. Bio photo. Bethany is a work at home mama to two wild rugrats in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband just moved to a 7-acre farm where she’s learning to milk 1 stubborn goat and get eggs from 10 hens. She runs Fit2B Studio from her laptop between homeschooling, picking berries, wiping noses, hodge-podging meals together, race-walking with two separate teams, and teaching at her local fitness center. Her hobbies include fitness {duh!} and crocheting rag rugs out of recycled t-shirts she cuts into yarn. Come see her passion for Diastasis Awareness in action over at fit2b.com today!  

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  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! All three of my children were big babies (9.7, 9.11 and my little baby 8.7). I joined the Army after having my first two and my tummy was tight and tone…Awesome Abs! Then at 27 I had my daughter and my abs took a total hit! 9 yrs later and I still don’t have the abs I once did and I thought all was lost. No one ever understood what I meant when I said that when I do crunches, it looked like I had a deep valley down the center of my stomach, a crevice of sorts. I am so excited to try the tips you mentioned and hope that soon core will be strong again. ((I have also suffered from severe back pain due to an injury while in the Army and I hope that finally being able to correctly strengthen my core will help with this.))

  2. Hi!

    This just confirm what I myself realized couple months ago, when working out hard and trying to fix my abs, every time i did crunches or sit ups, well I see I got an even worst belly, so I decided to leave it alone and never do crunches again, thank you so much for confirming this, I got an umbilical hernia I plan to get fixed in the future, it won´t even notice unless I gain weight or do crunches, so for now I know is there but you don´t see it.
    Will check the website and subscribe to try it too.

    Thank you!

  3. You are a blessing! You don’t know how many months I’ve researched why my tummy kept getting bigger and bigger despite the exercise. I had read about diastasis recti before but your explanation and the questions are very precise. You might as well live in my head! Thank you! I will try to see if Fit2B is for me. Thanks again!

  4. Do you think this can help me? My baby is 16 and Ive never had a flat tummy since.

    • It is never too late to heal your core. A muscle is a muscle no matter how old, and studies show that they stimulate the same way regardless of age. I have members of all ages on Fit2B getting stronger every day!

  5. Hello there – this has all been an interesting read thank you. Just have a query,
    2.5 yrs post caesarean and I have never been able to regain my stomach, I always had
    strong abdominals and now I feel so weak in that area. Even if I hold my tummy in there’s
    still this stomach that won’t budge. Would TV exercises help even if you don’t have a diastasis?
    Or is it possible I have one post c section ? Any help appreciated thank you

    • Definitely. Just yesterday my colleague Kelly Dean, licensed PT of The Tummy Team, check 55 bellies. She reported that most of them had small DR separations but major inactivity and malfunction in the core with corresponding lower back pain, incontinence, general weakness, etc. Just because your abs aren’t separated, that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from strengthening your God-given girdle and improving your alignment. There is always benefit to shoring up our weak places. And it’s never too late for anyone. I’ve had members in their 80s and mothers with multiple cesareans experience improvement and regain function and feeling again.

  6. Crunches are not bad for you. That is false information. I do agree that the way I used to do crunches (and probably the majority of people) made my abs bulge, not flatten. But then I became a pilates instructor and haven’t had that issue since! (and I do a ton of crunches!) It’s learning how to do them properly, with your transverse abs engaged first, and working your way up to stability and strength from the deepest layer of abs. I also work in pre and post natal pilates. It’s definitely important to take it slow after you have your baby, and especially if you have diastis recti. Consider doing pilates or yoga and repairing the rectus abdominis slowly, rather than jumping on a treadmill or going to bootcamp. A good and educated instructor should be able to help you!

    • Kathleen, thank you for your comment, but I would like to respond to what you are saying.

      First of all, you say that my information (which is based on years of research and backed by core rehabilitation experts and physical therapists worldwide) is false, but you didn’t give any research to back yourself up. You’re right about crunches being able to be performed by someone who can properly engage their TA but I’m not addressing those people. Over 60% of women who have ever had children are dealing with core and pelvic floor trauma that debilitates their TA. A knowledgeable instructor can definitely teach them correct activation, and that’s what I do on Fit2B.

      But after all the research I’ve done, it boils down to best practice and functionality. Why do an exercise that will pull someone’s ribs down over and over when they’re already sitting slumped? Why do an exercise that works so few muscles when you could spend that time doing a multi-joint motion? For someone with a complete core, no scar tissue, no frayed fascia, a few crunches as part of a total body program will likely not do much damage…. to the abs, but think about where the pressure of that crunch has to go if the abs stay flat…. Have you ever taken the lid off a tube of toothpaste and then bent the tube in the middle? Many core experts believe that even a crunch done with proper “flat tummy” form will put tremendous pressure on the pelvic floor and that is partly contributes to the epidemic of wet britches in older women. If there is a BETTER exercise that doesn’t risk damage to the core and pelvic floor, I’d rather do it instead of crunches which also put almost as much compressive load on the intervertebral discs as doing situps. If your goal is a ripped, defined six-pack keep doing crunches.

      But if your goal is overall strength and long-term dry pants, avoid them like the plague as a mode of exercise ;) I haven’t done them in years, and I don’t miss them. I hope you will keep an open mind and poke around my site (and stay tuned while Adrienne will be bringing more abdominal health info) for more. thank you.

  7. Thanks for your post. Any chance Fit2B will extend your AdrienneUrban discount code? It’s expired now. Thanks!

    • I am so sorry Susan. The codes all expired and I thought I got them all out of the posts. I can ask if they ever do them anymore but I don’t think so. I have more information coming on tummy health hopefully in the next month. Thanks!

  8. Pkinney says:

    So, I clicked on your link to watch the “free” 10 min video & it just took me to your page to join your site. That was disappointing. So, really this is just an advertisement for your business.