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Exercises You Can Do Right After Having a Baby (It’s Not What You Think!)

We’re not giving you the green light to train for a marathon just yet, but these moves will help you strengthen your pelvic floor so you can get back to a routine.

 

Congratulations! You did it. You made a human. Pretty impressive stuff.

 

You may be thinking it’s time to get back to your normal workout routine. Great! That enthusiasm will help you get moving and doing all the right stuff, even if you aren’t getting much sleep for the next couple months.

 

Or you may be thinking it feels like you’ll never get back to your normal routine, as you’ve forgotten what normal even feels like. Hey, that’s OK too! Taking things step by step gives your body the time it needs to heal and puts you on the right track for future success.

 

Together we’ll knock out the first 6 weeks of your postpartum fitness with some gentle moves, so you can take good care of your healing body and work toward a return to the exercises you love!

 

 

Some ground rules

Start slow. Finish strong

Don’t worry, it won’t be slow forever, and you’ll get back to all the exercises you love.

 

The first 6 weeks postpartum are a really important time to build a strong foundation for the rest of your postpartum fitness goals. Keep in mind that this period happens before you are cleared by your doctor to return to normal exercise.

 

During this critical time, you’ll build stability in your pelvis and integrity in your pelvic floor, and gradually you’ll do more difficult and strenuous exercises (without peeing your pants or hurting your back).

 

Don’t overdo it

Reminder: Your OB may not clear you for full exercise until around 6 weeks postpartum. So, let’s not jump in guns blazing and start training for a marathon or immediately heading back to your favorite yoga class to show off how flexi that relaxin made you.

 

Your doctor will give you a thumbs up when you can start ratcheting it up. The plan below may seem slow, but if you follow it, everything you do after will go much faster.

 

Recover

Like all good fitness routines your recovery time is just as important as your working effort. You just put in a good amount of work growing and delivering that baby. It’s time to recover, rest as much as you can, and eat well — your body will do the rest.

 

If you had complications during birth, these exercises might not be right for you. You may need to spend a few extra weeks recovering before jumping in. Always check with your doctor if you are unsure.

 

Exercises

This is a 6-week progression focusing on your pelvic floor integrity and hip and core stability.

 

We’ll add one exercise every week for the first 4 weeks, and one to two exercises in the last 2 weeks, if you feel ready. For example, in week 1 you’ll only have one exercise — Kegel breathwork. In week 2, you’ll repeat Kegel breathwork and add glute bridges.

 

By week 6, you’ll be doing 6 to 8 exercises per session. You can also walk daily, starting at 15 to 30 minutes, increasing the intensity and duration of your walking session each week.

 

If possible, try going for a walk after you complete the exercises below and see if you start to feel more stable in your hips and core or if you’re more aware of your pelvic floor.

 

Week 1: Seated Kegel breathwork

Sit on a stability ball or soft chair so the two bony parts of your butt, the sitz bones, and your perineum are on the surface of the ball. Ground your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than your hips.

 

Take a deep breath in through your nose to fill your belly in all directions. Imagine a balloon is in your stomach and you’re trying to fill it up so it touches your hips and ribs as you breathe in.

 

As you exhale, purse your lips and imagine you’re blowing out candles.

 

After practicing this deep breath several times, bring your attention to the pelvic floor. Feel the space between the perineum and the sitz bones in contact with the ball or chair.

 

With each breath in, imagine you’re filling the balloon more and more with every breath using your diaphragm. As you exhale, let your shoulders and ribs soften as the belly moves in towards your spine. It should feel like your perineum is grabbing the ball and lifting it off the floor.

 

Practice Kegel breathwork every day for 3 to 5 minutes or until you feel fatigued. You may notice it’s hard to engage a full contraction or hold one for long. That’s okay! Practice every day and you’ll improve quickly.

 

Week 2: Add glute bridges

Spend a few minutes practicing your Kegel breathwork.

 

Now lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Maintain a neutral spine with a gentle curve in your lower back.

 

From this position perform a few Kegel breaths. Start with a full inhale to expand your imaginary balloon, then exhale to engage your core and pelvic floor while lifting your butt off the floor and pressing your hips up toward the ceiling. As you lower, inhale again and repeat.

 

Repeat for 10–12 reps 1–2 times daily.

 

Note: If you’re having trouble feeling the pelvic floor engagement try adding a Pilates ball or pillow between your thighs. Keep light pressure on the ball or pillow throughout the movement.

 

Week 3: Add clamshells

Lie on your side with a neutral spine and your knees bent. Your hips, knees, and ankles will be stacked. Take a few moments to practice the Kegel breathwork from this new side-lying position.

 

Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee away from your bottom knee. Inhale to fill the balloon in your belly, exhale with your lips pursed blowing out the candles as you lower the top knee back down.

 

Repeat 10–12 reps 1–2 times daily.

 

Week 4: Add side-lying chair pose

This new exercise is a progression from last week’s clamshells, so you’ll set up the same way. Lie on your side with a neutral spine and your knees bent. Your hips, knees, and ankles will be stacked. Just like last week, take a few moments to practice the Kegel breathwork from the side-lying position.

 

Lift the entire top leg away from the bottom leg. Inhale to fill the balloon in your belly, exhale with your lips pursed blowing out the candles as you lower your top leg back down. Try keeping a little pressure against the floor with your bottom leg while you lift your top leg.

 

Repeat 10–12 reps 1–2 times daily.

 

Week 5: Add seated and standing marching

Seated marching

Sit on a stability ball or soft chair so the two bony parts of your butt, the sitz bones, and your perineum are on the surface of the ball. Ground your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than your hips.

 

Take a deep breath in, filling the balloon. Start the movement on the exhale, bracing your core. Perform a marching action by lifting one foot a few inches off the floor, then pause in the air, then lower the foot back down. Repeat on the other foot.

 

Repeat 10–12 reps 1–2 times daily.

 

Standing marching

Once seated marching feels easy, add marching from a standing position to your routine. Use the same Kegel breathing pattern you used in seated marching.

 

Week 6: Add squats

Split squat (aka stationary lunge)

From a standing position, take a long step forward with one foot. Only go as far as you can while keeping both heels on the ground and your toes pointed forward. Keep your torso upright and your hands on your hips.

 

Begin the Kegel breath inhaling to expand the imaginary balloon. Bend both your knees, allowing your back heel to come off the ground as you move straight down. Keep your weight balanced between both legs.

 

Lower until both knees are bent at around 90 degrees or until you feel comfortable. Exhale to engage your core, and imagine squeezing your thighs together as you return to standing by driving through your front heel and back toes.

 

Body weight squat

Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Inhale to expand the imaginary balloon as you hinge at your hips while bending at your knees and allowing your hips to sit down and back, like you are sitting in a chair.

 

Move down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale to engage your core, and imagine squeezing your thighs together as you stand back up.

 

If you don’t feel stable, use a chair so you can sit at the bottom of each squat, but try not to rest at the bottom.

 

Repeat 10–12 reps 1–2 times daily.

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24 Comments

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