Gentle Post natal exercise
As a qualified Pre & Post natal Pilates instructor, I often get asked what exercises can I be doing at home to compliment my training. To help new Mums rediscover their pre pregnancy body, I have put together a core set of exercises you should be doing post birth to help strengthen, tone and regain control of your abdominals, deep core and pelvic floor muscles.
Please remember, you should have your 6week check to safely begin exercising again unless otherwise told by your midwife/doctor. There are a couple of exercises you can begin safely straight after the birth of your baby, I have marked these clearly from the others. As you are going through the exercises, make sure you are not tempted to rush ahead to the next stage/workout. Each exercise is best done slowly and with control. Only move on to a harder level once you have mastered the first level.
Pelvic Floor strengthening:
You should start your pelvic floor exercises within 24hours of the birth of your child. There are no specific regulations on how long to wait but if you are in too much pain, stop and have a go another time. Remember there is no rush. Your body needs time to recover and heal.
Pelvic floor strengthening is important for all of us, both Men and Women, to help reduce risk of incontinence later in life. Basically, keep doing your pelvic floor strengthening even after you have recovered!
Draw up your front and back passage (squeeze your peeing muscles as if you are desperate for a wee and you are trying to hold on). Hold and let go of your pelvic floor for ten rapid repetitions. Aim to do your kegels without tensing your buttocks.
Once you have done this, see if you can hold the muscles for 1-2seconds and then release. Repeat this 10 times.
As you become stronger, start to hold in your pelvic floor for a longer duration. You should work up to being able to hold the pelvic floor for 10seconds.
Try not to hold your breath.
Try doing your kegels every time:
*You wait for the kettle to boil
*You brush your teeth
*You sit in front of the TV
*You wait at a traffic light
You can download the NHS ‘Squeezy’ app to help you further with your pelvic floor exercises.
Imagine you are scooping your belly back towards your spine and then up in to your ribs. Like with the kegels, start by holding in for 2-3seconds for 10 repetitions and gradually work up to holding in for 10seconds. Abdominal hollowing can also be done straight after birth. Again, use your level of pain as an indicator of when to stop. Start with one set a day and build up to doing three.
To start with you should stick to 5-10minute walks. Gradually building this up to 15-20minutes. Again, don’t be tempted to rush this process. Your body has been through a lot and needs to take its time building back its strength.
Exercises for after your 6-8 week check
Level 1 Lying, sitting or standing, imagine you are scooping your belly back towards your spine and then up in to your ribs. 10 repetitions and gradually work up to holding in for 10seconds.
Level 2 Lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keep the abdominals ‘hollowed’ and try raising an arm over your head without letting go of the stomach. Raise alternate arms over your head. Try 8-10 repetitions each side.
Lengthen alternate legs. Keep the abdominals ‘hollowed’ and slide alternate legs away from you. Repeat 8-10 on each side
Level 3 Same as above but lengthen opposite arm and opposite leg away from you.
Level 4 **Wait until you have fully mastered the above levels without letting your belly button dome or ‘pop’ before trying this. Give yourself at least one to two weeks on each level. Same as above, however this time lift alternate legs to table top position. You can also lift one leg to table top whilst extending the opposite arm over your head. Try 8 on each side.
Level 1 Kneeling with your knees hip width apart and your hands shoulder width apart, try to complete 10 abdominal hollows, holding each repetition for 10 seconds.
Level 2 In the same position, keep the abdominals hollowed and reach one arm out infront of you. Keep equal weight through all three points touching the floor and try to keep your back straight. If you had a tray of champagne on your back, you wouldn’t be loosing any! Watch you don’t draw your shoulder up to your ear. Keep your shoulder blades in a strong position close to your spine as if you are trying to slide your shoulder blades into your back pockets.
Level 3 Exactly the same as above but slide alternate legs away from the centre point.
Level 4 Lift and lengthen alternate leg and arm away from the centre point. Keep your balance by engaging your core, pelvic floor and don’t forget the abdominal hollowing. Use your out breath to help you engage.
Strengthening the powerhouse/six pack muscles
Level 1 Pelvic tilts: (these can be done within the first week after birth). Imagine you have a bucket of water between your hips. If you arch your lower back and stick out your tailbone, the water falls out the front. If you squeeze your tummy and tuck your tailbone under/push your pubic bone forward, water would fall out the back. You can do this seated or lying. If you are lying you can push your back flat against the floor and then arch your back away from the floor. Try doing 10 repetitions 3 times a day. You should try to hold the ‘tucked under’ position (back flat against the ground), for 3 seconds to help shorten and strengthen the abdominals.
Level 2 The modified trunk curl: Lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Tilt the pelvis so that the back is pushed flat against the floor. Curl the head and the shoulders away from the floor, keeping the abdominals flat. If your belly button pops up or you notice the abdominals doming, drop back a level otherwise you could cause damage to the healing process.
Drop the head back down to the floor with control.
Level 3 trunk curl Once in a curled position, take hold of the backs of the legs and hold the curl for 2-3 seconds, working up to holding for 10 seconds. ‘Uncurl’ for 2-3 seconds working up to 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Level 4 trunk curl Same as above, however, you do not hold onto the legs for support. Keep your arms either side of the legs. Normal breathing should be maintained throughout the trunk curl.
Level 1 Lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Peel your tail bone and bottom few vertebrae of the spine off the floor using your glutes. Hamstrings and abdominals. Repeat 6-8 times.
Level 2 Peel each segment of the spine off the floor one at a time until your hips are pushed up towards the ceiling. Hold for 2-3seconds and then lower one segment of the spine back down to the ground.
Level 3 Same as above but lift alternate heels (toes still touching floor) off the ground for 1 repetition each side before rolling down. Work up to 4 heel lifts on each side before rolling down.
Gradually increase your walking/cycling/swimming/running up to 20-30minutes. Start with low impact exercise such as walking/cross trainer/cycling/swimming. Make sure that you are not experiencing bleeding post exercise. If this is the case, you may be pushing your body too hard too soon. Check with your doctor/midwife if the bleeding does not cease.
Does this affect breast feeding?
The advise is to feed your baby before working out. This is to avoid the milk tasting sour due to lactic acid build up during exercise. If your baby needs to feed after you have exercised, it is advised that you wait 1.5-2hours before feeding.
Just get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org and we can organise an initial consultation to get you back to exercise post pregnancy.
I also do pre-natal Pilates so do not hesitate to get in touch if you want any further information on exercising during your pregnancy.