Women make up about 51% of the population and of that majority about 85% of all women will become pregnant, or have been pregnant at some point in their lifetime. Knowing how to utilize FRC and Kinstretch during this pivotal, transitional time in a woman’s life can not only be good for business, but can set your client up for a more successful birth experience and strong postpartum.
Strength and conditioning principles with the pregnant and postpartum population.
It is our responsibility to help our clients chase strength. For many years women were told by medical and fitness professionals to stop working out during pregnancy and certainly to stop lifting weights when they are pregnant. However, now we know so much more about fitness during pregnancy through evidence-based studies that show that pursuing strength during pregnancy and after can help women have more positive birth experiences and less pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum. In addition, as most moms will tell you, women “lift” a lot in everyday life! Ever see a woman carry a car seat out of the house while also bending and twisting to keep a hold of a toddlers hand? How about wearing a baby while vacuuming the floor? What about getting up and down from the floor to change a baby’s diaper? All of these movements demand strength and mobility from a mother’s body, and she will do better and feel better if she trains for the demands of that mom-life.
As you can see, chasing strength is an important part of motherhood! However, it is also our responsibility not to add external load to a joint that does not function properly. During pregnancy and postpartum many joints in the body simply don’t function properly. The weight of the pregnancy itself tends to pull the shoulders forward limiting her ability to reach overhead without discomfort. In addition, overhead pressing and hanging can worsen a developing or healing diastasis recti (the separation of the ab muscles). Pregnancy can also posteriorly tilt the pelvis leading to dysfunction in the low back and pelvis. And this is just a short list. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to training the pregnant and postpartum body.
This is where FRC and Kinstretch can come in so handy. While we certainly don’t want to add external load to some of these joints, utilizing CARS, Kinetic Stretching and isometrics to her program to gain strength and sometimes also mobility can not only help keep her safe, but lessen the postural effects of pregnancy.
CARS for the neck, scaps and shoulder girdle helps improve and lessen symptoms of a woman’s changing posture. CARS for hips take some pressure off of the low back, a common complaint for pre and postnatal women. CARS for wrists and elbows can help clients who suffer from pregnancy induced carpal tunnel. Often CARS can be used as a constant assessment tool because of the amount of changes that happen to a woman’s body over a short period of time. Using CARS as an assessment gives us constant feedback.
Despite all of the clear benefits from practicing FRC and Kinstretch with your pregnant and postpartum clients, there are also a few key things to look out for. When asking yourself whether an exercise is good for your pregnant or postpartum client you might often come back to the conclusion “it depends.” I believe that we should always keep our clients doing as much as they can whenever they can, as long as they aren’t having any symptoms. So, in that way, there are very few hard and fast rules. Each woman’s body will be different according to how much they can do during pregnancy and after, and even each pregnancy can be very different with the same woman.
The symptoms that you and your client should always be looking out for, besides pain, are leaking, pressure in the pelvis or coning in the abdomen. These are clear signs that your client is not able to manage proper inner core function while doing the exercise you are asking of her, and a new strategy needs to be implemented.
Many of the signs of inner core dysfunction also tell you that your client is not able to manage large amounts of IAP. With these clients who are experiencing symptoms, any PAILS/RAILS exercises they perform should not built up to 100%, but, rather, they ramp up to a point that they can manage without symptoms. This can be tricky to determine and may take some trial and error.
Another important consideration is relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone released into the body starting during the first trimester and continues to be released until about 6 months after the mother is done breastfeeding. Relaxin loosens the joints to make it easier for a baby to pass through the pelvis. Relaxin can be the culprit if a client is having pubic symphysis pain or is hypermobile. For this reason, it can be important to emphasis the strength component of FRC and Kinstretch instead of emphasizing “flexibility.”
Everyone is different.
While there are a lot of things to consider when implementing a Kinstretch training program with a pre or postnatal client, there are also a lot of benefits! Keep in mind that not every woman or pregnancy will be the same, so it’s important to think critically about the client who’s right in front of you when designing a Kinstretch training program or deciding which exercises are appropriate for her. Kinstretch and FRC can be incredible tools that you can utilize to help your pregnant and postpartum clients feeling and performing the way that they want to!