Every new mother would likely agree: pregnancy and childbirth changes and challenges your body with regards to exercise. Fortunately, these changes and challenges are manageable with proper guidance. Of course, your health and fitness level before and during pregnancy can greatly impact the ease of your transition. That being said, it is crucial to listen to your body and be mindful of what works best for you and your newborn.
Here are 7 examples of postpartum exercises** I have recommended for clients in the past:
1. DYNAMIC WARM-UP
- This is to warm up your body, focusing on the major muscle groups. This can consist of a variety of movements: marching in place, small arm circles, large arm circles, forward/backward leg swings, and side-to-side steps.
- Warm-up should last 7-10 minutes… longer if the environment is cold!
2. HIP BRIDGES WITH BABY
- Lie supine (face up) on a mat with feet flat on floor, knees bent to 90 degrees and about hip width apart and aligned directly over toes; head relaxed; baby resting on hips and lower abdominals.
- Push hips up until spine is neutral. Hold 3-5 seconds then return to start. Continue up/hold/down for each repetition. (12-15 reps)
3. MODIFIED SIDE PLANK
- Lie on side, knees bent and legs back, upper body raised, supporting weight on one forearm.
- Engage core then raise hips until spine is in neutral, placing hand of upper arm on hip; hold 5–10 seconds. (5-10 repetitions)
4. CROSS REACH
- Start face down on hands and knees. Hands should be directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Keep core engaged/spine neutral.
- Reach left arm forward then right leg back. Hold this opposite position for 1-3 counts then return to neutral and do same on the opposite side. (10-15 repetitions each side)
5. SEATED ROW WITH RESISTANCE BAND
- Sit up on a mat with legs extended flat, knees slightly bent. Wrap a band under feet at your arch (so it doesn’t slip) then criss-cross the band at your knees and hold one end in each hand.
- Keeping core engaged and spine neutral, lean slightly back at hips. Pull band ends simultaneously by bending elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together for each rep. (10-15 repetitions)
6. SQUATS WITH BABY IN CARRIER ON CHEST (or hold 5 pound weights at hips)
- Stand with feet hip width apart. Keeping back straight, core engaged and chin lifted, squat by first pushing back hips and keeping weight on heels.
- Lower as far as you are comfortable while keeping knees behind toes (but no lower than thighs parallel to floor). Squeeze glutes and contract quadriceps while returning to starting position. (10-15 repetitions)
7. STANDING OBLIQUE TWIST WITH BABY
- Stand with knees slightly bent, feet just wider than hip width. Hold baby in front of you, level with waist but not resting against you.
- While keeping lower body still and core engaged, twist upper body to the right as far as you can then twist left. Continue to slowly rotate right then left. (10-15 repetitions)
DON'T FORGET THE KEGELS!
In addition to the above, and as mentioned by Dr. Preiss-Farzanegan, Kegel exercises can and should be completed often in order to strengthen the pelvic floor. For some outdoor fitness fun, stroller walking is a fantastic way to get back into cardiovascular fitness. Be creative and enjoy!
**Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program. It is also recommended you check the guidelines for postpartum exercises through American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Valerie McMillen | firstname.lastname@example.org | 916.804.7379
Certified Personal Trainer | Aerobics & Fitness Association of America