5 Postnatal Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
I previously shared some signs that your body may not be ready for your postnatal exercise routine and 5 moves to avoid after being cleared for exercise. But I’m always one for finding solutions rather than focusing on the negative so I wanted to end this serious on a positive note.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, when you are getting back to exercise after having a baby it’s important to start slow and build your strength from the inside out. The following exercises focus on strengthening the deep core and pelvic floor muscles and developing strong postural muscles, all critical to your foundational strength that will get you back to more high intensity stuff if that is what you desire.
I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites but here are 5 exercises I recommend to start with when you are cleared for exercise at 6 or 8 weeks. Some of these can be done sooner than the 6-8 weeks mark. I know the boot camp folks are going to scoff at these but you’ll thank me when you’re core, pelvic floor and hips are strong enough to actually do your boot camp exercises correctly without pelvic pressure, back pain or doming in the abdomen.
1. Transverse Abdominus (TVA)/Pelvic Floor Activation– Also known as Hug the Belly. This one of my #1 favorite things to do to restore core strength after baby. It may be difficult to FEEL, especially early on or if you have had a c-section so do it in front of a mirror and look for small muscle contractions.
Seated in a chair, on a stability ball or on knees, start with a theraband, belt or strap wrapped around your waist at your belly button.
Inhale and feel your ribs expand 360 degrees like an umbrella opening and relax your pelvic floor fully. (This may be hard to feel and don’t push down, just imagine that you are releasing all tension from your tailbone to your pubic bone and between each of your sitz bones)
As you exhale feel like you are drawing your pelvic floor in and up. Not a clench. Imagine your pubic bone, tailbone, and each sitz bone drawing towards the center then lifting from the basement to the 3rd floor in an elevator.
Peel your belly button straight back and away from the band while stitching your ribs together and keeping shoulder out of your ears. This is not a suck in.
Do 10 – 20 a day
2. Leg Slides
Begin laying flat on your back with knees bent and each foot on a paper plate or wash cloth.
Settle into neutral spine where you feel like you are flat on the back of the sacrum, and have a small grape in your low back. Don smash the grape and don’t let it roll away. Maintain this position and don’t rock side to side as you complete the exercise.
Inhale to slide one leg away.
Exhale, feel the connection of the pelvic floor and low TVA first, then begin to draw the leg in. It’s important that you feel the connection a split second before you move.
Alternate side to side 5 – 8 times, as long as you can maintain core connection and neutral pelvis.
3. Hip Abduction/Adduction
Lie on mat on your side. Line up back of head, ribs and pelvis in a straight line. Bend bottom knee forward for support and reach top leg long and in a straight line. Hug the belly to avoid collapsing into bottom side.
Slowly lengthen the top leg and float up to hip height. NOTE: Keep the pelvis and waistline steady, do not let bottom ribs drop into mat. You should feel this in the side of your glutes.
Complete 5 – 8 reps on each side. You can add to this with small circles in either direction.
4. Mini Swan with Rib Lift
Lay on stomach, forearms down near your ears.
Reach through the crown of your head to lift your head and bring your gaze to the front of your mat but not too far and begin to slowly peel your chest up.
Hold and inhale 360 degrees letting the belly and pelvic floor relax.
Exhale, lift the pelvic floor in and up and begin to peel the ribs and belly away from the mat.
Repeat 5 – 8 times.
5. Side Lift
Lie on your side with elbow under shoulder. Line up back of head, ribs and pelvis in a straight line. Bend knees forward and line up heels with sits bones. Hug the belly to avoid collapsing into bottom side.
Exhale and lift hips straight off the mat using bottom oblique and glute. Inhale at top.
Exhale to lower down.
Complete 5 – 8 reps on each side.
Most important in these exercises is to remember to BREATHE!!! Your breath is critical to your core connection. Holding your breath or bearing down creates the extra intrabdominal pressure that I mentioned in my last post that creates more problems for your pelvic floor or a diastasis recti. I like to tell my clients to imagine they are trying to hold a feather up over their face or blow a feather across the room. It’s not one quick exhale. It’s a constant, strong and sustained breathe where you feel you are “squeezing every atom of impure air from lungs” as Joseph Pilates put it.
The bonus of these 5 simple exercises is that you can do them every day in 5 -10 minutes (who doesn’t love that as a new mom). Doing them consistently you will start to notice a subtle change in your body where your back hurts less, your body stands up taller on its own, your low belly pooch decreases or your diastasis begins to reduce in width, your pelvic floor functions better (trampoline time? well maybe not quite yet) and overall you just feel better.
While these exercises may seem small, they will help to rebuild your core from the inside out and will aid not only in gaining back that flat tummy after having a baby but also building the most important muscles for you to be a strong and resilient mom. Because ladies, MOMMING IS HARD WORK! You need your body to work for you and not against you. So let’s get you there!
Contact me at www.consciouscorepilates.com to safely get back into exercise after childbirth.
Move better. Feel better. Live better.
Owner and Pilates Instructor
Conscious Core Pilates
2222 2ndStreet Suite 12
Livermore, CA 94550