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The #1 Most Effective Core Exercise

The importance of proper core training during and after pregnancy cannot be emphasized enough. It can help prevent pregnancy pains and injuries (including low back pain, diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction, and SI joint pain), improve your ability to push, expedite your postpartum recovery (helping you achieve a flatter tummy), and even improve your overall health, and — if you’re pregnant — the health of your growing baby. However, the keyword here is “proper” because the type of core training we are referring to is definitely not the traditional sit-ups and planks you might be envisioning. In pre and postnatal core training, we are focused on the deepest core muscles. Let’s discuss the specific muscles first, and then we’ll teach you the exercise we refer to as the #1 most effective core exercise.

The Key Muscles to Focus On: Your “Core Canister”

The “Core Canister” is a term we use to refer to the deep core muscles of your diaphragm, transverse abdominis, and pelvic floor (shown below), which form the shape of a canister.

Watch the video below to learn why 360° Breathing is so beneficial, how to do it, and how to incorporate it into your movements. The goal is to make 360° Breathing your natural style of breathing, and to incorporate it into all your movements during your workouts and daily activities. When you can do this, you’ll be doing over 20,000 reps per day of the best core work there is.

360° Breathing Recap

We just went through a lot of info, so let’s recap the keys to mastering, and integrating 360° Breathing:

  1. Master 360° Breathing: Begin sitting tall. Inhale through your nose and feel your rib cage expand in all directions (front, side, and back). Exhale through your mouth and your navel draws in as a result.
  2. Practice! Practice! Practice! Establishing a new habit takes time (especially when you’ve been breathing a certain way for a long time). So practice as much as you can — in the shower, waiting in line, watching TV, and especially lying in bed at night before sleep.
  3. Exhale on the Effort: This goes for strength training, and in your daily life. Inhale on the easier portion of the movement, and exhale on the more challenging portion of the movement. TIP: Initiate your exhale a split second before the effort so that your breath helps you with the exertion.
  4. The Greater the Intensity, the Stronger the Exhale. Bending down to pick up your 30 lb toddler will require a much stronger exhale than lifting up your 8 lb newborn.

Backwards Breathing: What it Means

When you practiced 360° Breathing, did it feel unnatural, or even backwards to you? Did it feel more natural for you to draw your navel in on your inhale and release on your exhale?  This is what we refer to as backwards breathing, and it’s a sign of dysregulation in the Core Canister muscles. This is common because most of us spend our days like the woman below…where we can’t exactly access the Core Canister muscles.

No need to panic. It just means you need a little more practice. Watch this quick video on backwards breathing for a visual of what it looks like, and a strategy that might help if you are struggling with the 360° Breathing.

Want to Learn More?

For more beneficial core exercises, and workout programs, explore our self-guided training programsOr for more personalized support, consider working with a PROnatal Personal Trainer.