I have since updated this post 🙂 Click here to read the latest version!
If you are pregnant, may want to get pregnant some day, are postpartum, or know someone that is then this article is for you. Coning is a big thing I wish I had known about while (or ideally before) I was pregnant. You may have heard this term “coning” being tossed out a lot lately in the pregnancy and postpartum athleticism world. Or maybe you haven’t. I had never heard of this until I found Brianna Battles and eventually took her coaches course. This was about six months or so after I had my son. Looking back on it now, I realize that I coned all. the. time. while I was pregnant and postpartum. I very specifically remember one instance where I was demonstrating a leg lift for some clients and one of them asked me, “Why is it doing that?” (referring to my coning abdomen). If I remember correctly I was somewhere around 20 weeks pregnant at the time and literally said, I don’t know it just started doing that one day. I guess its just part of being pregnant?” To think that not only did I not know what this was, but that I didn’t even think to look into it just confounds me now. And it’s remembering times like this that reminds me that there are so many women out there that literally have no idea, and probably also think its “normal” and “just a part of being pregnant”. Well, it may be very common, and it may be something that can happen while you are pregnant, but it should be avoided and I will tell you why.
So. What is coning? Coning is when your abdomen looks like.. you guessed it, a cone ^, with the tip (or highest point) being along the middle line of your abdomen also known as the linea alba. Another way to think of it is a hill with the top of the hill running down the linea alba. The actual coning tends to occur when doing anything that may fire your abdominals such as sit ups, planks or pushups, even pull-ups and rowing, or even just getting out of bed. I have worked really hard to *NOT* cone, but I have done my best to recreate it for you so you have a visual of what it can look like. My personal coning is now slight, but in general it can be much more pronounced and visible as mine once was not too long ago. (YAY for Pelvic Floor PT!)
As you will *hopefully* notice, the photo on the left show my midline coming up and sort of sticking out in that cone, or hill, shape while on the right my abdomen is flat. I am performing the same movement in both photos, one with proper breathing strategy and one without (the one with coning 😉 ).
Now. Why is this important, and why should you even care about coning? Basically, without getting into toooo much of a science lesson here, the difference in the two photos above is how I am managing my intra-abdominal pressure. When you are coning, thats an indication that there is a mismanagement of the pressure in your abdomen…that pressure needs to go somewhere right? When we don’t properly manage it with breathing techniques, it can be pushed forward and out the front of our abdomen, hence the coning. During pregnancy our bodies, most specifically our abdomens, are already getting stretched out to an incredible degree – and coning adds to this stretching. As our belly grows to accommodate a growing baby, our abdominals actually stretch to allow this to happen and we can have a separation between our abdominals (the fascia that is our linea alba) to allow this growth. It is absolutely AMAZING that our body is designed to do this! However, when we are coning, that created pressure can put even more force on our abdominals – encouraging that separation even more, which we should avoid if we can.
What about coning postpartum? After we give birth and everything shrinks back into place (over a period of time, of course) ideally our abdominals come back together as well as the fascia in between remains taut. However, sometimes they do not and this is when it would be considered a dysfunction known as diastasis recti (DR). Now, I don’t want to get too much into DR as thats a post for another day, but if you are postpartum and have this, or are pregnant and trying to avoid it, then we want to avoid coning! If you have DR, coning can contribute to your abdominals staying separated, as the pressure, as you can see in the photo, is being pushed literally through that midline.
I know this is a LOT of information! I tried to keep it as concise as I could, but if you have any further questions or would like a follow up article on Diastsis Recti – please leave a comment and let me know! I encourage EVERY woman who is pregnant, postpartum, or experiencing any kind of symptoms (incontinence, feeling like something is “falling out” down there, pain etc..) to contact a pelvic floor physical therapist. If you are in the US you can visit this website here and scroll down to the directories. If you are in Rhode Island, I can recommend an awesome PT! Please contact me directly for more information.
For more information about me and how I can help you through this chapter, please visit Grace Fitness and Nutrition for more information. As always, please feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions. You can reach me on Facebook, Instagram, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay strong, stay beautiful!