Have you noticed during certain core exercises, or when you’re getting up and down off the floor, that the center of your abdominals are protruding forward?
What Is Coning?
Coning is when the center connective tissue of the abdomen, the linea alba, protrudes outwards beyond the rest of the abdominal wall. There are a number of reasons of why this may happen. It can happen when the pressure within our core canister exceeds our ability to manage it. Often, this can be from postural tendencies, positions/set up of exercise, breathing strategy, intensity of the exercise and can be managed with adjustments (which will be discussed below). If we are still unable to manage coning, then it’s a sign the exercise may be beyond our current threshold. It can also occur due to diastasis recti, aka the normal occurring separation of the six pack abs during pregnancy. However, it’s important to note that a present diastasis does not mean you will necessarily cone during certain movements either if you are able to distribute pressure equally throughout your core.
Common Movements That Causing Coning
This is not a no-go list and does not/will not apply to everyone, although are definitely exercises/movement patterns to pay attention to. Nor are these the only things that can cause it:
- Core flexion i.e sit ups and crunches.
- Front loaded exercises like planks, push ups, even modified positions like bear planks or side planks.
- Overhead movements: pressing overhead and allowing ribs to flair, or challenging pulling exercises like pull ups.
- Getting out of bed or up off the floor in sit up position vs log rolling
- Heavy loads, especially if they encourage you to breath hold and bear down
- Coughing, sneezing, laughing.
What Is Doming?
Doming happens when your rectus abdominis muscle (6 pack abs) become dominant over your other ab muscles (your transverse abdominis, external/internal obliques) and can still happen without a present diastasis. When you pick up your head or do leg lifts, your rectus pops up signaling a lack of support from those other abdominal muscles. Your transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques should all fire in when you lift your head or lower your legs. When they do, your abs flatten. If they don’t, then your abs dome or stick out.
Both coning and doming are a sign that pressure has increased in the core cannister. Creating pressure is a natural built it function of the core and typically, the harder the task, the more pressure produced. Where this pressure goes will depend on factors like; the position you are in, it’s difficulty and your bodies ability to create and distribute this pressure. More pressure applied to a thinner and weaker tissue will lead to more visible coning/doming. If you notice this happening, don’t panic, this is common throughout pregnancy and postpartum. You are not broken, and it happening here and there is not going to worsen your diastasis. That being said, repeatedly doing movements that cause coning could aggravate the tissue, and thus make it more challenging to heal postpartum which is why having awareness on when this is happening is key.
How To Prevent Or Minimize Coning and Doming
Including diaphragmatic breathing, foundational or dynamic breathing strategies, where we inhale down and out, and exhale up and in and using this breathing method to engage the deep core unit. It’s so important to breath laterally into the ribs and back and avoid sending all that pressure forward (belly breathing only). Often, I encourage exhaling on the hardest part of the rep to improve managing pressure outwards.
More info on breathing strategies during pregnancy and postpartum HERE
ADD EXTERNAL PROPS:
Adding external props to a movement can encourage and enhance pelvic floor and TVA coordination. For example
- Squeeze pilates ball/yoga block between thighs to cue your adductors
- Add push/pull element to a lift. For example, press into a rack with your hand as you press overhead or hold resistance band down.
- Create tension with your body. i.e pushing opposite hand to knee
How we moving throughout the day and are setting up for lifts or movements can support or increase demand on our core. If we can maintain a more neutral spine position (ribs stacked over pelvis), especially during loaded movement, we may find that we can better manage pressure and prevent coning. Like a lot of things with our pregnancy training, you may find yourself having to be way more intentional with adjusting your posture to start. Often, if your posture is off you will see coning in overhead movements, such as an overhead press or pull ups. This often causes coning at the top of the abdomen.
INCREASE SUPPORT AND REDUCE INTENSITY:
Play around with your set up.
- Decrease range of motion (add box, bench to bottom of squat for example)
- Move from a standing positions to kneeling or seated
- Reduce weight of movement, switch to a more modified variation
- Reduce overall volume. You could simply be getting too tired to maintain a good breathing strategy.
If you have tried all of the above and an exercise is still causing you to experience coning, then the movement may be outside of your current capability. And that is okay! This does not mean you will never do this exercise again, it just means that right now it is not benefitting your body.
For guidance through your pregnancy and postpartum fitness journey join my Strong in Pregnancy or Strong in Motherhood programs. Take the guesswork out of your training and feel strong, supported and empowered through your motherhood journey.