Postnatal Exercises to Get Your Shape Back Quickly
Get your "Before-Baby Body" Back Quickly with These Postnatal Exercises!
Royal baby George has been born. The whole world hoped to get a glimpse of England’s new heir to the throne. Some were waiting to see if Princess Kate would get her beautiful body back after the birth. Will it be easy for Princess Kate to look shapely and fit again, or will it be a royal pain, like most Moms know it can be?
I’m not going to lie. It takes hard work to get your before-baby body back, but it can be done. In fact, if you train right and eat right, you might even come out of this ahead — looking better than you ever have. Do the exercises below, which I have designed for you new moms, eat a sensible high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate diet, and do some form of aerobic exercise 3-5 days/week, with intervals thrown in, and your body will look and feel great!
Benefits of exercising postpartum include:
- Strengthening your core musculature helps to stabilize your spine, prevents back pain, and gives you that nice, flat tummy look.
- Improves posture, particularly from the weight of your new, enlarged breasts.
- Improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone, which boosts your metabolism and burns fat.
- Improves mood.
- Helps you sleep better.
- Improves stamina so you can care for your newborn on limited sleep, and improves endurance, so you will be able to chase after your toddler later on!
- Assists in the prevention of urinary incontinence and hemorrhoids.
- Assists in healing the vagina and perineum, by improving blood circulation into the area, helping to reduce swelling and bruising.
- Assists in helping you breast feed (if you have chosen to do so), which can be a very tiring process indeed!
- Increases blood circulation which helps reduce leg cramping, swelling, varicose veins and blood clots.
- Helps keep you “regular.” Moving your body, helps your bowels move too!
Before you start any post-natal exercise program, be sure to get your doctor’s approval, especially if you experienced any pregnancy-related complications, or delivered via Cesarean section.
Pregnancy is physically demanding, no matter how fit you are, so be realistic, safe and patient about getting your before-baby body back. Listen to your body for signs or signals, like fatigue, shortness of breath and/or feelings of extreme temperature — that may be telling you to back off a bit. Heed your body’s advice!
It’s probably wise to take it easy in the first few days (or weeks, depending upon what your doctor says), post-childbirth, while your body is still recovering. Start with short walks, and kegels. I loved walking my son in his baby carrier – it’s one of the most amazing bonding experiences ever! Fresh air during our walks, felt great too.
Hopefully you did many kegels prenatally. Let’s just reintroduce them back into your daily routine postnatally. Doing your kegels postnatally, will help strengthen the deep, lower abdominal, or pelvic floor muscles. They also assist in the prevention of urinary incontinence, hemorrhoids, urine leaks, and preventing back ache. Kegels can be done anywhere, anytime, like right now,while you read this article. Reviewing the “how to”: Simply squeeze and contract your deep pelvic muscles like you are trying to stop the flow of pee. Avoid tightening your butt or thigh muscles, and breathe. Hold your kegels for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5-10 times/day.
After about 4-6 weeks, post-childbirth, when you are feeling stronger, and your doctor has cleared you for more strenuous exercise, add these exercises to your post-natal routines! I have chosen these postnatal exercises, because they all require core-engagement, which gives you a flat, and tight tummy, and they all use multiple muscle groups, which burns more fat calories. Let’s begin with a gentle, but effective core-engagement exercise that’s easy to do, and will help you to really learn how to contract and engage your pelvic floor muscles and deep, abdominal core.
Ball/Pillow Squeezes strengthen your deep pelvic floor muscles and inner thighs, and re-aligns hips too. Sit tall on a chair with feet flat on the ground. Place a small ball or pillow between your thighs. With about 75-80% intensity, do pulsing squeezes to the object between your legs 15 times, while simultaneously drawing up and in, on your pelvic floor muscles (think pubic bone up into your navel), contracting your deep, core abdominals. On pulse #15, isometrically hold that last squeeze for 5-10 seconds (breathe!).
Swans/Superwomans will strengthen your entire spine, especially your thoracic area, for improved posture, and will tone your buttocks and legs. This is a three-part series:
1. Lay on your stomach with arms bent and hands next to your chest. Head is down with forehead on the ground, and neck relaxed. Thighs are connected. This is your ‘starting position’. Inhale. On the exhale, reach your arms forward like superwoman (we are, aren’t we?), and lift your head, chest, shoulders, thighs and feet (ankles and toes pointed) off the mat, squeezing your buttocks muscles hard.
2. Begin in the starting position. Do everything in #1, but this time, outstretch your arms into a letter T.
3. Begin in starting position again, but this time, lengthen and reach your arms back behind you, into the swan. During all three of these exercises, be sure to keep shoulders down and back, neck long and neutral, and buttocks contracted.
Stationary Step (TRX/Cross-core) Lunges
Stationary Step (TRX/Cross-core) Lunges tone and tighten the buttocks, legs and core.
Stand about three feet in front of a step, with your back to the step. Feet are parallel and hip width apart. Step one foot back onto the step behind you. The knee of your front foot should be directly above your ankle joint, and you should shift most of your weight into the heel of that foot, to most effectively isolate the front foot’s butt muscle. Lock in your core, and proceed to lift and lower your body without falling, using your core for balance! Do 10 repetitions, and switch sides. If you have access to the Cross-core or TRX, place your back foot in the TRX or Cross-core foot straps instead of up on a step, and you’ll really have to work your core to balance!
Planks are my favorite abdominal exercise. Planks not only strengthen your deep core muscles responsible for protecting and stabilizing your spine, they also give you a nice, flat tummy look.
Lay on your stomach, with arms outstretched, so you are resting on your forearms. Inhale. On the exhale, pull your navel up into your spine, contracting your core muscles, and lift your entire body off the ground, so you are resting on your forearms and toes. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulder joints and spine neutral. Breathe and hold your plank for 30-60 seconds. When you have mastered this plank, try this plank progression:
➢ Get into a plank. Now lift your hips, and flex your spine into a reverse crunch. If you are doing this reverse plank progression correctly, you should be able to look beneath your body and see your feet. Negotiate slowly back into your plank without falling, and do 5 more crunches. I could give you more plank progressions, but that is a future blog, so stay tuned……
The Hip/Butt-Lift Series isolates and firms your butt, inner thighs and core.
Lay on your back with feet up on a step or stability ball, soles of your feet touching and thighs open, like in a Butterfly stretch. Lift your hips and glutes off the ground, leading with your pubic bone to the ceiling, and keeping legs wide open. Do 10 reps. Continue for another ten reps, but this time, as you lift your hips, simultaneously pull and squeeze, your inner thighs together. As you descend, let your hips fall back open. Up and close…….down and open. Now do ten last hip lifts, keeping your thighs together the whole time. Concentrate on contracting your butt muscles and abdominals during this whole series.
Plie Squats with Calf Raises
Plie Squats with Calf Raises firm and strengthen your inner thighs, quadriceps, buttocks and calves.
Because they focus on such large muscle groups, they burn lots of calories too!
Stand with legs wider than hip width, feet laterally rotated (toes pointed away from your body), and weight shifted into the heels of your feet. Squat low and hold. Lift up onto your toes as if you are wearing high-heeled shoes, and raise back up to starting position. Lower your heels at the top, and do 9 more reps!
Push-ups work your chest, triceps and shoulder muscles. Begin doing as many push-ups as you can on your hands and feet, spine neutral, hips level and chest out.
When you can’t do any more push-ups in this position, drop down to your knees, and knock out 10-15 more.
Leg Kick-ups strengthen the core, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps, and get your heart pumping too.
Sit on your tush, knees bent in front of you, feet flat on the ground, and hands behind you. Kick your right leg high into the air, lifting up onto your left calf. Lower the right leg, and quickly kick your left leg up.
Try doing 10 alternating kick-ups on each leg.
Rows with Reverse Lunges
Rows with Reverse Lunges will strengthen your legs, glutes, back and rear deltoids/shoulders. Your heart will pump on this exercise too.
Use a medium resistance band or pulley, set waist high. Step back into a reverse lunge, hips square and knees bent. Simultaneously pull the resistance band into a mid-back row. Think about drawing your shoulder blades together in your upper back, as you row, and keep your chest lifted. Do 10 lunges/rows on each leg. Now do another ten reps of upper back rows, keeping elbows high, in line with your armpits, and forearms parallel to the ground. This upper back/shoulder exercise will keep you from hunching forward while your breasts are feeling bloated and heavy.
Mid-back Chin-ups are for strengthening your biceps and back muscles, and use your own body weight for resistance.
Hang under a bar — hands facing either direction — that is anywhere from 3 to 5 feet off the ground. Pull yourself up to the bar, touching your mid-chest area to the bar, and squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you. Try 6-10 chin-ups.
To get your shape back quickly, do the above exercises 3-5 days/week, walk, swim, or cycle, another 3-5 days/week, and eat a healthy diet. Be sure to incorporate 30-60 second intervals into your cardiovascular workouts, and you’ll get results even faster! For example, after every 5-10 minutes of medium heart rate intensity exercise you do (60-70% intensity), throw in a 30-60 second high intensity (80-90% intensity) “burst”/interval. So if you are riding a stationary bike on level 6 for 5 minutes, increase the resistance to 8 or 10, and ride as hard and as fast as you can for 30-60 seconds. Go back to riding at level 6 again for another 5-8 minutes, and so on. Adding high intensity intervals into your workouts, increases your metabolism, and burns fat!
Now Move it!
➢ You might want to consider hiring a Personal Trainer, who specializes in prenatal and postnatal training, to help you get started with your postnatal exercises. A trainer will be sure you are doing your exercises with good form and technique, and may also add other new and effective exercises as you progress. She/he will also help you nutritionally, so you will look and feel like the fittest Mom around! Good Luck!!