5 Essential Postpartum Exercises Every Mum Should Know About

Postpartum is not the time to do hard exercises but time to rest and heal your body.

This includes your core and deep muscles.

The sooner you start to restore them and engage them, the easier your process of getting your flat belly and functional core will be.

These 5 essential exercises will help you strengthen your core muscles in a safe way and are beneficial in many ways for all new mothers.

1. Transverse Abdominis Breath (TVA breathing)

TVA breathing is the base of your postpartum journey and an amazing way to start strengthening your inner core muscles.

After you learn how to engage your deep core muscles properly you’ll be able to use this technique during other workout routines.

How do you do TvA breathing after birth?

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor
    You can do it in the bed or on the floor.
  2. Put your hands on top of your hip bones and make sure your spine is neutral. Don’t tuck your tailbone underneath you
  3. Inhale and let the air fulfil your entire rib cage
  4. Exhale and gently pull your belly button inwards and at the same time moving your pelvic floor upwards. Make the “ssssss” sound while you are exhaling as this can help you to better feel your deep core muscles.
  5. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat again. 

Some extra tips

Don’t tuck your tailbone underneath you and don’t move your shoulders. The movement should come only from your core and pelvic floor muscles. You should feel your pelvic floor muscles going upwards. If you don’t, while you are exhaling, imagine that you are sucking a drink with a straw.

That is the movement you need to do with your pelvic floor. 

Remember, your pelvis shouldn’t move, just your pelvic floor muscles. 
Don’t hold your breath and don’t suck your belly in, you just gently pull you muscles inwards. 

Do 10 breaths each day and increase with time

You can start doing these exercises a few days after you gave birth as you feel better. If you feel weak or your bleeding increases, stop for a day or two and try again. You can do this while resting in your bed or before sleeping. 

2. Glute Bridge

The bridge is a simple but amazing exercise not only for new moms but for everybody.

It will help you to better engage your deep abdominal muscles and be more aware of them. It is especially important for after birth when you struggle to even find them. Also, it will activate your glutes and is great for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. ​

How to perform a bridge?

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Try to maintain your spine in a neutral position. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Do the TvA breathing as described above. Inhale, and then exhale gently pulling your belly button inwards and your pelvic floor muscles upwards. This is to better control your core and be sure that is properly engaged.
  3. Drive your feet into the ground and lift your hips upwards by squeezing your glutes. Your hips should make a straight line between from your knees to your hips to your shoulders. Hold for a few seconds while squeezing on the top.
  4. Come down smoothly. Drop your hips slowly, don’t drop them fast. The motion should be smooth.

Some extra tips

Keep your spine in a neutral position and don’t tuck your tailbone underneath you. If you have trouble staying in a neutral position, you can keep something under your head for extra support. Keep your core braced and go gently and slowly.

Start with 10 reps per day and increase to 30 as you feel you are ready for it.

You can start with the bridge pose one week after birth if you are feeling well. If you feel weak or your bleeding increases, stop for a day or two and try again.

3. Lunge hold with overhead reach

Lunge holds are actually more a stretch than an exercise. It will help you improve your stability as the position is quite unstable.

The stretch is nice and opening and will help when you become cramped from the body movement of wearing and feeding your newborn all day and night.

How to perform lunge holds with overhead reach?

  1. Get into a short stance lunge on the floor with legs at a 90-degree angle. Keep your weight evenly on both legs.
  2. Squeeze the back legs glutes tightly. You will feel a stretch trough out your quadriceps and hip flexor.
  3. From the side with a knee on the floor, reach with your arm up in the air. Stretch your arm and fingertips towards the ceiling than stretch gently over the front leg side. Hold for a few seconds.
  4. Repeat step 3 with the opposite arm and leg.

Some extra tips

If you feel too unstable at first you can hold yourself gently to the wall or bed. If it seems too hard to do the arm reaches, do it without them in the beginning. Include them when you feel comfortable enough.

Keep your core engaged all the time.

Start with 6 reps per day per side (12 total) with few seconds hold.

Increase when you feel comfortable to 10 per day per side or 20 total.

If you feel weak or your bleeding increases, stop for a day or two and try again.

4. Squat

The squat is an amazing compound movement and one of the best exercises to do for the entire body. Squatting will help you regain your core stability throughout your entire core by controlling the movement when you go down into the squat and then going back up with power.

While you are inhaling on your way down and exhaling on your way up, your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles are stretching and then contracting.

Squatting will be beneficial for mobility and movement throughout your pelvis too.

How to properly do squats?

  1. Stand on the floor and put a rolled towel underneath your heels for extra support.
  2. Inhale and squat, sitting back into the hips. Go deep only as much as you feel comfortable.
  3. Stand up by squeezing your glutes and quadriceps and exhale while going back to standing.

Some extra tips
When squatting, try to squat in between your legs. Keep your feet slightly turned to outside.

Keep your core engaged the entire time and try to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles on the way back from the squat.

When you feel comfortable enough, try to do a full squat without support. Do it barefoot and go deep only as much as you feel comfortable.

Do 10 reps per day and increase to 20 reps when you feel comfortable.

You can do 10 reps in the morning and 10 in the evening of that suits you best.

If you feel weak or your bleeding increases, stop for a day or two and try again.

5. Walking

Well, walking is actually not an exercise at all but a movement that we all do.

Walking has numerous benefits and is essential in early postpartum days to get your heart to pump while enjoying a fresh day outside.

I would urge you though not to start with walking before 2 weeks postpartum.

Even if it’s very important to start moving after birth, it is even more important to rest and heals properly.

So during the firsts two weeks, you should walk only minimal through the house and make rest your priority.

How and when to start walking?

  1. Start with slowly walks, 10 min per day. Increase slowly to at least 30 min per day of a walk.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes. It’s best to wear no-heal shoes. Shoes with heels of any kind are having a bad impact on your posture.
  3. Walk with your feet pointing forward and with your legs straight
  4. Watch your posture, keep it neutral. Don’t tuck your tailbone underneath your butt.

Some extra tips

Wear layers as you can easily get too hot. Also, don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you. After birth, even walking can seem like a strenuous exercise so be sure to hydrate well.

Walking is beneficial for our cardiovascular health, for our joints and bones, and it helps us to even lose some fat.

It is great for getting back your stability that is sometimes imbalanced after we give birth.

Walking will also improve your mood and make you happier. So, put your baby in the buggy and just go for a walk.

With a bit of planning, you can achieve anything you want so stay strong and work on that body!

USEFUL READING: All questions you ever had about Diastasis Recti, answered!

Renata Sanko
Certified personal trainer with years spent on education and research on how to help women heal their body after birth. I have dedicated myself to help other women to regain and heal their body after having a baby...

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