Waist training is one of the hottest fitness trends in Hollywood. The Kardashians have used this method, and Jessica Alba claims it helped her get her post-baby body back. But what is waist training, really? Is it safe? And does it even work?
Intrigued, but skeptical, I spoke with Leah Keller, trainer and expert in prenatal and postnatal fitness, to find out more. Keller is the CEO and co-founder of the Dia Method, a fitness program that aims to give women their post pregnancy body back by restoring core strength and form. The Dia Method uses a corset, along with a diet plan and specific core exercises to help women get flatter abs.
"One important thing to clarify from the start: corsets do not contribute to weight loss or fat loss," Keller said. "Their benefit, when worn correctly, is to act as a splint to physically approximate (draw together) the two halves of the rectus abdominis."
What exactly is the rectus abdominis? Your six-pack muscles AKA the area both men and women spend hours working on in order to get a flatter stomach.
Keller explained that these muscles can separate during pregnancy, which result in a weaker core and bigger belly. So the bigger the gap, the worst your abs will look. After a woman has had a baby, this gap becomes much larger, which is why the corset can help the recovery process.
And corset training isn't just for women who've had a baby. Anyone can use one to help flatten their stomach by bridging the gap between their muscles.
"Corsets can support and speed the healing process by decreasing stress on the overstretched connective tissue," said Keller.
- Start out slow. Beginners should start by wearing a corset for only a few hours a day, a few days a week.
- Wear it at night. If you try using a corset for a few hours and feel OK, consider wearing it overnight. "During the day is not ideal. It's hard to find a comfortable way to sit in it, and it's better lying down or standing up," Keller said. 'The body is naturally in healing mode at night." She notes that clients will do exercises (specific to the Dia method) in their corset either right when they wake up in the morning or at night before they go to bed.
- Don't wear your corset too tight. It shouldn't feel painful, but supportive. You should be able to breathe comfortably and move easily. "If it restricts your breathing, inhibits movement, causes bruising, or exerts a downward pressure on your pelvic floor, stop wearing it immediately," Keller warns.Keller's bonus tip: "When putting on a corset, consciously pull your pelvic floor 'up and in' as you exhale and draw your belly button toward the spine. You should feel the garment lifting and supporting the abdomen, never exerting downward pressure."
- You should be able to eat and drink. Some people wear corsets so tight, that they feel like throwing up when they eat. Others assume a tightened corset will make them want to eat less, thus helping them lose weight. But that can be dangerous. "Don't wear it so tight that you can't eat or drink," Keller said. "It's not extreme corseting. You don't need that level. That can be very unhealthy." Instead, try eating a big protein breakfast. This helps you to control your appetite the rest of the day. Studies show people who eat a high protein breakfast eat 400 fewer calories a day. Shoot for 35 grams of protein in your morning meal.
- Yes, it is safe if used properly. "If worn correctly, a corset is safe. However, it can be detrimental to health if worn too tightly and for too long," Keller said.
Wearing a corset alone won't give you a six-pack, unfortunately. You guessed it: exercise and better yet, a healthy diet on top of that, is needed to achieve a flat, toned tummy.
But we're not talking about crunches or sit-ups. In fact, Keller notes that these ab workouts can - brace yourself - actually make your stomach worse. This is because exercises like crunches move the abdominal wall forward, causing a separation. The result is either a boyish figure for women, or a paunch belly for men.
According to Keller, there are specific therapeutic exercises a person must do to help. She goes into detail how to do some of these specific exercises in her article for the Huffington Post. These moves include planks with core compressions and waist cinchers.
Just remember, wearing a corset alone likely won't give you the magical results you want. Bummer right? But it can be a helpful tool if used correctly.
"If used as a magical quick fix or seen as an easy way to get the body you want without doing the actual work required to achieve it, I'm afraid you will be disappointed," Keller said.
To learn more about waist training and the Dia method, you can visit thediamethod.com.