After the birth of my third child, I noticed that my once flat stomach was a little more mushy and protruding than usual. Whilst this is to be completely expected after having a baby, I knew after one year post-partum, something was not quite right.
Despite doing lots of core exercises to help strength the mid-section, I still had a wobbly pooch (not to mention back pain, which at first I thought was normal after picking up and putting down a newborn 24/7).
A trip to the Physio and an explanation of my typical core routine (which included crunches, sit-up etc), I had my answer: it was my sit-up choice. I had more abdominal separation than I was aware of, and my constant crunching was only making it worse!
In the quest to get a flatter belly, the question is: what’s the best tummy toner? Let’s take a look at the two most common: Sit-ups versus the plank hold.
Muscles worked: Superficial abdominals (the top layer or your six-pack).
Benefits: Strengthens and tones the abdominal muscles.
Drawbacks: Not suitable for those with spinal disc injury, recent surgery or childbirth. Why? Full sit-ups may cause back pain, or strain the neck muscles, if performed incorrectly.
Muscles worked: The entire mid-sectionincluding deep and superficial abdominals, obliques (side abdominals) and back extensors (the posture muscles), as well as the buttocks and shoulders.
Benefits: Works a variety of muscles at once, so you get more bang for your core training buck.
Drawbacks: Can cause pain and possible injury if lower back arches when fatigued.
The plank hold does more than just work your abs – it engages your entire trunk region leading to a strong and stabilised core, which includes muscles of the abs, back, and buttocks. Having a strong core reduces your risk of injury and improves exercise and sports performance by stabilising your spine. The best part. It works the entire core, while holding them close to the spine leading to a flat abs appearance instead of the bulge that can occur from too many sit-ups.
It’s important to note however that both planks and sit ups should be avoided if separation is greater than 2 cm. I strongly suggest you discuss the best core exercises with a physio as other more important muscles, such as the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals will need be to targeted first.