Ask The Trainer #84 – Lose That Post-Baby Belly

Ask The Trainer #84 - Lose That Post-Baby Belly

QUESTION:

Hi Chad, I wonder if you could help me. It’s been 15 months since I had my first baby boy. I was always pretty active fit. I’ve been a runner and have been competing in marathons over the last 7 years. My feet would get swollen and my lower back would hurt if I was on my feet too long, so I took a break from running during my pregnancy.  I didn’t eat much junk food when I was pregnant but probably ate more than I really needed to. Consequently, I gained almost 60 pounds. 8 months ago, I made it back to the gym and started running again. In addition, I cut my calories way back and I eat very clean now. I don’t eat fast food or processed food. I’ve lost almost all of the weight I gained during pregnancy, 56 pounds. The problem is that now I have this pouch of skin hanging off of my lower abdomen. I hate it! It’s like this disgusting, wrinkly glob of fat! I don’t know if it’s fat, or loose skin from having a baby, but I want to know if there is anything that I can do to get rid of it. Thank you in advance!

Kelly


ANSWER:

Hi, Kelly. I guess 2 congratulations are in order! First, for having your first baby boy. Second, for managing to lose 56 pounds! Great job!

Basically, this is an instance where you’re given a reason to either love or hate your family tree more. You see, genetics primarily determine your body’s ability to bounce back after losing a significant amount of weight or having a child. Some women will spring right back into great shape even after having 3-4 munchkins. However, others cease to ever wear a bikini again after going through just 1 pregnancy where they even avoided gaining much excess fat.

Since you’re very close to your pre-pregnancy weight, I’d guess your “pouch” is mostly loose skin. When you’re pregnant, your belly expands to support the extra growing tissue. This causes the skin to stretch out and sustain some degree of damage. It also loses some of its natural elasticity which reduces the skin’s ability to conform as tautly as it was prior to the pregnancy. After you have the baby, and your body begins to normalize as you lose weight, sagging skin is a strong possibility if you weren’t among that special group of people who’ve been blessed with phenomenal skin integrity and elasticity.

A Test For Skin Elasticity

There’s a simple test some plastic surgeons use to determine how much sagging flesh is fat and how much is skin. They have the patient bend over at the waist, then analyze how the tissue looks in that position. If the tissue is more of a deflated, empty flap that’s “pull-able”, the tissue is most likely skin. If it’s a plump, full looking roll, or rolls, the tissue is probably fat. It is possible to have excess skin and fat. Unfortunately the leaner you become, the more apparent the damaged, stretched out skin will be.

Chad Shaw

There are many products on the market where the manufacturers claim these products eliminate or diminish loose skin. Some of these products just contain localized diuretics, while others contain fancy ingredients like collagen and elastin. But, at the end of the day, the main thing these products accomplish is some temporary water loss, which momentarily makes the skin feel tighter… but it really isn’t. Creams, or even noninvasive laser or light therapy procedures, will do very little to achieve any significant amount of skin reduction.

Plastic Surgery

Abdominoplasty is a procedure where a plastic surgeon takes a long strip of excess skin and removes it surgically. He stitches the remaining skin back together, resulting in a tighter abdomen. Similarly, this surgery is usually accompanied by some liposuction and possibly other procedures depending on the severity of the loose skin.

Something that you can do I think could make a noticeable difference in the tightening of that loose skin on your abdomen is focusing on doing exercises that will increase the size of your abdominal muscles. Here’s why.

If you build up the muscle underneath the sagging skin, it  will help fill in some of the loose tissue and lift it back up. The key will be to incorporate exercises that target both the upper and lower abdominals, along with the obliques. Since your goal is to increase abdominal muscle size, keep your repetitions relatively low and use more resistance. Aim for 12-15 reps per set.  Perform 2 sets of each exercise 2 X per week.

1. Cable Crunches

These are a great way to torch primarily your upper rectus abdominis, without stressing your lower back and central nervous system the way sit-ups and certain variations of crunches do. Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and grasp one end of the rope in each hand. Kneel down facing the weight stack so your knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Allow your arms to be stretched overhead— you should feel tension on the cable and a stretch in your abs. Pull the rope down by bending your elbows until your hands are positioned along the sides of your face. Using your abdominal muscles, crunch your chest toward your hips until your head is somewhere between your knees and your abs are in a fully contracted position. Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.

2. Hanging Leg Raises

This exercise trains mainly your lower rectus abdominis muscles. To perform hanging knee raises– attach your arms to a harness on a chin-up bar and allow your body to hang below. If your gym doesn’t have a harness and you have a strong grip, you can also just hang from a chin-up bar from your hands. Now, keep your feet together. Using your abdominal muscles, lift your legs straight up until your legs are parallel to the floor. Pause with your legs in that position and squeeze your abdominals for 2-3 seconds. Then, lower your legs back to the starting position. Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions. P.S. If you’re able to get more than 15 repetitions in a set, you can add resistance by using ankle weights or by simply holding a dumbbell between your feet.


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3. Cable Wood Chops

This is a great exercise to develop your obliques and transverse abdominis. Begin by setting up a single cable handle at a setting just above your head. Stand with your right side toward the cable machine and position your feet hip-width apart. Reach up and wrap both hands around the handle. Keep both arms fully extended, but maintain a slight bend in your elbow joints. Do not move your elbows from this position as you execute the movement. Then, exhale and pull the cable handle down and across your body until your hands are on the outside of your left hip. Keep your hips facing forward; do not rotate them. Pause for a second and slowly return to the starting position. Perform one set of repetitions on one side and then switch to the other side.

Hopefully, this information helps answer your question. I wish you all the best of success with your fitness goals, and especially with that precious baby boy of yours!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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