Congratulations, you just had a baby! What’s one of the immediate things you think about after having your baby? If you’re like most women, it’s getting your pre-pregnancy body back and losing the “mummy tummy.”
And that means going back to the routines you were doing before you were pregnant. It means endless crunches and all sorts of crazy sit-up variations, right? I mean, you’ve got your 6-8 week clearance from your doctor to go back to working out so all is well. Let’s get after it! NOT SO FAST!!
In order to get back to how you were exercising before your baby, there are a few steps you have to go through to get there. Think of pregnancy as a 9 month injury that you need to rehab in much the same way that you would rehab ACL surgery.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
There seems to be a rush to get back to how you looked before pregnancy as soon as you get clearance to do so. But that 6-8 week mark isn’t magical. It isn’t as if at that mark, your body has healed itself from all the postural and muscular compensations you’ve developed.
Odds are, you aren’t Lady Deathstrike, the female version of Wolverine, who has super healing abilities. Take it slow, avoid trying to push through any pain or discomfort, and work on retraining your body.
Remember, there is no rush, and no time table to get back to exercising with intensity. But the longer you take to work on restoring function now, the more it will help you down the road.
So what do you need to do in order to get back in shape and lose that post pregnancy belly? The primary focus should be on training smarter, not necessarily harder. After that, it’s all in the details.
As pregnancy progresses, there ends up being less room for your diaphragm to move up and down for obvious reasons. This can lead to compensation patterns where other muscles pick up the slack. After the baby however, there is once again room for it to move freely, but it can’t.
So it’s important to work on deep breathing techniques by feeling your stomach and more importantly your ribs expand, not necessarily your chest and shoulders. You want to be able to breathe into your belly. During your exhale, you should feel some contraction of your core muscles. This is step one.
Postural alignment isn’t just important for women after having a baby, it’s also really important for everyone. However this alignment issue tends to be more prominent during your pregnancy as your body needs to create room for a growing baby.
What this means is the hips, ribcage, and shoulders go through postural distortions during your pregnancy, so it’s important to restore alignment.
Even those that don’t go through pregnancy can benefit from alignment exercises to regain function. There is no sense in training with a dysfunction and then compounding the problem by adding intensity on top of it. Doing so can create issues down the line, so again, take it slow, and do it right the first time. You’ll thank me later.
Moves to lose your mummy tummy
All about the butt
Your glutes are an important part of your alignment as are your core strength/stability so it is imperative that you train them correctly. Strong glutes will help take stress off your back as your pelvis and spine will be supported by the correct muscles.
Additionally, your glutes have a lot to do with the positioning of your hips, so maintaining and developing strength here can fix some alignment issues you may be having. Exercises like glute bridges and hip thrusts work really well as do corrective exercises like mini-band lateral walks.
Row row row your boat
Like I mentioned before, even for those that aren’t postnatal, shoulder alignment is usually poor. We tend to have rounded shoulders that tilt forward.
If you’ve just had a baby, my guess is you’re carrying it a lot. This puts a lot of stress on the upper back muscles in terms of overstretching them with poor carrying habits. Trust me, I’ve been there as a dad.
You almost try to form a cocoon over the baby, especially if it’s your first. So you want to start doing a lot of pulling exercises, like rows in order to counteract those changes. This will help create a stronger upper body and a better posture, which as you’ve read is super important.
Core strength & stability
This is what it’s all about, this is why you clicked on this article in the first place. To learn how to get a flatter stomach after going through 9 months of changes. But like previously mentioned, it’s important to regain control of your body by doing exercises that will challenge your core.
Now this doesn’t mean doing sit-ups, crunches or even planks. It’s about training your core to do what it’s supposed to do, which is maintain stability of your spine.
I’ve made mention of core exercises that I love in previous articles, namely loaded carries, pallof presses, deadbugs, and chops. What’s great about these types of exercises is that you can vary them and progress/regress them as you see fit. Changing something like foot position can have a drastic effect on how hard your core has to work.
When my clients first come back to training after having a baby, I try to program as many exercises as I can in these positions. What this does is help clients progress from being able to control a static position to a more dynamic position like lunges without losing stability through their core.
Your primary focus should be on training smarter, not necessarily harder. It is going to be important for you to mix in core exercises that will restore stability with exercises that will give you a great workout.
If your goal is to get moving again, start slow with walking and some light core exercises. Then progress from there. Avoid jumping right out of the gate after giving birth and going all out with intensity.
Exercise is for the long term, not just for the here and now. Avoid cutting corners right out of the gate because you want your pre-baby body back immediately. Focus on redeveloping function to your core muscles and let your body heal. Short term patience for long term success.