Babes! I am so glad you are here reading the bloggy and I am especially glad you are reading this post!!
Why, you might ask, well its because I am sharing 5 core exercises you should be using postpartum. And if you are a mama or a mama to be or thinking about getting pregnant then you should stick around because postpartum is FOREVER after having a baby. It isn’t a certain amount of time after delivery and then it just goes away, it is like foreverrrrr and everrrr. I also will add that I am working on getting my pre/post natal fitness certification, but currently, am not certified. I always recommend talking with your dr. before starting any fitness program, especially postpartum/ post C-section etc. I am not an expert on postpartum work (yet) or pelvic floor specialist so do not take this or anything on this site as fact for YOU. Every mama is different and everyones postpartum journey is different. So I like to say to listen to your body and if it hurts and there is pain, then back off and try it from a different approach.
The reason I am writing this post is because I was so misinformed about exercises and safe practices for postpartum. First of all, I have been a certified fitness trainer for over 5 years and have never been properly trained on prenatal or postnatal exercise. Most trainers aren’t. It just isn’t required. And neither are normal delivery Doctors. Their job is to get your baby out safely and make sure you heal over the next 6-8 weeks and then they give you the “all clear” to go back to normal activity. LIKE OH MY GOODNESS NO!!! Please please please do not go back to “normal activity” after giving birth just 8 week prior…like don’t go back to “normal activity”, whatever that means, until months of healing has occurred. Mama’s! It took 9-10 months to make a tiny human and then have it pushed out of a tiny hole or cut out of layers yeah plural, layersss of your belly. If you think you are ready to go back to deadlifts and kettle bell swings at 8 weeks and it not have any negative effects on your healing body, you are sadly wrong. No one wanted that more than me. No one wanted to be able to push their baby out naturally, more than me(said ever mama, ever). But that was not the case for me. I trained, I conditioned, I mentally prepared for that glorious day…and it went the complete opposite. I ended up with an emergency C-section, didn’t leave the hospital for 5 days (I ended up with an infection and had to stay because I couldn’t kick my fever), and when I finally got to go home, I felt like I had never lifted a weight in my life. And so my POSTPARTUM journey began.
These exercises personally helped me. I did my own personal research, listened to information and watched videos from pelvic floor specialists and physio’s. This type of exercise is so different from what I was used to doing before and even while I was pregnant. Very early, 5-6 weeks I started doing these exercises and they were hard, my belly felt empty, my core felt detached, numb, soft. And rightfully so.
These exercises coupled with the right breathing can be very challenging. And frustrating. If you are months out from delivery, I might really be frustrating because it might feel like nothing is happening or that it isn’t hard enough. Just be persistent and keep working on the mind-muscle connection. I found it especially difficult because I was very strong before being pregnant. I had been doing the core breathing all wrong before and was doing more of a ‘bracing’ than actually regulating the internal abdominal pressure while doing exercises and even functional movements like lifting boxes or picking things up, or even SITTING UP out of bed! These moves have personally helped me so much, healed my DR and helped me connect to my pelvic floor and deep core muscles again. I am always learning and continue to practice these exercises even 10 months out from my c-section.
1. Mastering the Breath-Work & Mind-Muscle Connection
You want to start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Start by inhaling and feeling your ribs expand with air, then your midline, and then your lower belly rise with the breath. you shouldn’t be forcing air pressure into these areas, just acknowledge the spaces rising with the breath.
Now when you exhale you can imagine a string at your bikini line being pulled up straight up your belly line and to your chest. Along with this, tilt your pelvis towards you belly button, tucking your butt essentially. imagine your muscles contracting up and inwards. like a corset. I like to tap along my sides to be sure my TVA is engage, deep core muscles, and down low where by bikini would sit, to be sure my pelvic floor is engaged. You can also imagine closing all three openings beneath you, (your three lady openings, hoping you are catching my drift here!). A few other cues that are common are: “imagine your pelvic floor as a jellyfish, when you inhale the jellyfish is soft and open, and when you exhale, the jellyfish is closing and propelling towards the surface of the ocean” or “imagine sucking a smoothie throw a straw through your vagina (everyone hold your giggles, we are all adults here and we all have a vagina)” or “imagine stopping the flow of urine or holding a fart from coming out” these are all cues to help you connect with the engagement of your PV. Be sure you aren’t squeezing your leg muscles, or butt cheeks together, if you are, you are more clenching and bracing rather than engaging those low muscles. This engagement is a controlled by very strong muscles but they are minor movements, they will not be seen as if you were doing big muscle movements like raising your arms over your head. So as you exhale, close the three openings, draw the string up, tuck the pelvis and bring the ribs together and down. This seems like a lot but once you are mastered the breath you can better engage your abdominals during any exercise effectively.
REPEAT THIS BREATHING AND CONTRACTING FOR 10 BREATHS AND 3 ROUNDS
With the core engaged and pelvis tucked you should be able to breathe while maintaining the connection. Exhale on the lift, contracting the core, maintaining the flat back. Inhale when the foot is returning to the ground, do not let your low back arch when coming down, maintain control.
Repeat 8 on each side for 3 rounds.
3. “Heel Slides”
Lay on your back and bring your knees to a bent position with feet flat on the floor. With the core engaged and pelvis tucked you should be able to breathe while maintaining the connection. Inhale when the foot is sliding away from you, do not let your low back arch when extending the leg. Exhale bringing the foot back towards your body to the start position, contracting the core, maintaining the flat back.
Repeat 8 on each side for 3 rounds.
4. “Reverse March/Toe Taps”
Start by laying on your back with feet flat, knees bent. With the core engaged and pelvis tucked you should be able to breathe while maintaining the connection. Bring one foot at a time off the ground to meet at the top, with both knee still bent, stacked over your hips. Now, one at a time, you will tap the ground with one foot, return it to the meet the other foot at the top and then with the opposite foot repeat the floor tap. Inhale when one foot is returning to the ground, do not let your low back arch when coming down, maintain control. Exhale on the lift back up to the top, contracting the core, maintaining the flat back. Make sure your knees stay over your pelvis/hips because if they start to move further away/in-front of you, your back may begin to arch and you’ll lose the core engagement.
Repeat 8 on each side for 3 rounds.
5. “Glute Bridge”
Start by laying on your back with feet flat, knees bent, bring your heels close you your butt. Arms are down by your sides. With the core engaged and pelvis tucked you should be able to breathe while maintaining the connection. As you exhale contract your PV, think of closing all three openings. As you exhale push through your heels, squeeze your glutes and quads to lift your hips and core off the ground. Hold the contraction here for a few seconds. You can tap with your fingers all around your core and PV to feel the core engagement. Everything should be tight and you should feel your glutes, quads, and core working here. As you lower back down, inhale.
Repeat 10 and for 3 rounds!
Alright babes! Those are the basics! please any comments or questions below! Or find me on Instagram Here for more workouts, postpartum exercises and more mama stuff!