Birthing a baby is one of the most amazing tasks a mama will accomplish. After the newborn freshness passes, you might start to wonder, “How the heck do I get my body back?” You might also be thinking, “I would prefer to do this in a timely fashion!” We caution you: the very worst thing you can do is too much too fast. Returning to exercise should be a well-choreographed dance.
There is a tremendous amount of physical and emotional change that a woman goes through after birth. Hormones are still present in your body after birth, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. These hormones may create instability as they are the same ones that allowed for the baby to pass through the pelvis and make his or her way out into the world.
Our bodies do not automatically reset once the baby is here. Your body “forgets” about certain muscles and relies on others too much. This is why proper strength training is vital to postpartum recovery. One reason we are excited about the Expecting and Empowered: Postpartum Guide is to teach women specific exercises to help avoid injury and eventually return to higher impact activities like running.
Postpartum exercise is all about the right order at the right time. For example, when doing lower extremity work, it is important to do symmetrical exercises. This means squats instead of lunges. When you are squatting, it is important to start without weight before returning to weight bearing. Always pay attention to your body; if it is warning you to back off, you have to listen. Warning signs may include an increase in postpartum bleeding and pain.
This postpartum workout was developed for women that are 12 weeks post-birth and beyond. The full Expecting and Empowered: Postpartum Guide will be available for on our site and for purchase soon! We are so excited to share this with you now for an early sneak peek!
- NECK EXTENSIONS WITH CHEST OPENER x5
SETUP: Begin in a standing position. Clasp hands behind back, then pull shoulder blades back and down. Do not allow shoulders to creep upwards as you get into this position. Hold this position.
MOVEMENT: Bend your head backward, lifting your chin away from your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep your back straight and do not let your head tilt to either side.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: If you are like any new mom, you are spending lots of time staring at your beautiful baby. This is a great way to reverse the effects of that. This exercise keeps your neck joints and discs healthy and combats the demands of mothering.
- WORLD’S GREATEST x4 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Step forward with your left leg and lower your body into a lunge. As you go down, place your right hand on the floor so it is in line with your left foot. Your right knee should hover above the floor.
MOVEMENT: Now move your left elbow inside your left foot and rest it on the floor. Square your hips so you feel a stretch on both sides, and try to keep your back as flat as possible. Move your left hand outside your left foot and twist to reach for the sky with your right arm. Try to pull the toes on your left foot up toward your shin.
POSTPARTUM TIP: If the stretch is too intense, you can drop your back knee to help.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This stretch is named World’s Greatest for a reason: it hits so many muscle groups. It is helpful for stretching out a tight upper back from nursing or carrying a baby. The lunge position helps to stretch out a tight hip flexor that is usually on guard during pregnancy.
- TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS CONTRACTIONS x10
SETUP: Begin lying on your back with your legs bent and feet resting on the ground.
MOVEMENT: Place your fingers just inside the bones on the front of your pelvis. Find the very pointy part of the hip in the front before the wings of your pelvis start. Move your fingers one inch inwards towards the belly button and then one inch downward towards your pubic bone. Exhale, and gently pull the muscles under your fingers in. You can accomplish this by flattening your back. Relax and repeat.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Make sure to draw in rather than push out your muscles. This should be a subtle movement. This is NOT sucking in your stomach.
When you do abdominal work that activates the deep core, you should not see your belly pouch out like a beer belly. With transverse abdominis you will always see a flattening.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This step is so important to the restoration of your core. It also helps women to prevent or help heal rectus diastasis. The deep core is vital for stability!
- ONE SIDE WEIGHTED SQUATS (DUMBBELL) x12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Start in upright position with your feet shoulder width. Place a dumbbell on one shoulder, holding it in place.
MOVEMENT: Squat, bending at your knees and hips. At the bottom of the movement, your knees should be close to a 90° angle. Straighten your legs and squeeze your butt at the top of the movement. Repeat for assigned number of repetitions, then switch weight to other side.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Make sure you tuck your tailbone underneath you so that your low back is not rounded.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: We are training you to be a mama. We usually do not carry that baby evenly on both sides, so it is great to train with the load of the dumbbell only on one side.
- BENT OVER ROW (DUMBBELL) x12
SETUP: Stand in upright position, then hinge forward at your hips. Arms hang toward the floor with a dumbbell in each hand.
MOVEMENT: Pull both arms upward, bending at your elbows. Your elbows should graze along your sides and up toward the ceiling. Focus on elbows drawing toward opposite butt cheeks so you feel a squeeze between your shoulder blades. Lower them back down. Repeat.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep your back straight as if someone were pulling the crown of your head (ponytail) upward. Retract your neck.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: We are undoing the forward position our shoulder blades often get into during pregnancy. Your mid-back will thank you for tension free nursing and baby carrying sessions.
- SPEEDSKATERS x12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Start in a standing position with feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
MOVEMENT: Shift your weight to one leg and pull one leg behind the other. Both knees will bend, with front knee bending to almost 90°. Draw chest forward, keeping your shoulders over your front leg. Tap each dumbbell on the ground. Next, swiftly switch legs, moving back and forth to complete repetitions.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep your knees over your toes even though you are performing exercises at angles. Perform this slow and controlled (no jumping).
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This is great to get some of the hip rotators moving. These often get tight and weak from the waddle women do while carrying their sweet babies. Wake your muscles up with this!
- ½ KNEELING BICEP CURL to OVERHEAD PRESS (DUMBBELL) x12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Start in a half kneeling position with left knee bent in front of your body. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand.
MOVEMENT: Curl the dumbbell toward your shoulders. Next, flip your wrist so that the dumbbell faces out. Press dumbbell overhead and lower back to shoulder height. Return to starting position. Repeat for assigned number of repetitions. Switch sides.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Make sure your bent knee is not collapsing inward during the exercise. As you transition from the bicep curl to the press, make sure to draw your elbows backwards towards the opposite butt cheeks. This opens the front of the shoulder.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This hits multiple areas that we use to lift those heavy car seats.
- SQUAT TO FRONT RAISE x 12
SETUP: Start in an upright position with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
MOVEMENT: Squat. Bend at the knees and hips, until your knees are almost at a 90° angle. When in a low squat, you are going to raise the dumbbell right in front of you. Return to standing, squeezing butt at top of movement. Repeat.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Squeeze your butt on the way up while you exhale.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: With an infant, there is a lot of time spent on the floor playing and changing diapers. Get used to it, because these little ones like you to be close! Training muscles that we use to get up and down from the floor will prove helpful.
- QUADRUPED DONKEY KICKS x 12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Begin on all fours with shoulders above wrists.
MOVEMENT: Tighten your abdominals, then lift one leg and bend the knee at a 90° angle. Press your heel towards the ceiling, squeezing your butt on the way up. Lower it back down until you return to the 90° angle and repeat for assigned number of repetitions. Switch legs and repeat on other side.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Do not to let your hips rotate to either side during the exercise.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: Often, the hip extensors do not get used as frequently during pregnancy due to the changes in weight. Postpartum is a great time to refresh these muscles and get them going.
- SIDE LYING EXTERNAL ROTATION x 12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Start in an upright position, holding dumbbells in each hand. Bend your elbows to 90° at belly button height with palms facing each other.
MOVEMENT: Rotate left arm away as right arm stays in starting position. As you do, pinch your shoulder blades down and back together, keep movement at shoulder height. Return to starting position. Repeat on right side.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This exercise is great for increasing your shoulder strength. It will also alleviate stress and strain off of the neck.
- SIDE LYING LATERAL LEG RAISES x12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Start by lying on your side. Bend your bottom leg, but keep it on the floor. Your top leg is straight.
MOVEMENT: Slowly lift your upper leg toward the ceiling. Your top leg will only lift 6” from neutral (in the picture leg is higher, so you can see the movement). Do not lift it high! Lower it back to the starting position. Switch sides to other leg.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep your hip, knee, and ankle in one line. Do not allow your hips to roll backward or forward during the exercise. You should feel a deep burn in the hip.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This is important for decreasing pressure on your lower back and preventing aches and pains. Unstable hips put the back in compromised positions and this move will help to stabilize them.
- SKULL CRUSHERS x 15
SETUP: Start by laying on your back with your knees and feet on the floor. Start with one dumbbell above your chin with both arms straight.
MOVEMENT: Activate your deep muscles by drawing in your belly. It is more of a scooping motion by tucking your tailbone up and in towards the belly button. Start to slowly lower the weight to your forehead, keeping your core tight during the movement. Then push the weight back up until your arms are straight, returning to starting position. Repeat for the assigned number of repetitions.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep ribs down on the floor. Do not allow your bottom ribs to pop off of the floor.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: We are teaching your body the proper order it should turn muscles on.
- WEIGHTED BRIDGES x 15
SETUP: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Hold a dumbbell at on your pelvis.
MOVEMENT: Slowly lift your hips off the ground until your body is in a straight line. Squeeze your butt at the top of movement. Slowly lower body back down to the mat. Repeat.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Squeeze your butt checks like you have a credit card between them.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: Your body is craving hip extensions just like you may be craving sushi and a mommy drink, so give it to it! Hip extensions are your friend postpartum.
- HEEL MARCHES x 12 EACH SIDE
SETUP: Lie on your back with your knees bent towards your chest in a tabletop position.
MOVEMENT: Activate your deep muscles by drawing in your belly. It is more of a scooping motion by tucking your tailbone up and in towards the belly button. Start to slowly lower one leg towards the floor, tap your heel and then return to the tabletop position. Repeat on the other side.
POSTPARTUM TIP: Keep your core tight during the movement and do not allow your lower back to come off the floor.
REASON FOR EXERCISE: This is a great core exercise that also helps with the prevention of lower back pain.