Ins and Outs of the Core

Ins and Outs of the Core

Postpartum recovery & your core. 

Do you feel like you have a weak core after pregnancy? You’re not alone. A large part of postpartum recover is restoring your core. However, the core can be a confusing term that’s thrown around a lot in the fitness world. So, here are the ins and outs of the core.

Outer core

There are two main groups of muscles included in the “core” – the outer and the inner core. The outer core gets all the love because it’s the part you see and the part people generally target (a.k.a. the abs). It’s made up of the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) and obliques (internal and external).

Inner core

The inner core is the strong, silent type. These muscles don’t get the attention they need or deserve. Think of the inner core like an anchor, or the foundation to your house. It’s meant to come on and give us a base before we do any movement – all without us having to think about it. It’s generally very dependable but we take it for granted. Science has shown that these muscles can become “shut down”. This can be associated with many different issues, a common one being pregnancy!

A favourite core analogy:

You and your partner are out house shopping. You find two houses for sale right beside one another. House ‘A’ looks cute. It has a white picket fence, beautiful landscaping, BUT the realtor just told you it needs to have the foundation replaced. On the other hand, House ‘B’ looks like a dump, nothing about it is exciting BUT the foundation has just been replaced. The house is solid.

Which one do you want? I’m sure most of us would be saying “honey, please can we get the pretty one?”. However if you buy House ‘A’, chances are you’ll be fixing drafty windows, patching the roof, and dealing with a shifting house. You’ll have ongoing issues until you fix the foundation (a.k.a. the cause of the problem). 

Inside your inner core

 The media pushes us to have the pretty exterior and push aside the very crucial support structure.

There are 4 muscles that make up the inner core:

  1. pelvic floor
  2. transverse abdominis
  3. diaphragm
  4. multifidus




These muscles are meant to work reflexively. They want to give you a foundation without you thinking about them. Generally you are born with your deep core muscles knowing their role. These four muscles work as a team, reacting in the background so you always have that good base. 

To work optimally they have a couple of requirements: 

1.    Each individual muscle must be strong and know its role as part of the deep core team.

2.   They live in a good place. What determines where they live? Posture. How you align your body determines whether they are in their sweet spot and can work at their best.

Something I hope you understand is that pregnancy comes with drastic changes to your body. Some of these are inevitable. Your posture changes big time as your baby grows and these changes put the core muscles into a position where they can’t perform at their best. THEN you deliver your baby! Either out the bottom, which is a trauma to the pelvic floor. Or out the middle, which involves cutting through many layers of your abdominal tissues. Both of which make those core muscles want to curl up and hide.

The take home message

1.    Understand the importance of your deep core. Make sure you start with restoring your core after pregnancy. This will build a foundation before working on the aesthetics.

2.    Remind your body immediately postpartum what good posture is. Start good habits from the beginning, before your baby gets heavier and heavier.

3.    Spend the necessary time in the fourth trimester, learning to connect with the deep core muscles. Remind them how to work together as a team.

Feel like you need some guidance with all of this? Check out our 6 week online program that has been created to help you find your posture, and connect with your deep core and pelvic floor in the early postpartum phase.

Melissa Dessaulles

Melissa is a pelvic health physiotherapist at Wave Physiotherapy in Kelowna, BC. She is an active mom of 2 young kids. Her own experiences with post partum recovery have made her passionate about helping other moms.

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