Pregnancy is a time of great change. During pregnancy and after giving birth you will have changed emotionally, physically and spiritually.
All women, without exception, notice the physical changes pregnancy puts on their body, regardless of their age, fitness, or shape. After giving birth, woman's body needs to recover. During pregnancy, the tone of the abdominal muscles becomes weakened because of the extreme stretching and increased load for 9 months.
You probably want to know when you can resume working out and what exercises you have to do for the best, most efficient result. These are the most often-asked questions. A lot of moms are afraid to exercise in the first weeks after giving birth as they usually think they can hurt their unrecovered body. And while this is true, that doesn’t mean that gentle recovery exercises are out of the question. Doctors note that easy stretching exercises in the first few weeks after childbirth can help women to recover faster. Gentle stretches can also help with weight loss, protect you from aches and pains, as well as boost energy levels and mood.
Typically, after natural childbirth, women can perform gentle stretches a few days after delivery. After caesarean section, women need to consult with their doctor about when it is safe to resume exercising, but typically 6 weeks is the recommended time.
Here you'll find 6 of the most effective stretching exercises that can help you to return your pre-pregnancy shape and fitness level. Try to do each exercise 3-5 times a week.
1. Kegel Exercises
This is no newsflash, but childbirth stretches and weakens pelvic floor muscles. That can cause a lot of problems included the dreaded urine control - you know, peeing a little when you sneeze and that kind of thing? Doing daily Kegels can help prevent or correct this problem after pregnancy.
Kegel exercises are not difficult to do once you have properly found your core muscles, and you can do them without anyone knowing. (*Editor’s note: Kegels are not always recommended, so here are a few alternatives.)
- squeeze the muscles that you use to stop urinating for 3 seconds at first;
- then relax these muscles for 3 seconds;
- don't use your thighs and stomach muscles doing this;
- add 1 second every week until you can squeeze for 10 seconds;
- repeat this exercise 12 – 15 times.
2. Floor Bridge
Of course, every woman wants to regain her strong butt and thighs after giving birth. Floor bridges are one of the best ways to do that.
- lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground slightly apart, with your arms by your sides
- slowly push through your heels lifting your pelvis off the floor until your knees, hips and shoulders are in line
- hold this position for 3 – 4 seconds and then slowly lower back down to the floor
- repeat this exercise 5 times.
3. Single-Leg Stretch
To stabilize your torso, a single-leg stretch is useful as it can help you tone the abdominal muscles.
- lie on your back with your legs bent 90 degrees and relax your hips
- lift your head and shoulders slightly off the ground and simultaneously bend your right knee, pulling it toward your chest
- bring your hands to your right knee and simultaneously straighten your left leg
- alternate sides, bringing your hands to your left knee and simultaneously straightening the right leg
- repeat 5 times on each side.
4. Pelvic Tilt Exercise
This deceptively easy exercise also helps you to strengthen your abdominal muscles after childbirth, as this is your weakest area.
- lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent
- flatten your back against the floor by drawing in your abdominal muscles and bending your hips up slightly
- hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat it 5 – 6 times.
5. Heel Slides
This is one of the most effective core body exercises because it stabilizes and strengthens your core muscles, transverse abdominals, and lower back.
- lie on the floor with your legs flat
- slowly start flexing your left foot toward your buttocks, pressing your left heel into the floor
- when you feel pressure on the abdominal muscles and inside your knee hold this position for about 5 seconds
- slide your left heel back down, keeping the knee slightly bent and do the same slide on your right foot
- repeat 5 – 6 slides on each side.
6. Lean Back Stretch
After childbirth, women often have persistent back pain as you hold your child almost all day. This stretch helps you to maintain the flexibility of your spinal muscles and prevent or reduce back pain.
- sit on the floor with your feet flat in front of you and put your hands behind you
- very slowly lean back into your arms
- lean your head back and look upwards while leaning backward
- hold this position for 3 – 5 seconds
- return back to the starting position
- repeat this exercise 2 – 3 times
Remember, you and your body need time to recover after getting birth. Start with the minimum load and gradually increase it without forgetting that it is necessary to begin these exercises as quickly as is safe and appropriate. Don’t push or hurt yourself in the process, and stay away from moves that cause your belly to dome (like crunches and planks.) Good luck on your postpartum fitness journey and be sure to check out all of our resources to get your pre-pregnancy strength back.
Author bio: Francesca Russo is an editor of The CrossFit Shoes. She helps people get stronger and shares her answers to running and sports questions and beauty tips. All her stories are results-oriented and make her readers healthier and wiser about fitness.