A request to review a book
A long time ago my nutritionist friend Margaret asked me to review a book, which she was even kind enough to give me to read. I scanned a few pages, caught what I thought the general gist was, and forgot it on my bookshelf for awhile. However, I think the author’s premise is worthy of time and exploration. She essentially lays out her basic plan in the first chapter.
Initially I wrote this post for anyone who has ever had a baby. However, the phenomenon I describe can happen to men and women both who exercise incorrectly or from constipation pressure. In some ways this is more about fascia, interestingly enough, for those of you following along on the topic. This book is centered around a part of the body that everybody complains about: the stomach. According to the author of the book Lose Your Mummy Tummy, Julie Tupler, RN, says 98% of people have a fascia overstretch problem after baby arrives which is termed diastasis. That is practically everybody, so read on. However, child-free Pilates instructors have also developed the “gully” from the famous Pilates 100’s ( you jackknife your body and pump your arms by your sides 100 times), so it seems no one is immune. (98%! Wowza! I am awestruck by that factoid.)
Check this out
The rectus abdominus muscle (read: your six pack) has a center line of fascia called the linea alba. This becomes more stretchy via the hormone relaxin while pregnant and is found in the blood for six months post pregnancy. As the baby grows, the linea alba thins out and stretches to accommodate the baby. This separation has a technical term: diastasis.
The linea alba is the critical area to keep in mind.
You know me: I want to show you the anatomy of what I am talking about. Ms. Tupler also does an excellent job of describing and illustrating the anatomy as well. First, let’s review abdominal anatomy.
Abdominal Anatomy – there are three layers.
Here is your external oblique and also middle layer of abdominal muscle. This muscle runs diagonally downward from the rib cage to the pelvis.
Your internal oblique, also a middle layer, which runs upward from pelvis to rib cage.
Your rectus abdominus, the most outermost muscle but notice how it connects to the transverse abdominus at the base.
And your transverse abdominus, your corset, going in front of the rectus abdominus at the bottom and behind the rectus at the top.
Why explain any of that?
Well, as Ms. Tupler states in her book, “Since the obliques are attached to the rectus abdominus, doing forward -crossover oblique exercises will make the diastasis bigger…. (and) because the transverse is connected to the rectus abdominus, whenever it goes backwards, the diastasis gets smaller.”
This is a very important point: Normal crunches and the forward crossovers make things worse, not better. Those work the top and the bottom of the six pack, while the middle gets longer. The most important part is the middle!
Huh. Whadya want, a bigger or smaller stomach?
Let’s get it smaller!!!!
Her favorite muscle is the transverse abdominus because it will help you get rid of…the Mummy Tummy. The shrinking of the diastasis. Here is another interesting factoid: This will work regardless of how many years have passed! Further, she points out that the higher you lift your head above your hips, the harder it is to engage your transverse. I quote, “If you can’t hold your transverse in while doing a particular exercise, it is an indication you shouldn’t be doing it.”
There are some pressing questions regarding this phenomenon. One such question is, “How do I know if I have a diastasis?”
Ms. Tupler describes a technique where you lie on your back with knees bent, put your fingers on your belly pointing down toward your feet, and press your fingers into your bellybutton area as you gently lift your head. Feel a gully? That’s it! She states that she has clients able to fit two fingers and up to a ten finger separation in the gully. (Mine is only about one finger-width currently, measured by a visit to a pelvic floor specialist physical therapist whom I visited out of sheer curiosity).
(Just Muscles readers: When have we run into our friend the transverse abdominus before? Remember our core breathing blog post? Aaah, yes. Belly diaphragmatic breathing activates the transverse, as well as pelvic floor, and that back muscle the multifidus!) Breathing correctly is half the battle– so remember, inhale thru the nose as the lower belly expands, and exhale thru the nose as belly goes back towards the spine.)
The burning question of all: how do I shrink it back down?
Ms. Tupler has a whole body workout mapped out for you in her book. (If you are a brand new mom, she recommends a splint around your belly to support it for the first two weeks.)
However, let’s get to the Tupler Technique right away. Here is an illustration and an exercise directly from the book for your beginning transverse exercise: Imagine you have a horizontal elevator in your abdominal area with the first floor being the front of the belly and the sixth floor being the back of the spine.
- You are seated, in a chair or on the floor, and take a belly breath. As you exhale out, imagining your ribs coming together.
- Hold for 30 counts, out loud, so you don’t stop breathing. ( I like Mississippis!) Now bring your bellybutton even further back: imagine you’re bringing it out of the back of your spine (sixth floor from the picture above). Think of it is just a little squeeze or tightening.
- Count as you do five of these squeezes.
- End with a deep full belly breath. Do 10 sets every day.
- You know when I think it might be a good idea to practice your Tupler Technique? In the car! You are stuck sitting anyway, why not work on your abs as you drive?
Ms. Tupler has done an excellent job of documenting the diastasis phenomenon, so check your technique, and remember to use that transverse in all that you do! She has more suggestions for you in her book, so check it out if you have good results with this introductory exercise.
Let us know in the comments below if you have had good luck using this technique or others!