Before I get any further into this, I realise that, on the surface, an article about boobs written by a man may seem a little bit…well…wrong… But please hear me out.
Whenever I take on a new personal training client it always starts the same way. We arrange a meeting over a coffee to discuss goals and dreams in an effort to find a starting point on their new health and fitness regime.
Generally the answers to the questions are all the same. If I had a dollar for every time the goal “lose weight” or “tone up” I’d be writing this article waterside in Bora Bora!
Though these goals are true to what the client wants they aren’t exactly deep. I understand why. The new client doesn’t know me, we don’t yet have rapport let alone a relationship so why would they uncover their deepest darkest secrets in a coffee shop to some stranger?
I’m proud to say that the majority of my personal training clients remain as clients for many years and to be totally honest, calling them clients, doesn’t sit too comfortably with me as, in reality, they are friends.
I trained Michael today who has been trained by both my wife and I since 2001. 30% of my wedding guests were clients. Friendships are forged through sweat and special bonds are made over the years of waking up at 5am and them being the first people I speak to that day!
Over the weeks and months after our first sit down the guard starts to drop; the first telltale sign is when they start to swear at me or call me names for handing out some nasty exercises. (There is something deeply sadistic about a PT’s character…) As the relationship builds we end up being able to talk frankly about almost any topic. Nothing is off limits!
Through the journey of exercise over time I have had a lot of female clients prepare for pregnancy and bring wonderful additions to their family into the world. Pregnancy and childbirth are beautiful things but they take their toll on the body. Everything changes.
Time and energy it takes to raise children, especially babies and toddlers, aside; the body being the miraculous thing it is morphs in every sense of the word to cope with the stress placed on the body.
Women add body fat during pregnancy. The body needs it. We can get rid of the fat, no problem. The biggest shift that happens with the female form however is the posture.
Why posture is important for healthy living
Posture is a pretty boring topic, especially when all of the glossy magazines train our brain to focus on hips, thighs and a flat stomach as the only means of health and fitness success.
Improved posture has a whole bunch of benefits:
- Improved mobility
- Less pain
- Increased strength
The list goes on but the average person postpartum want more than anything, is to look great again.
What has this got to do with boobs you ask? Well, a lot.
The most common requests I get from new mums postpartum are two things:
- I want my bum back
- I want my boobs back
In my opinion posture plays the biggest role in getting back on track in these departments, but first we need to understand the shift in your posture over nine months of pregnancy and the following two years of raising a little human that needs you on 24/7 basis. First of all let’s look at the “perfect’ posture.
This sort of comment conjures up the image of comportment classes in the 50s with young lady’s learning to walk with shoulders pinned back and bible on their head! But in a nutshell, that posture is kind of where we want to be. When women fall pregnant however, their whole life of even weight distribution is put through the ringer.
Our figure is nothing more than a bunch of muscles hanging on our skeleton. We can easily get the ‘muscle tone’ back but the skeleton has shifted massively and if we don’t address this and try to get back into kilter then, I’m afraid, you will never look the same again.
How posture affects your chest
The first postural shift occurs as milk production increases and the chest becomes heavier. The extra weight pulls the shoulders forward and rounds out the upper back. This posture then continues on after birth due to breastfeeding and the position new mums find themselves in when nurturing their little one.
Just so we are on the same page, do this little exercise in the front of the mirror:
- Sit up tall
- Back straight
- Chest proud
- Shoulder pulled back
Now let’s go into that rounded shoulder posture:
- Roll the shoulders forward
- Release the shoulders
Note that nothing about your weight, body fat percentage or fitness level has changed, but what we see affects the aesthetics of the chest as well as maybe seeing a bit of a pouch in our stomach. The power of posture is amazing.
How posture affects the lower back
The next part of the posture that is affected is the lower back. Without realising it many of us are slouching, whether it be while we exercise, while we walk or while we sit at our desk at work.
Again we have increased the weight hanging off of the front of our body. This is natural, it would pretty hard to carry a child without this happening. The slow but recognizable changes to the posture are as follows:
- The pelvis tilts
- The belly pops out
- For comfort and balance women tend to then stand with knees locked out
This type of posture continues throughout the first two years of motherhood as you will have a growing child on your hip for a fair amount of the day.
How posture affects the core
Thirdly one of the biggest is the core going to sleep. The best analogy I ever heard about the core was comparing it to a can of coke (for this analogy we will pretend it’s Diet Coke though). The core has a similar kind for shape as it wraps around our whole torso, front and back.
The top is the diaphragm and the base are our Kegel muscles. When the core is functioning at its best it’s like a can of unopened (Diet) Coke. I’m sure you have all held a can of Coke that’s closed, it’s a strong rigid unit. You can squeeze it as hard as you like and you can’t put a dent in it.
A postpartum core is lot like someone has opened that can. From an aesthetic point view the hardest hit are the Transverse Abdominis or TVA for short. One of their functions is to draw inwards and effectively “suck” everything back in.
This may be a tough exercise to master but give it a try:
Learn to breathe through your diaphragm and activate your core.
- Place both hands on your belly
- As you breath in, your belly should pop out and fill your hands (this will be weird at first!)
- When the belly is popped out, without breathing out, draw the belly button to the spine.
- Turn on your Kegels as if you were stopping the “flow” if you were going to the toilet.
The recipe for great posture
When we put all of this together:
- Shoulders back
- Chest proud
- Head held high
- Pelvis tucked and in a neutral position
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Belly button drawn in
- Core activation
The changes in appearance can make you look like to have dropped 5kg as well as getting all those curves back in the right places which will excite and motivate you stay on the health and fitness wagon. As a byproduct of improved posture your form, function, strength and agility will improve out of sight which will excite your Personal Trainer!