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Working out postpartum is important to healing, yet many mamas are fearful and confused about what postpartum workouts they should start with. I am super excited to have Amber Nash from Fit Healthy Best here to give us a free postpartum workout you can do, and the good news is it is without any equipment! But first, let’s go over some important questions on postpartum workouts:
When can I start working out postpartum?
You must get clearance from your doctor before you start your workout program because they will check to make sure you are healed. If you begin working out too early, this can cause issues with wounds, scar tissue development, and a slower healing process in those weeks postpartum. Rather than initiating your workout plan early on your own, chat with your doctor before the six-week mark, and see if they agree that your birth process warrants an earlier workout time.
I know with my third baby, I was cleared to workout earlier, because of my activity level and lack of tearing. The type of delivery you had may also determine how quickly you can resume exercises. If you had a cesarean section, you may have other restrictions placed on you for the proper recovery period. Otherwise, wait patiently for your doctor to give you clearance to start a workout plan, like the free one we have here!
What is the best way to work out postpartum?
The best way to start working out postpartum is by just using your body weight. Muscle mass deteriorates with lack of activity, which happens to many mamas in the 6-week healing period. Jumping into weights is not a good idea at this point because your body isn’t ready for added resistance. By using only body weight, and the exercises we have in this free plan, you can build a great foundation to get back in shape and fit again after baby!
Free Postpartum Workout Plan Using Only Body Weight:
Congrats, you’ve just given birth to a beautiful new baby! After you’ve settled in, get some sleep, given your body time to heal and adjust to your new life, you may start feeling that itch to get active and get back to your old self.
I know this was true for me after I had my little ones. I practically did a celebratory dance when my OB gave me the clearance for exercise at my 6-week checkup!
My name is Amber Nash and I’m a certified group fitness instructor specializing in strength training classes. I’m also the founder of Fit Healthy Best — a website dedicated to helping today’s strong women feel their best!
Postpartum Body-weight Exercises:
Today I’m going to share with you 5 great exercises you can do during that early postpartum period when you are just getting back into exercising. Remember, you should always consult your doctor or OB to get the green light before starting any exercise routine — especially during the postpartum period.
Body-weight exercises are great exercises to start with because you are just starting to get into the rhythm of moving your body again. Your body has stretched and adjusted during pregnancy, so it may feel a bit different. These exercises will help you get back in tune with your body during this delicate time!
Try completing this circuit 2 or 3 times for as many reps as possible per exercise. Remember to start slowly and don’t overdo it when you’re just getting back into exercise after pregnancy!
The Box Squat or Chair Squat
Many people think of kegels as the best exercises for strengthening the pelvic floor, but squats are one of the most effective pelvic floor exercises!
Squats are incredibly important for lengthening and strengthening all of the muscles in our pelvic floor. Squats require work from the muscles in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings in addition to all the smaller muscles in our pelvic floor.
If you were active pre-pregnancy, you can try starting with a traditional squat without a chair or box. However, if you are a beginner, try placing a box or chair behind you and tap your backside on the chair as you lower into the squat.
Alternately, you can stand behind the chair and hold on to the back of the chair for support as you lower into the squat position.
To engage your pelvic floor, focus on squeezing your pelvic floor muscles as you drive yourself back up to the top of the move.
As mentioned in the squat description, the glutes are insanely important for supporting our pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor can’t reach its full strength potential if you have weak glutes! In addition, in our modern society, we often sit for long periods (rocking that newborn for hours, anyone?), so bridge moves will help to stretch and open the hip flexor muscles that become tight during sitting.
Simply lie on your back with your feet bent and your arms flat on the floor. Drive your hips up towards the ceiling, squeeze your glutes, and pause for a moment at the top of the move. Aim to feel the stretch in the front of your hips and emphasize that squeeze in your glutes. Keep your chin tucked and your feet flat during the move.
Over time, you can make this move more difficult by elevating your legs, performing this move with just one leg at a time, or adding a band around your knees.
Heel glides are a great low-impact, beginner exercise for your lower body. In addition, as you draw your leg in during the move, you are forced to engage your pelvic floor muscles so it’s a perfect postpartum exercise.
Start from a supine position on the ground with your legs flat. Keep your foot flexed as you bend your knee and draw your heel towards your glutes. Keep the lower body and core tight and keep the move controlled. Slide the heel back out to the starting position. You can perform this move by alternating legs or by completing all the reps on one leg and then moving to the other leg depending on your fitness level.
I’m including these last 2 moves because recent studies have shown that moves like these — the bird dog and the plank — are more effective at strengthening our pelvic floor than Kegels!
This 2018 study, in particular, cites how effective these exercises are at strengthening our pelvic floor!
Start from a hands-and-knee position. From here, lift your left arm straight out in front of you and your right leg straight behind you. Focus on keeping the movement slow and controlled. Ensure the move is not sloppy by keeping your core tight by pulling in your belly button, leg, and shoulder muscles engaged during the move. Lower your arm and leg and lift the opposite side on the next rep. Continue alternating sides during this exercise.
Long Lever Posterior Tilt Plank
Have you mastered the traditional plank over the years? Time to step up your plank game!
The long lever posterior tilt plank has shown much higher rates of activation in the abdominal muscles than a traditional plank.
That doesn’t mean traditional planks aren’t effective. They just may not be as good at activating the core muscles as this type of plank. The traditional plank is still great for our shoulders and arms!
Heads up that this is an advanced move so if you’re concerned about abdominal separation or diastasis recti, consider talking to a pelvic floor therapist before trying moves like this. There may be specific core exercises to avoid or focus on to heal your abdominal wall.
Bring yourself into a traditional plank position. From there, walk your feet back and bring your elbows out further in front of you. Essentially, you’re simply lengthening a traditional plank. From here, tilt your pelvis forward to simulate a crunching move. Hold this pelvic tilt for the duration of your plank.
Final Thoughts on Postpartum Exercise
These bodyweight exercises are a great stepping stone during those months postpartum to get your body used to being active again. Once you have mastered these moves and are feeling a little stronger (and a little more rested!) try adding weighted exercises to your postpartum fitness. If you are having pelvic floor issues after a while you may want to follow up with physical therapists to ensure you a gaining the necessary pelvic floor strength back.
Strength training is such an important part of maintaining optimal health. I wrote an epic guide all about Strength Training for Women that includes 59 free workouts over on Fit Healthy Best. I truly believe that strength training as part of a workout routine is a cure-all for so many ailments that our modern society suffers from! If you’re not strength training, now is a great time to start.
The most important thing is to listen to your body, start with light weights and work your way to heavier ones, start with where you are with your base level of overall fitness for your home workout, and embark on your new fitness routine!
Cheers to good health and strong bodies, mamas!