Reintroducing exercise after having a baby can be confusing and scary. You’re wondering what’s safe and how it will make you feel. You may feel like your core strength has been weakened but you’ve also heard that traditional ab exercises may exacerbate diastasis recti or the separation of the abdominal muscles. You may have c-section or pelvic floor concerns. We have a very simple workout that will be appropriate for almost everyone for your first session back at the gym.
Start at the Beginning
You wouldn’t try to run a marathon without going through a training plan. In the same way, you shouldn’t just jump back into your pre-pregnancy exercise routine without building back up to it.
As frustrating as it is, your body has undergone a massive, life-changing event and you need to heal and restrengthen slow. You have nothing but time ahead of you, and there is no reason to rush the process. Start with simple movements before getting fancy. The Russian Twists and Bulgarian Splits Squats will always be there for you later.
Connect with your Core and Pelvic Floor
When you begin exercising postpartum, we recommend doing a minute of diaphragmatic breathing at the start of each session. Being tuned in to how your breath, core musculature and pelvic floor are connected will help you manage the additional abdominal pressure that exercise brings. This will set you up well for high level fitness endeavors in the future.
Let your Symptoms be your Guide
We strongly recommend visiting a pelvic floor physical therapist at 6-8 weeks postpartum; but we acknowledge that access is not financially or logistically feasible for every woman. A pelvic floor PT can evaluate you for diastasis recti and give you more information on the strength and function of your pelvic floor. Be on the look out for warning signs that you may not be quite ready to jump back into a gym routine. If you feel any of the following during or after exercise, please consult a pelvic floor physical therapist or your OB/GYN:
Starting on your back, exhale and press your feet into the floor and lift the hips into the air. Be mindful to not tuck the pelvis in either direction. Inhale and bring the hips down to repeat.
In the side-lying position, stack your legs and bend your knees so that your heels line up with your rear end. Keeping the heels together, open the knee like a clam shell opening. Lower the knee to its original position.
Starting on all fours, exhale and lift one arm and the opposite leg. Hold the limbs in the air for the duration of the exhale. Inhale and bring arms and legs back to the starting position. Repeat other side. Try to maintain neutral spinal alignment and stability through the core. You shouldn’t overarch your low back.
Inhale and lower yourself into a squat position. Exhale and use your lower body to press yourself back to a standing position.
Sit on a box, bench or swiss ball. Take a weighted cable machine or resistance band shut into a door. With a soft bend in the elbow and the cable in one hand, open the arms at shoulder height and gentle bring them forward in a hugging motion with an exhale.
With a band around your rib cage, inhale into your belly and let your ribs expand gently pressing into the band. As you inhale, allow the pelvic floor to soften and descend. As you exhale, try to feel the pelvic floor lift gently back to its original position.
With one hand on each hip bone, exhale and lift one bent leg into the air. Feel for the weight shifting through the pelvis and aim to use your core muscles to create stability. Bring the leg down and repeat the other side.
The hip hinge is maximal hip bend and minimal knee bend. With soft knees and a straight spine, hinge at the hips and reach your rear end behind you. You should end with your hips behind your knees and a nice flat back. Exhale and return to standing.
Sitting on a box, bench or swiss ball, face a cable machine or resistance band shut into a door. Exhale and pull the cable back, letting the elbow stop just by the rib cage.
Step backwards into a lunge. Keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis. This will result in a slight forward lean. Both legs should bend to 90 degrees. Exhale and return to standing.
Take a light resistance band with an overhand grip. With mostly straight arms, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the band apart. Try to pull with your upper back and keep the chest tall.