Working out is extremely important to me, as most of you know. I haven’t been able to jump right back into pumping iron after having Navy Lee, and not being able to go to the gym is kind of difficult — for my brain at least. If my body had allowed it, I would have been in the gym the day after giving birth. Call me crazy, but over the past five years, I’ve found myself in a real relationship with the gym. I’ve noticed the difference not only in my body but in my mood and mind. It’s addictive, and I can feel it when I don’t spend time working out. With all that said, I wanted to share my postpartum workout goals and plans.
Those plans can’t be made without having Brandon participate with me. He’s been training me for so many years, and I wouldn’t trust just anyone — especially to help me get back to my six-pack goals. However, my postpartum workout is going to be a slow start. The last thing I want to do is injure myself and end up with a longer recovery. I’m giving myself some grace (which is honestly a daily challenge) and allowing myself three months before hitting the gym extremely hard. So until then, here are five exercises that Brandon has given me to do. These are a gentle way to get you started on your way back to normalcy — with no equipment needed.
Take it away, Brandon! Let’s go!
As a fitness trainer, I’ve found that many new mothers are motivated to get back to their pre-pregnancy fitness routine. Exercising while pregnant has some obvious challenges, and it’s also important to modify your workouts postpartum. It’s especially good to include exercises that will help your body recover faster and more completely from childbirth.
One of the most important things to focus on right after childbirth is restoring the strength, stability and control of your core and pelvis.
The following five exercises are my favorite for helping new mommies regain abdominal strength and control. That way, they can get back to their pre-pregnancy workout intensity faster and safer.
You can do these five exercises as a workout, or pick a couple and include them as part of your warmup.
Either way, try to do a little more each time you work out. You can do this by adding a few more reps or another set each week. For example, during week one you can do 10 reps of the squat. Then during week two, bump it to 15. During week three, aim for 20 reps. But listen to your body, and always focus on quality of movement over quantity or reps.
Obviously, make sure your doctor has cleared you for exercise first. Run this list by your physician before starting your exercise program, just to make sure these are all safe for you.
My Postpartum Workout
1. Assisted squat
Use a stable object like a door frame, desk or counter to hold onto while performing a bodyweight squat. This not only helps with balance, but you can also work on increasing the depth of the squat more safely since you can easily pull yourself up if needed. As you lower into the squat, spend some time holding that position, but make sure that you ALWAYS stay within a pain-free range of motion. Give your abs, glutes and front thigh muscles a good squeeze when you stand. Aim for around 10-15 reps.
2. Dead bug
Lie on the floor and lightly pull your tailbone up to the ceiling, flatten your lower back into the floor and bring your knees up over your hips. Point your hands straight up to the ceiling. Straighten out your left leg while you reach your right arm overhead. Return to the starting position and then straighten your right leg as you bring your left arm overhead. If you’re doing it right, you should really feel your abs working hard. Repeat this for either time or reps. Aim for 30-45 seconds, or about 20-30 reps. It’s important to always keep your tailbone pulled up to the ceiling with your lower back flat on the floor throughout the movement. If you feel like you can’t hold that position, you can keep your arms by your side and just do the leg movements. Then work up to it using the arms over time. This is a really great exercise for strengthening a lot of important deep abdominal and hip muscles. It’s especially helpful for clients with diastasis recti.
3. Incline push-up
The push-up will always be my go-to exercise for building a strong upper body. Start by doing them inclined, which is easier than doing them on the floor. Find an incline level that allows you to do them while holding a solid plank throughout the rep. Don’t let your back sag or keep it piked during the movement. Your body should be in a solid, straight line. If you do push-ups right, they’re almost as much of an ab exercise as an upper body workout. Always keep your abs and glutes squeezed so you know you’re in a strong and safe body position. Aim for 8-12 reps. You can always play with hand positioning (like moving your hands closer together or farther apart) to make your push-ups a little different each time.
4. Glute bridge
Lie on your back with your feet close together. Take a full exhale through your mouth, and you should feel your abs engage. Hold this position throughout the movement. Drive through your heels to lift your butt off the floor. Bring your hips up so you’re making a straight line from your knees to your neck. Don’t over-arch your back at the top. You may feel a slight stretch at the top of the bridge if the front of your hips are tight. Pause at the top for few seconds and focus on the glute contraction. You can squeeze a yoga block or rolled up towel between your knees to make it a bit harder and more concentrated. Aim for 10-12 reps.
5. Balanced breathing
Breathing is something we take for granted because it happens unconsciously. But good quality breathing does take some training. The benefits are numerous and include a stronger core and hips, more relaxed neck and shoulder muscles and better fuel for our brains, which has a huge host of benefits on its own. This is a simple but powerful way to gain more control and awareness of your breath. Lie on your back with your feet close together. Slightly tuck your tailbone up toward the ceiling and press your lower back gently into the floor. You’re going to maintain this position throughout the exercise. Take a deep, slow breath in through your nose for around four seconds. Exhale fully through your mouth for about eight seconds. Your exhale should be about twice as long as your inhale. When you do this right, you should feel your abs engage at the very end of the exhale. Make sure your neck and shoulders are relaxed the entire time. When you’ve got good balanced breathing going on, with the inhale you should feel your stomach expand first and then your chest expand a bit afterward. On the exhale, you should sink back down and “melt” into the floor. Do this for three or four complete breaths.