Can I Do Crunches and Sit-Ups Post-Pregnancy?

By Molly Galbraith

"Hi! I had my baby seven weeks ago and my doctor cleared me for exercise and I'm dying to get back in the gym. I'm especially dying to tighten my stomach back up, but I've heard mixed things about whether or not crunches and situps are OK after having a baby. Can you tell me if they are OK to do and if they'll help me tighten my stomach back up? Thank you!"

— Crystal

Hi Crystal! Thanks so much for reaching out and for your great question! First and foremost, we want to remind you to take it easy on yourself. You just grew and gave birth to a baby seven weeks ago, and while it's normal to feel some discomfort in your body, we really recommend you give yourself some time to heal and recover before jumping back into intense exercise. In addition, we recommend you check out this blog post in which moms share stories about embracing their bodies post-baby. We think you'll really enjoy it.

Regarding your question, this, and so many other questions for which women often can’t get a definitive answer, are why we have created our upcoming Moms Gone Strong program (coming March 28th, 2017!). We want to dispel myths about exercise and post-pregnancy and help women, as well as the coaches and trainers who work with them, know exactly what exercises to do before, during, and after pregnancy to have the healthiest, strongest, and safest pregnancy and postpartum experiences possible.

This excerpt from the Exercise FAQ in our Moms Gone Strong program is just one example of the lengths to which we've gone to marry the latest research with our experts’ 140+ combined years of practical and clinical experience to offer women the best information available:

"While our aim is certainly not to demonize those exercises, or to suggest that no one should ever perform a crunch or sit-up if they are pregnant or after they’ve had a baby, the reality is that you’re likely already performing enough of these movements in your daily life. Maybe not daily, (especially while pregnant or immediately postpartum) or for many reps at a time, but surely at some point.

For example, you are going to perform a sit-up to get up out of the dumbbell bench press. When you’re lying in bed, you are going to crunch up to check the baby monitor. You are going to do a sit-up every time you get up off of the floor after playing with your kid(s).

Historically, one of the main concerns with the crunch and sit-up has been the belief that they will cause too great a degree of intra-abdominal pressure, which could mean they are not safe for the pregnant or post-pregnancy body. However, the research suggests this is not true for everyone. For many people, standing up out of a chair creates more intra-abdominal pressure than doing a crunch. Crunches and sit-ups are not inherently bad for everyone. They are unlikely to automatically and spontaneously cause core and pelvic floor dysfunction. They may not even magnify the severity of your diastasis recti or cause any harm to its healing. They may not cause your pelvic organ prolapse to become more symptomatic.

Whatever the case, when it comes to training your core before, during, and after pregnancy, we believe it’s important to focus on the deep core musculature that supports your spine and helps you develop strength throughout your your entire body. Doing so is critical to keeping you comfortable and reducing your pain through pregnancy as well as enabling you to carry your kicking and crying 30-pound toddler out of the park when it’s time to go home.

It’s for reasons like these that we didn’t include the crunch and sit-up. We know your time is limited, we know pregnancy and parenting place many other demands on your body, and we don’t know your specific core and pelvic floor health background. Thus, we have tried to keep the workout programming as safe as possible, while still physically challenging.

However, we know these crunch and sit-up movements will occur naturally at different points throughout your life, so we want to teach you how to perform the crunch movement properly. This will prepare your body to handle the intra-abdominal pressure that occurs during the crunch and will help protect the pelvic floor and spine as much as possible."


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About the author:  Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, a global movement of 800,000+ folks passionate about women’s health, fitness, and empowerment. She’s also the creator of the The Girls Gone Strong Academy, home of the world’s top certifications for health and fitness pros who want to become a Certified Pre-& Postnatal Coach or a Certified Women’s Coaching Specialist.   The GGS Academy is revolutionizing women’s health and fitness by tackling critical (and often overlooked) topics like body image struggles, disordered eating, menopause, amenorrhea and menstrual cycle struggles, PCOS, endometriosis, osteoporosis, pre- and postnatal exercise, incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, postpartum recovery, and much more.   Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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