Hey pretty Mama,
So, you’ve had your baby. Yay! Congratulations on your bundle of joy! Your doctor has given you his approval to return to exercising. You’re feeling up to it, but you don’t quite know where to start, what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes down to it. You know certain areas of your body have been affected, but how do you know what to strengthen, what to stretch, and what to focus on?
As a Pre & Postpartum Fitness Coach, I prefer new moms to start with a postpartum fitness program that is designed specifically for them, so this would be point number one. Several postural changes occur in the body during pregnancy, and it’s important that postnatal women target muscles that have weakened and lengthened to help strengthen, re-align and shorten them back to their optimum position again.
Below, I’ve summarised the areas of the body that a postpartum fitness program should concentrate on:
GLUTE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
Your glutes actually lengthen and weaken during pregnancy because your pelvis tips forwards to allow your ever-growing bump to come forwards, so your butt is definitely on the list of muscles you want to focus on after birth. And, why wouldn’t you?! It’s important to do exercises to the glutes that keep the pelvis stable by activating the core muscles too though. Any strengthening exercise performed for these sets of muscles should be done so in a slow, controlled manor, ensuring your technique and pelvic positioning is maintained. Exercises such as squats and lunges are ideal, but there are a few watch points to consider, especially for your lower back when performing them. So, make sure your pelvic floor or core is switched on, keep the lower back from arching, and perform the exercises slowly and with control, for maximum results.
The abdominals weaken and lengthen during pregnancy, and I’m specifically talking about the six-pack muscle which runs from your breastbone, to your pubic bone, vertically down the front of your stomach. Sometimes these muscles separate, but not in all pregnancies. The deep, internal abdominal muscle called the Transverse Abdominis, or “TVA” sometimes referred to as your “core” muscle should be your main focus. Sit ups aren’t suitable for postnatal women to do, so stop them immediately if you are, and neither are forceful rotational movements where you twist your torso from right to left. It’s safer to perform exercises which target the pelvic floor such as Kegels, and deep abdominal muscles or “core”, as these help stabilise your pelvis and the exercises themselves have numerous benefits.
UPPER BACK STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
An important area of focus during pregnancy, is the upper back strengthening as you may have noticed that your shoulders have rounded slightly, because your breasts enlarge and your centre of gravity is shifted forwards, causing your shoulders to round. What’s happening at the upper back (specifically the lower Trapezius muscle) is that the muscles here are busy weakening and lengthening to separate your shoulder blades further apart from each other, and in turn they’re tightening your chest at the front. If you strengthen your upper back, the shoulder blades will return to a more optimum position like closer together. The other reason I do a lot of upper back work in my postpartum programs is because everything you do as a new mom involves you leaning forward, rounding your shoulders even more for example when feeding the baby, pushing your stroller, lifting your baby up, changing the baby etc. Although you may not like doing the exercises, often it’s the ones you find challenging that you need to do more of.
CHEST STRETCHING EXERCISES
Now, whilst your upper back is busy weakening, your chest/front of your shoulders are busy tightening. As I mentioned above, you need to incorporate upper back strengthening exercises to combat rounded shoulders, but, you also need to stretch out the front of your shoulders and chest too, because these muscles get overused and need to be released, so after any exercise, always do a chest stretch by placing your arms and hands behind you. Be careful not to arch your lower back, and keep your chin lifted, so as not to put strain on your neck.
HIP OPENING EXERCISES
So, we touched on the glutes earlier. Do you remember what happens to them? That’s right – they weaken and lengthen. Whilst they’re doing this, your poor hip flexors at the front of your hips are busy getting tighter and tighter as your pregnancy develops, to accommodate baby bump at your front. So, again, this is another area of the body that needs some attention when it comes to stretching or cool down. If you sit down a lot, your hip flexors are in a state of contraction, so stretching these muscles out really helps bring your pelvis back into alignment again. Remember with any stretch, you don’t want to hold it for more than 10-15 seconds; don’t bounce or jerk; and remember to breathe.
Hope this helped pretty Mama, and if you need help or would like to try a free live interactive session with me, email me and I would be happy to show you some of these exercises.
Be well. Be fit, strong and always smiling.