After I had my first baby, I felt really self-conscious about how quickly I “got my body back” or returned to my “pre-pregnancy” weight. Now that I’ve had a second baby and haven’t had a totally uninterrupted night’s sleep in four and half years, I’m a little less concerned about the “post baby body” and a little more concerned about having a body that works well.
The first step to having a healthy pelvic floor is learning to access and strengthen the internal muscles that support your bladder and other internal organs, but you also need to have strong support from your abdominal and back muscles.
I said in an earlier post that a lot of times we focus on our abs first because we want a shapely waist, but after you’ve had a baby (and before if you can!) you need to start at the bottom and work your way up: start with relaxing, kegels, the roller coaster and stretching your hips and pelvis.
But you DO need a strong core. You certainly wouldn’t want a basket that didn’t have a bottom to carry things around (and your internal organs are super important), but you also can’t carry very much in a basket with no sides.
These are four simple ab exercises for beginners that I would say are appropriate to start at about six weeks post partum (or when your doctor says your ready).
For all of these exercises I would recommend doing a 3-5 repetitions of each exercise 2-3 times a day. This will slowly rebuild your core without straining the muscles in the process.
Exercise 1: The Supported Crunch
After giving birth, many women experience what’s called diastases recti which means that the muscles connecting across your abdominal muscles are super stretched and not able to function normally.
So, when you’re re-starting your exercise routing (even if it’s been YEARS since you had a baby, it’s possible that if you never did this, you’re still experiencing symptoms of diastases recti, so this might be a good place to start anyway) you need to help your abs rebuild those cross connections manually.
As you can see in the brief video, I reached my hands across my waist, lift up a little, and then go back down. It’s not a big motion, you’re just supporting your abs as you lift yourself up.
Exercise 2: The Cross Crunch
While you’re getting started (especially immediately post partum) it’s important to remember that it’s a LOT of stress on your abs to hold up your legs. Bending your knees (the way I do in the video) will create less stress on your abs, but you still get the benefit of the cross crunch to support your abs in repairing the diastasis recti.
Exercise 3: The Hip Up
It’s also important to support and build healthy and strong back muscles. This is a great exercise to stretch your pelvis, while gently working your back and ab muscles.
Listen to your body, you may need to modify this by manually supporting your abs (as I do in the video).
Exercise 4: The Sit Down
After you’ve done the preceding 3 exercises for a couple of weeks and feel like your abs are getting stronger, I’d recommend this level 2 exercise before you start doing regular sit ups and ab exercises again. With a Sit Down, you get yourself up and slowly let yourself lay down on the floor.
I’d recommend only doing a few repetitions (3-5) of each exercise for the first few days. Then, add another set sometime during the day – maybe start out doing a few exercises in the morning and then add a few before you go to bed at night, then add a few exercises at some point in the middle of the day. THEN you can add repetitions and increase to 5-10 repetitions of each exercise and work your way up to whatever your regular exercise routing is.
Don’t forget your Kegels
And don’t forget! Do those kegels throughout the day and maybe start and finish your ab workout with a few repetitions of the roller coaster!
Let me know how these work for you! Good luck!
Note: I’m a mom who’s passionate about sneezing without peeing myself! As with any exercise regimen, you should probably consult your doctor. These exercises will help most people strengthen and tone their pelvic floor muscles and rebuild a healthy core, but you should always be mindful of your specific health needs and consult your doctor about your unique situation.