During the nine months of pregnancy and birth, your body goes through significant hormonal and muscular changes that need to be re-strengthened and built up once again. With my 11-weekold baby, I’m certainly feeling it’s a slow process to get my body strong again. But it is an incredibly rewarding experience being a mum!
If you have just had a baby it is important that you do the correct exercises to help strengthen, rebuild those abdominals and postural muscles to avoid muscular imbalances when picking up your baby, feeding and holding them.
So here are my top five post-natal exercises you can do once your doctor has approved you to exercise again: 1. Pelvic floor lift.
This is super important, as the baby would have been pushing down on your abdominals and pelvic floor girdle during the pregnancy. By doing this exercise you will avoid having to rush to the toilet or wetting your pants when you sneeze!
1. Sit down or lay on your back.
2. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale lift and tighten your pelvic floor (as if you are stopping wee mid flow).
3. Hold for about five seconds, then release.
4. Repeat 5 to 10 times 3-5 days per week.
2. Toe taps.
This is great to start to re-building abdominal strength without putting excess pressure on your stomach (NB – avoid crunch-style movements post-natal especially if you have muscle separation.)
1. Laying on your back, draw tummy in and lift pelvic floor.
2. Lift one leg to 90-degree angle off floor, exhale and keep tummy flat.
3. Then lift up the other leg to the 90-degree angle.
4. Inhale, tap one foot gently to the floor, exhale, bring that leg back up, maintaining your core strength.
5. Feel as if a belt is holding your muscles in tight around the waist, do not let shoulders lift or ribs pop out.
6. 10 taps on each side.
3. Pointer with side extension.
You may have done this throughout your pregnancy and it is great to continue this as part of your regular routine. This will help you build your balance and strength while reconnecting you to your abdominals and back strength.
1. On hands and knees – knees under hips, hands under shoulders, deep breath in and out drawing in tummy, set shoulder blades towards each other.
2. Stretch right arm forward, left leg straight back in line with body off floor, maintaining balance and tummy in.
3. Slowly move arm and leg outward to 45-degree angle without moving shoulders or hips (keep torso steady).
4. Return arm and leg to centre, control down to floor and repeat other side. Repeat x 10 each side.
4. Bridge and Inner thigh squeeze.
This is great to work your butt, core and strengthen inner thighs. Get a small firm pillow or chi ball to place between legs for inner thigh resistance
1. Lay on back, feet hip distance apart.
2. Press hips up off floor while pushing arms down into floor beside you.
3. Squeeze into pillow or ball 5 times, then lower spine to floor.
4. Repeat 10 – 15 times slowly, squeezing butt each time.
5. Diamond tricep press.
This is great to start toning arms and working upper back strength, plus stretch to help with posture.
1. Lay on tummy, legs slightly apart.
2. Hands in diamond shape under forehead, arms in diamond shape also on floor (elbows slightly to side).
3. Inhale, exhale, draw tummy in off floor, squeeze glutes (butt).
4. Gently press hands into floor as you push away from the floor, straightening out arms (note – only go a short way up to start with. As your tummy rebuilds and you don’t have muscle separation, continue up higher if it feels OK on your back and abs without the tummy popping out).
5. Control your body back down slowly, keeping abdominals strong with slow movement the whole time.
Be kind to yourself after having your baby and remember that it takes at least several months to fully get back to previous prematernity shape. This of course depends on your pregnancy and birth.
Ease into these exercises and add in some regular walking to boost your cardio fitness as well. When you take care of your body, you will also find a more balanced mental state for dealing with those late-night feeds for the baby too!
Vanessa Bartlett has 14 years’ experience in the fitness industry and has appeared as a presenter for TVSN, The Morning Show and co-hosted a community TV Lifestyle show. In 2013, she was part of a group award for ‘Innovation in Healthcare’ and is on a mission to empower people to become educated in holistic health practices, powered by Pilates. See Vanessa’s website for further information.