A gentle core program should be one of the first points of focus when you are ready to start a post natal exercise plan. This will help build an important foundation for strength to help you stay injury free with other forms of exercise and activities of daily living. Katherine Roberts covers off the basics of postpartum belly exercises as one of the first steps in your post pregnancy workouts. – Elly xx
After giving birth, many women like to focus on regaining their pre-pregnancy body. Following a routine of postpartum belly exercises can be challenging during this delicate time. However, it will be beneficial for both your health and physical fitness in the long run. Fortunately, with the help of several practical tips to move closer towards a flat tummy after pregnancy, you will start to lose weight and feel fitter and stronger in no time.
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What are postpartum belly exercises good for?
Carrying a child for nine months comes with some serious challenges. Besides the well-known, and not-so-desirable possibilities such as morning sickness and loss of bladder control, giving birth weakens the core. This problem is not just an aesthetic one as it can also lead to complications such as lower back pain.
Some women even experience what is known in the medical literature as diastasis recti, commonly referred to as an abdominal “gap” or “ab separation”. The condition consists of a separation between the left and right sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. It usually happens because the abdominal wall undergoes a lot of pressure during pregnancy.
So, the extra skin most new moms are left with isn’t only excess fat that you have gathered for the sake of your baby. They’re also weak muscles and connective tissue in need of strengthening. For this reason, it’s important to start doing some gentle postpartum belly exercises as soon as the initial recovery period comes to an end.
How to reduce belly after delivery – keep it simple
A post pregnancy workout plan needs to be simple in the beginning. In time, the exercises can become more and more complex. When this time comes, putting together your own home gym might be a good idea. If your new mom responsibilities prevent you from going to the gym, you can consider bringing the gym home with an all-in-one home gym power rack like the Marcy Diamond Elite Smith cage. This cage includes everything you need to improve your fitness level and strengthen your core in the comfort of your own home.
Now, let’s focus on learning how to reduce belly fat after delivery. Having a soft belly after pregnancy is normal but it’s also ok to want to gradually work on firming it up as part of an overall weight loss and muscle toning plan. There are some easy and safe exercises you can add to your postpartum ab workout routine. Let’s find out more about them.
The best postpartum belly exercises
Even if you had a strong and efficient ab routine prior to your pregnancy, you might still struggle with postpartum belly fat. Keep in mind that classic workouts such as crunches or sit-ups put too much strain on your new mommy tummy. They can also make lower back pain worse and could even make your pelvic floor muscles weaker, rather than stronger. So, avoid them after delivery at all costs.
Still, how can you strengthen your core during this sensitive time? With some mild, yet efficient postpartum belly exercises, you will manage to get back in shape. Here are some of the most effective moves you can integrate into your post-pregnancy workout.
Post pregnancy belly exercises: Leg extensions and lowers
Working both your tummy and legs at the same time is the best way to start any mild abdominal rehabilitation exercises. In this way, you won’t put too much strain on the delicate area. The following routine is ideal for new mothers.
Core exercises post pregnancy (beginner level): Basic breath and contraction
For the next leg extensions and lowers to have an impact on your postpartum stomach, you will need to master the technique of the basic contraction first. Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet and knees comfortably hip width apart.
Breathe in, feel your tummy muscles relax and expand, and relax your pelvic floor muscles. Then breathe out, gently tighten your abdominals, and lift your pelvic floor muscles. Allow your spine to sit on the ground naturally and pull your belly button towards your spine to perform the contraction.
You may not feel like you’re doing much to begin with, but rest assured you are! After a while, you will start to feel your muscles contracting and drawing together more effectively. Performing five to ten of these contractions each day is a great way to begin your transition into postpartum belly exercises.
Postpartum ab exercises – Diastasis Recti
Elly: For the above contraction exercise, also imagine that you have a string that is drawing your hip bones towards each other. This will help to draw your separated abdominals towards each other. You can apply this technique to the following exercise progressions as well. Just make sure you really master the basic contraction first!
Note that you might want to perform this basic breath and contraction exercise for several weeks, before progressing any further. This may be especially so if you’re in the early stages of your postpartum journey.
If your abdominals have separated during pregnancy and childbirth, find out how a postpartum girdle can assist with drawing them closer together again. You can also click on the image below to go straight to the Bellefit website, for postpartum corsets and girdles.
Postpartum core exercises: Single-leg heel slides
Starting from your basic breath and contraction pose, slide one leg along the floor. Slide it back into the initial position and repeat on the other side. Alternate between your left and your right leg 20 times on each side.
Single-leg toe taps
This next exercise is one of the easiest postpartum belly exercises which also manages to be dynamic. Do the basic breathing and contraction once more, and this time raise one leg to the tabletop position and bring it back down, tapping your toes on the floor. Repeat with the other leg until you have done a total of 10 reps for each leg.
Elly: Note that the tabletop is the starting position for several post pregnancy belly exercises (and abdominal exercises in general). It’s important that you can hold this position well, before adding on any sort of movement.
Check that you are able to hold this position for a minimum of 10-15 seconds whilst breathing freely and keeping your abdominals activated BEFORE you attempt anything like these basic single-leg toe taps. If you cannot maintain the integrity of your abdominal muscles, or you feel any sort of lower back or pelvic pain, take a rest and then regress to an easier version (i.e. go back to the basic breath and contraction, or heel slides above).
With consistent practice you will soon be able to progress to the tabletop position, then toe taps and beyond.
Postpartum ab exercises (intermediate): Single-leg extensions
For the basic single-leg extension, simply start with both legs in the table top position. Lower one leg towards the floor at a time, whilst staying bent at the knee. Then bring it back to the initial table top position. Build up to 20 reps on each side to achieve the best results. Keep your abdominals contracted throughout. If you feel them releasing, or your back bending, go back to the previous exercise and practice it a little longer.
If you are wondering how to reduce belly fat after pregnancy faster, you can progress to the advanced single-leg extension. Note that you must be able to do the previous level with excellent technique before progressing to this one. Otherwise you’ll hinder your healing process and maybe even take a step backwards.
Start from the tabletop position again. From there, extend one leg at a time and bring it back in. Don’t exceed 10 reps on each side for the first couple of sessions so that you get used to the higher difficulty it entails. After this, you can work your way up to 20 repetitions.
To further advance the single leg extension, start with both legs extended in the air. Then perform single leg lowers. Note that it may take several months of consistent and sensible training to get to this point.
Postpartum abdominal exercises (advanced): Double-leg lowers
Holding your tummy with the basic contraction technique, raise both legs to the table top position. Slowly extend them without letting your back arch, then bring them back to the start position. Repeat until you have done 20 sets.
To advance even further, begin with both legs straight up in the air, and then lower towards the ground. Only go as far as you can whilst maintaining good technique. Bring them back to the top. Start with 10 repetition and build up to 20.
Note that double leg lowers are very advanced exercises, postpartum or otherwise. It could take 6-12 months or maybe even a year or more of consistently practicing and slowly progressing your leg lowering exercises to reach this stage. Remember to ease off and take it a step back if you feel any discomfort in your lower back.
Postpartum core workout: Remember your pelvic floor exercises
Focusing on the pelvic floor muscles is a safe way to engage in postpartum belly exercises, as this muscle group is one of the most widely affected by pregnancy. A routine comprised of Kegels, pelvic tilts, pelvic bridges, and split tabletops will get you back in shape if after delivery how to reduce tummy has been a question that has been constantly on your mind.
The importance of kegels as part of your postpartum belly exercises
Kegels are more than just a trendy exercise that keeps your nether regions tight. It involves contracting and loosening the pelvic floor muscles repeatedly, which is a great low-impact post pregnancy workout. By doing 10 reps three times per day, you will regain some of the core strength you lost. The biggest advantage of Kegels is that you can do them anywhere.
To find out more about the importance of pelvic floor exercises and how to do them as part of your post pregnancy workout plan, make sure you read this important post.
Core exercises post pregnancy: Pelvic tilt
The pelvic tilt is one of the most trouble-free postpartum belly exercises you can perform. Lie on the floor and place a pillow under your hips and one between your knees for comfort. With your arms laid straight on each side, inhale and draw your abs in, squeezing your buttocks. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat 10 times.
Core exercises post pregnancy: Pelvic bridge
Elly: Don’t forget your glutes and the crucial supporting role they provide for your stomach exercises after pregnancy. The glutes are a minor core muscle and should be an important area of focus in any program. Many new moms will find that their glutes have weakened significantly after pregnancy, so make sure you remember to do this exercise!
The bridge works the pelvic floor muscles, glutes, and hamstrings, which works wonders for your postnatal physical fitness. Lying on the floor with knees bent, push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor. Once you reach the top, pause for a couple of seconds, then lower your body. Rest for one minute, then repeat until you have done 15-20 reps.
Exercises for abs after pregnancy: Split tabletop
Although the split tabletop is a leg movement at its foundation, it works the pelvic floor muscles beautifully. Also, it is a complex movement that engages both the hips and abs as well, making it one of the most efficient postpartum exercises for tummy. Before performing the split tabletop, ensure you can hold the basic tabletop position effectively first (see start position for single leg toe taps).
To get into the tabletop position, lie with your back flat on the floor and keep your knees bent so that your thighs are perpendicular to the ground and your shins stay parallel. Spread your legs slowly in a controlled manner until you reach a comfortable outward position. Gradually return to the initial position. Repeat 10 to 15 times in three separate sets.
Other considerations for postpartum exercise to reduce tummy fat and regain abdominal strength
Elly: If you experience pelvic pain or lower back pain that doesn’t improve with sensible, gradual progressions, it’s wise to see a physical therapist or women’s health physiotherapist for personalized advice.
Your ability to reach the level of strength required for the more advanced exercises above will depend on a number of factors. Similarly, exercise after pregnancy to reduce stomach fat may yield the desired results for some moms more easily than others. Other lifestyle and individual considerations include:
- Slow and appropriate progressions
- Health factors such as stress, sleep, and nutrition
- Your pre-pregnancy fitness and strength status
- The combination of different types of training that you are doing during the postnatal period
- Your birth experience and general recovery thereafter
Most of all, take it slow and steady and enjoy the journey!
Post pregnancy belly exercises: The bottom line
If you have been wondering how to reduce belly after pregnancy in a gentle and non-invasive way, the two routines presented here are a good way to start. For the best results, combine the two and turn it into a routine. Just remember not to push yourself too much, as you are still recovering from delivery. Remember that you may need to spend one or several months consistently practicing each progression level until you are ready to move to the next one.
If you enjoyed this article you might want to read about the amazing benefits of postnatal yoga. Yoga can go hand in hand with your postpartum belly exercises.
Of course, fitting exercise into your lifestyle is always a challenge for busy mamas. Therefore, check out these 7 simple ways to make time for your mama fitness routine.
Have you tried any of these postpartum belly exercises? How did you find them? What stage are you at on your post natal fitness journey? We’d love to hear from you so please feel free to leave a comment in the box below!
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