I first wrote this post a year ago. I wanted to update it as I have grown a lot as a coach in the last year. Since it first posted it seems as though coning is much more well known – but it seems the scales have tipped from unknown information to information that has sparked fear. Unfortunately, I think my original post may have unintentionally contributed. I hope to now be part of a solution and am continually learning and trying to be much more intentional with my words.
If you are pregnant, may want to get pregnant someday, are postpartum, or know someone that is then this article is for you. You may have heard this term “coning” being tossed out a lot lately in the pregnancy and postpartum fitness world. Or maybe you haven’t. I had never heard of this until I found Brianna Battles and then took her coaches course. This was about six months or so after I had my son.
Looking back on it now, I realize I coned all. the. time. while I was pregnant and postpartum. Not just doing everyday activities like sitting up either, movements I was doing repetitiously in the gym. 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 it’s just part of being pregnant?” I honestly had no clue and didn’t even think to learn more.
So. What is Coning?
Coning is the presence of intra-abdominal pressure. It presents as your abdomen looking 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 movements that may fire your abdominals and create intra-abdominal pressure 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 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 shows 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 a breathing strategy that works for me and one without any strategy (the one with coning).
Now. Why is this Important, and Why Should You Care?
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 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 stretched out to an incredible degree. As our belly grows to accommodate a growing baby, our abdominal wall also stretches to allow this to happen and we can have a stretching between our abdominals (the fascia that is our linea alba) to allow for this growth (read more about that here). It is absolutely AMAZING that our body is designed to do this! However, when we are coning repeatedly over time, that created pressure can put even more force on our abdominals – encouraging that stretching even more, which we should avoid if we can.
The occasional coning while sitting up, getting out of bed, things like that? Not to worry about. I don’t want you to panic if you cone here or there while going about life. We want to avoid repeatedly doing movements that create that pressure, and ideally find strategies to keep doing those movements sans coning.
What About Coning Postpartum?
After we give birth and everything is moving back into place (over a period of time, of course) ideally our abdominals come back closer together (although that may not mean there is NO space at all) as well as the fascia in between remains taut. However, sometimes they do not and this is when it would be considered diastasis recti (DR – a space greater than 2cm is considered DR). For more information about diastasis recti, check out this post and this post. If you have DR, consistently and repeatedly coning can hinder the healing process, as the pressure, as you can see in the photo above, is being pushed through that midline.
Does Coning Mean You Have Diastasis Recti?
No! Coning means that there is a presentation of intra-abdominal pressure. It does not mean that you have diastasis recti.
What Can This Pressure Look Like?
I took this video where I am controlling the intrabdominal pressure while doing a hollow hold (holding both legs and arm off the ground). You can see how it the pressure rises and falls..
I would love to hear your takeaways! Drop me a comment below!
I am available to work with you remotely online or in person in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts. For more information about me and how I can help you through this chapter, please schedule a FREE 15-minute chat here, contact me directly at kerri@gracefitnessandnutrition or visit Grace Fitness and Nutrition.
Stay strong, stay beautiful!