Postnatal Exercise Tips

Embarking on a new fitness regime after having a baby can be daunting. But look no further, as Tribal Fitness has specialised instructors who can help you get that Yummy Mummy figure, the safe and effective way.
Find out more about our Back in Action course , see it in action and check out the venues for your weekly outdoor Pramtastic Bootcamps.

Congratulations on your new arrival. Your life has just changed, and so has your body! So, once you get passed that walking zombie stage, you may feel like starting some exercise. Every mum wants to get in shape, however it’s really important you take it slowly and ensure that the exercises you’re performing are correct for your postnatal stage. So don’t rush it – Bounce Back with Baby Steps.

Before starting a postnatal exercise regime

The first step of your new mummy exercise regime, is to accept that you will have to take things slowly and perform steady and controlled exercises. If you’re used to pounding the pavements and swinging those kettlebells, then this may be difficult for you. But it is essential that you build the base strength and fitness first.

Where to start

As with any exercise programme (yes, we ALL should be doing this) you need to start with your core. This is vital for new mums in particular, and without targeting this area, you could be setting yourself up for injury and a lack of results.

Core

Your core is made up of deep internal muscles within the abdominal cavity. Think of it as your internal corset. It supports the spine and draws in your tummy and waist, creating a flat abdominal area. The visible outer muscles make up your ‘6-pack’ (trust me, they’re there somewhere!), which is trained through exercises such as crunches. It is for this reason that you may be surprised, (and/or relieved) that performing hundreds of crunches is not what’s required for new mothers to regain a strong and flattened stomach.

The Transversus muscle within your core, is the key muscle to target and can be strengthened by performing regular exercises such as the following ones.

Leg slides
Lie on your back on a firm but comfortable surface, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
Let your arms relax down by your side
Slowly draw the belly button in towards your spine, without holding your breath, pushing your back into the floor, tensing any other muscles or moving your pelvis (this can be hard, so just keep practising to perfect this movement before moving on)
From here, slowly slide one foot away from your body, straightening your leg
Take this slide out as far as possible, just before your back starts to arch or dip to compensate for that leg movement
Stop at this point and slowly return your leg to the starting position, again without moving your back or pelvis
Repeat on the other leg

Hip tilts
Lie on your back on a firm but comfortable surface, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
Let your arms relax down by your side
Slowly draw your belly button in towards your spine, without holding your breath, pushing your back into the floor or moving your pelvis
Slowly contract your stomach muscles to curl your pelvis towards you, so lifting the bottom part of your bum slightly off the floor
Try not to engage your bum muscles when doing this
Slowly return to the starting position and repeat

Stomach

It is vital that before starting any abdominal work such as sit ups or oblique crunches (sides of your waist), you must have a ‘diastasis recti’ (or a ‘rec check’ for short) done by a trained professional (these are performed during the Back in Action course for all new mums). Many gyms and personal trainers are not qualified or experienced and may therefore be giving you, albeit often unwillingly, inaccurate and unsafe abdominal exercise advice after giving birth, so it’s worth checking out.

Pregnancy can cause a separation of your rectus abdominus (your 6-pack) which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. This separation causes weakness and instability in the abdominal region as well as negatively affecting overall posture. It can result in back ache and further muscular and joint problems. Any separation identified in your ‘rec check’ needs to be rectified before progressing on to advanced abdominal work. Performing regular abdominal exercises with diastasis can make the separation worse, as well as preventing you from achieving a flat stomach – regardless of how many crunches you do!

Overall body toning

You may feel like you have lost your pre-pregnancy strength and muscle tone. No doubt you’ll want this back as soon as possible to cope with carrying a growing baby around every day, not the mention all the paraphernalia that comes with it! Building muscle fibres is great for not only increasing strength, but it can also help to reduce your body fat content. And the extra kick of endorphins after the twelfth sleepless night never goes a miss either! However, caution must be taken with the type of exercises you are performing as your skeleton muscle tone and support may be out of balance.

Assessing muscular imbalances

Pregnancy can cause major muscle imbalances throughout the body. The main imbalance that the large majority of postnatal women face is that of kyphosis. You may already know if you have a kyphotic posture if you feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! But fear not, because this can be rectified with specific exercises and stretching techniques, like those performed during Back in Action and Pramtastic Bootcamp.

Kyphosis of the spine can be debilitating in the short and long term, as it can cause serious back and neck pain, as well as shoulder and pelvic problems, that can stay with you for life. Therefore it is essential that it’s addressed at the earliest opportunity. Some simple exercises that you can do at home can help towards realigning your spine, posture and muscle imbalance.

Wall slides
Stand with your back and bum against a wall and contract your core by drawing in your belly button
Shuffle your feet forward a little to provide stability
Take your arms up into a right angle position so your upper arms are parallel to the floor
Try to place the back of your hands and your elbows on to the wall
From here try to slide your arms down the wall while keeping your hands, elbows, back and bum in contact with it
This is a great exercise to assess the extent of kyphosis and to correct it by strengthening the muscles between the shoulder blades

Cobra
Lie face down on a firm but comfortable surface
Place your arms by your side and keep your feet on the floor throughout
Maintaining neutral spine by looking at the floor, so your neck isn’t in a flexed position
Slowly contract your core by drawing in your belly button
Slowly raise your head, shoulders, arms and chest off the floor
Rotate your arms outwards so the palms of your hands are facing each other and your thumbs are pointing upwards
Keep your shoulder down away from the ears and feel that gentle squeeze between the shoulder blades
Slowly return to the start position and repeat

So, although you may be comfortable performing regular squats to build your leg muscles (to help with the tenth go at remembering what you went upstairs for!), and bicep curling those tins of beans (to give you the strength for 20 cot lifts a night), you must remember that your body does not need to just be performing regular gym and aerobics class exercises that you may have done prior to being pregnant. Your body is in a postnatal state, and you need specific and specialised postnatal exercises. You’ve grown, nurtured and birthed your beautiful son or daughter. You body did it’s job well and took care of your new baby. So, do you not owe it to your body for you to take care of it now, and restore it to it’s optimum strength? After all, it’s the only one you’ll get!