While I was having coffee and <ahem> eating cake with my lovely Pregnancy Pilates group the other day we were discussing the subject of the “mum bum”. How during or post pregnancy many of us find that our bottoms feel rather soft and lacking in muscle tone! It’s expected to have a squishy tummy post baby but the bottom too?! Why is this? Well, during pregnancy your centre of gravity shifts and as a result, many women try to counterbalance that shift by tucking their tailbone. This means that you end up underusing your glute muscles and overusing the posterior pelvic floor muscles. This results in a flattened backside that can’t fill up or hold up a pair of jeans.
While it might seem a bit odd, the next time you are with your mum friends... check out their derrieres (surreptitiously of course!) – what do you see? Chances are you will see a lot of flat bums, flat backs and jeans that are continuously being pulled up. The ‘mum bum’ epidemic is out of control; if you want to avoid it then read on for some advice and exercises to help keep your bottom bootylicious, and, as an added benefit your pelvic floor will thank you too!
Sitting does nothing to build the glutes and everything to make your bum as flat as a pancake. This is tricky in the early postnatal weeks as we are often glued to the sofa feeding our little ones. However, in between those feeds minimizing the amount of time spent sitting is critical to maintaining a healthy backside!
One of the best exercises out there is walking, and something that all new mums and mums to be can and should do as often as possible. It is a low impact form of exercise, so kind to the pelvic floor as well as a good way of getting the endorphins flowing. Hill walking is particularly beneficial, as when you add in the incline of a hill, it really blasts those glutes into high gear along with elevating your heart rate.
- Glute Bridges
The simple route to a perfect posterior is to master the glute bridge. As well as helping your bum look fabulous this exercise will also help improve your hip flexibility and mobility. To increase the challenge, try raising one leg off the ground and keeping it steady as you bridge, or move both feet on top of a table or box.
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat or the floor in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Attempt to maintain this TVA activation throughout the exercise.
- Gently exhale. Keep the abdominals engaged and lift your hips up off the floor. Press your heels into the floor for added stability.
- Inhale and slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.
Watch points: Avoid pushing your hips too high, which can cause hyperextension (arching) in your low back. Keeping your abdominals strong helps to prevent excessive arching in the low back.
During pregnancy you should be cautious if you choose to exercise while lying on your back due to supine hypotensive syndrome, particularly after 16 weeks. Exercise on the back for short durations only and watch out for feelings of dizziness. If you experience dizziness, stop exercising immediately.
Squatting is a great bum builder and is also a functional movement as you will be always bending down to pick up the little ones or the paraphernalia that comes with motherhood. Squatting can be done (and should be done) during pregnancy and within a few weeks postnatally. The range of motion can be modified but you want to aim for a nice deep squat with the tailbone un-tucked and your pelvis in neutral (keeping the small curve in your low back). Squats are one of my favourite exercises and there are many variations that can be done to keep things interesting.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hips. Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up. Keep looking straight ahead
- Toes should be slightly pointed outwards and engage your core by sucking your tummy button into your spine to work your transverse abdominals. (The girdle that holds everything in your abdominals together.)
- Slowly bend your knees and lower yourself to the ground as if to sit in a chair position – pushing your bottom back and down. As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.
- Stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.
- Push back up through your heels, exhaling at the same time.
Inhale when lowering body, exhae when pushing back up. Keep your toes pointed forward. Don't allow your chest to drop and sink onto the tops of your thighs.
During pregnancy there are times though when squats are not beneficial. You should avoid squatting when baby is not in an optimal position after 30 weeks, as squats help descend a baby deeper down into the pelvis. If there is any pain when you perform a squat then you may need to have your technique assessed to correct your form or you can choose from different variations to reduce any discomfort. There are some scenarios when you don’t want to induce early labour, a couple of examples might be Vasa Previa and multiple pregnancies under 35 weeks.
- The Oyster
The oyster helps to open up the hip joint, as well as strengthening the glutes and stabilising your pelvis. The opening and closing of the leg are also a great way of working your pelvic floor muscles.
- Lie on your right side with your shoulders and hips aligned on top of each other. If you are pregnancy you may wish to use a pillow under your head and bump for comfort.
- Place your left hand on the mat in front of you and bend both knees so that your heels are in a line with the back of your pelvis.
- Inhale to prepare and then exhale and keeping the feet connected lift up your top knee. Keep the pelvis still and stable and move from the hip joint.
- Inhale and control the leg back to the start position.
Only open the top leg as far as you can whilst keeping the pelvis still. Keep your core engaged and your waist lifted off the mat throughout the exercise. Try and place as little pressure through the top arm as possible
- The Glute Pulse
This exercise focuses on building strength in the glutes and hamstrings. Completing the move in four point position will also challenge the core muscles as you work to keep the torso stabilised and the spine in neutral against the movement of your leg.
- Start in four point kneeling position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hip joints.
- Inhale to prepare. Then exhale and keeping the core muscles engaged, slowly lift the left leg.
- Your knee should stay bent as you press your foot up toward the ceiling.
- Inhale and lower the leg back to start position.
Keep your spine in neutral by engaging your core muscles, and avoid rotating your hip s by keeping the shoulders and hips squared to the floor during the entire exercise.
We've created some short tabata workouts to get those glutes working: