Last weekend I was fortunate enough to talk at the North West’s first baby fayre, ‘Bump and Beyond’.
My talk was on exercise post-pregnancy and had a huge emphasis on rebuilding the core and pelvic floor again after childbirth.
My wife had 2 C-sections with our daughters and wasn’t given any advice on proper training for the abdominal area. The only thing she was told repeatedly was “Keep doing your kegels.” While this is true, it’s not enough.
It seems to be a case of “Congratulations. Be careful now. You have just had surgery.”
Let’s face it, if you had any other major operation in the abdominal region, you wouldn’t be allowed to pick up a cup for 4-6 weeks.
You do not get this luxury however after giving birth.
The abdominal area and the pelvic floor are extremely important. Every woman wants them functioning properly after childbirth, but this is the area that is often the most difficult to regain control over.
The golden rule for exercise after any type of birth is to wait until after your 6 week check up with your doctor.
After that, the focus of your training should be on getting stronger and rebuilding the areas that were weakened during pregnancy.
Yes, weight loss is another goal to have, but it should not take precedence over getting yourself strong and healthy again.
Strength training should be your main focus after childbirth.
Using the right exercises will help strengthen your back and core is extremely important considering you will be lifting a baby that will get progressively heavier over the coming weeks.
You can use your own body weight, resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells depending on what you have at home, or what is available in your gym.
Home workouts may suit better at the start, as time is a luxury we don’t always have when we have a new baby in the house.
You can use anything in the 5-15 rep range for 2-3 sets and you should use proper form through all exercises.
So, if you were doing a squat for example, you would do 10 reps, take a short rest and repeat for 2-3 sets.
You can train the full body in each session, but you should have a focus on the posterior chain.
This involves the glutes (butt), hamstrings, and upper back muscles.
You have had all that extra weight on the front side of your body throughout your pregnancy and it can have an adverse effect on your lower back and your posture.
Exercises like Sumo Deadlifts, Squats, Reverse Lunges, Glute bridges, Hip Thrusts, Rows, and Pulling exercises for the upper pack should be your main focus.
They will help to strengthen the back and may prevent back pain!
When it comes to the core, the training you should be doing isn’t what you think.
Sit-ups are the last thing that you should do when trying to rebuild the core again.
Exercises like the ones listed below would be more suitable to what you need rather than sit ups.
Remember that the aim is to rebuild the area first, this should come before any thoughts of abs.
If Diastasis Recti is an issue, these 2 exercises below are a good way to start with some core training to help with this issue.
Problems with the pelvic floor can go on for years after childbirth if it is not strengthened properly.
Kegels (pelvic floor contractions) should be done daily.
Try and get in the habit of doing 1 or 2 sets of 10 repetitions when you can.
You can also progress these into your strength work, for example on the upward movement of a squat you can draw the pelvic floor up on each rep.
If you have problems with your pelvic floor, there are certain exercises that you may want to avoid.
Try to avoid jumping jacks, running, squat jumps and box jumps until your pelvic floor is rock solid and this could be many months postpartum, depending on your recovery.
Some women are capable of resuming physical activities within days of delivery depending if they were physically active before and during pregnancy.
In the absence of medical or surgical complications, rapid resumption of these activities has not been found to result in adverse effects.
Regular aerobic exercise in lactating women has been shown to improve maternal cardiovascular fitness without affecting milk production, or infant growth.
Nursing women should consider feeding their infants before exercising in order to avoid exercise discomfort.
Nursing women also should ensure adequate hydration before commencing physical activity.
If you are short on time, or have pelvic floor issues and you would like to get your strength and cardio training in, short mini circuits are a simple way to get them done.
10 reps each exercise on each side if applicable, 2-5 sets.
Whenever you choose to start back training again postpartum the most important consideration is starting slow and being safe.
If you have exercised before, consider your current fitness level. Do you have any injuries? Do you have any illnesses? Always consult your doctor.
If you would like more information on training before, during or after pregnancy, check out this great resource here and you can also check out Jessie Mundell for great practical information also.
If you would like any more information, you can contact me through the link below.