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Heavy lifting is generally advised against for mum’s with pelvic dysfunctions because it has been shown to be a risk factor for prolapse and stress incontinence.

Heavy Lifting is a broad, generic term that is used to describe weight lifting, and also used to describe repetitive, sub-maximal lifting in everyday life. The two terms are often confused and it’s therefore generally advised against for people with deep core dysfunction. However, it is also a basic and fundamental training activity that can protect against declining health as we age, and increase our energy and mental health states.

It is also not clear on precisely what “heavy lifting”, in a lifestyle sense, is. Is it just what feels heavy to someone? Is it a specific moment when their deep core doesn’t work as well? And what does that feel like? How do we measure it? Is it 20kg across the board and across all movements?

There also appears to be a polarised view in the fitness industry, where trainers either ignore the deep core (particularly in post natal populations) or are hyper
vigilant (which means we will never return to Heavy Lifting). Instead, let’s think about in what circumstances we would advise against it, and begin working towards it in every other circumstance!

In this article, which has be appropriated from our From Deep Core Dysfunction to Heavy Lifting Course, we attempt to delineate between when a mum should and shouldn’t be lifting heavy – with a view towards they SHOULD if they CAN, one day in the future!

When Weight Lifting is NOT recommended for Mum’s:
1. When a client has returned to the gym after injury, surgery, or childbirth. We first need to work out where the client is competent. We need to make sure their deep core is functional. If you have not done a movement screen, and/or consulted with their pelvic physio, then lifting heavy is not advised.
2. When two or more risk factors are uncovered and the client has not seen a men or women’s health physio. Just because they’re a mum, doesn’t mean they have deep core dysfunction. However you don’t know that without a thorough screening, and you ask specific, appropriate questions to uncover these issues. More on this in our free course, The Art of Pre Screening Women here.
3. When one or more symptoms are present and chronic, and the client has not seen a men or women’s health physio. Just because they have lower back pain, doesn’t mean they have dysfunction, but you don’t know that without a thorough screening from a physio.
4. When the client’s physio or allied health professional has advised against it. It should go without saying, that you always defer to the physio. Concentrate instead on learning the “knack”, or kegal, releasing the client’s posture, and generally doing a good job that builds trust between you and the physio.
5. If the client has not yet recovered from the previous days of activities. Recovery is really important to health generally, and heavy lifting on top of a tired, sore, or plain fatigued body is not advised. Days like these are good for cardio, stretch, massage, and nutrition chats.
6. When they’re already heavy lifting at work and have symptoms of dysfunction. In this case, technique training to target the large muscle groups and apply their new skills to work-related lifting is advised, until they’re strong enough that they’re no longer symptomatic. This includes mum’s who are lifting 20kg children…

Learning how to screen for diastasis in our Live, one-day Modern Post Natal course

In any situation, it is preferable and advisable to work closely with the client’s surgeon, doctor, or physio to ensure that you’re working with the best information possible when prescribing movement and/or weights for this client.

Now we have the bad news out of the way, this is why our Mum’s should be working towards heavy lifting in the gym again:

1. Lifting weights can help prevent back pain! Learning to lift properly, synchronisation of the deep core and pelvic floor, and strong technique all go a long way towards a healthy back (56). It should be noted that “good” technique will vary from person to person, as outlined in the article referenced (56).
2. Because lifting stuff is a fact of life, and ultimately, we are training our clients to live life better, or at least more easily. Resistance training has been shown to dramatically improve the quality of life for people living with chronic disease (57).
3. It keeps your bones strong and healthy, and can slow the onset of osteoporosis (58).
4. It helps prevent cardiovascular disease (59).
5. Strength training can prevent and slow the onset of diabetes (60). Furthermore, it can regulate insulin and reduce inflammation (61).
6. It can help you survive cancer (62).
7. Strength training will boost your metabolism and assist you in losing body fat (63).
8. It can improve your mood and help combat depression (64). For this reason it can also improve confidence, sleep quality (65), and posture – which, as we know, can relieve pressure on a woman’s pelvic floor and diastasis!
9. Obviously strength training improves strength, but it also improves balance and reduces risk of falls (66).

Many of these issues affect more women than men, and so strengthen the argument FOR heavy lifting for mum’s. Just get your screening process sorted and you can lift heavy without the worry that you’re contributing to their dysfunctions, instead, working towards the opposite! If you’re not confident in taking your mum’s towards heavy lifting without contributing to their pelvic dysfunctions, then this course is for you: From Deep Core Dysfunction to Heavy Lifting Course. 

You can also bundle it with our 13CEC Core Dysfunction Masterclass and learn how to bring your mum’s back from childbirth to running. crossfit, and heavy lifting in one go!

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(60) Shiroma E, Cook N, Manson J, Moorthy M, Buring J, Rimm E, and Lee I Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 January ; 49(1): 40–46
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