First of all – CONGRATULATIONS!
I’m assuming if you’ve chosen to read an article about “ab exercises after giving birth” it’s because you’ve recently welcomed a new little one into your home.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it – pregnancy is a battle. Between the aches and pains, swollen body parts, cravings, nausea, weight gain and overall general discomfort – they’re not kidding when they call it “the miracle of childbirth”!
Among those symptoms mentioned above, one area that undergoes the greatest stress during this time is your abdomen.
On average, you’ll gain about 1 centimeter per week between your pubic bone and the top of your uterus.
That’s up to 40 centimeters (almost 16 inches) over the course of a “full term” pregnancy!
Your abdominal muscles get so stretched and distended during this time – it’s no wonder that reactivating them after pregnancy can be a little bit of an uphill battle.
You may have even developed a “diastasis recti” (DR) condition (as is common in up to 60% of pregnancies) where your front abdominal muscle actually splits under the pressure.
Rehabbing your stomach muscles after your pregnancy is a great way to increase core strength, minimize injury risk, and even heal up this diastasis condition.
Unfortunately, the majority of ladies I’ve had the chance to work with go about it the wrong way (STOP doing sit-ups and crunches!).
It’s important that you activate and work with RIGHT core muscles while AVOIDING contracting the wrong muscles in order to see the results you desire.
That’s why today I wanted to share with you three of the best post-pregnancy ab exercises every mom should do after giving birth.
These exercises focus on activating the right muscles while avoiding contracting the wrong muscles in order to maximize your gains while minimizing your injury potential.
STOP DOING SIT UPS AND CRUNCHES
Your “abs” are actually a collection of four muscles.
The one that sits out in front is called the “rectus abdominis” (RA) and goes from the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis.
This is the “six-pack” muscle that’s primarily active in crunches, sit-ups, and other exercises that bring our ribs towards our pelvis (trunk flexion).
This muscle is composed of two muscle bellies that run vertically next to each other and are connected by a tendon-like connective tissue called the linea alba.
As mentioned previously, in instances of strenuous pressure on the abdomen and abdominal cavity the connective tissue between the halves of the rectus abdominis can be stretched, pulled, and eventually even separate (diastasis recti).
This actually happens in about 60% of pregnancies overall and about 30% of those still have this condition one-year postpartum.
That being said, when you are doing postpartum core rehab/exercises you should typically avoid any exercise that forcefully contract your rectus abdominis against gravity (sit ups and crunches).
START WORKING OUT THE RIGHT MUSCLE
The best post-pregnancy ab exercises are those that activate your deepest abdominal layer, the transverse abdominis (TA).
This muscle runs from your lower back around your sides and connects into this same connective tissue that has been separated with the diastasis recti.
The TA muscle’s primary action is to “suck everything in” and pull your belly button in towards your spine.
Activating this muscle and performing this motion will help trim down your waistline, hold “everything” in tight, and even minimize the DR gap.
THREE AB EXERCISES EVERY MOM SHOULD DO AFTER GIVING BIRTH
1. Stomach vacuums: “Stomach vacuums” is the simple way to say “transverse abdominis contraction”.
They are the primary core exercise you should focus on and you should try to include this contraction in every core exercise you do post pregnancy.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Exhale all your air as much as possible.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull your belly button in towards your spine.
- Hold 5 seconds
- Relax and then repeat.
2. Dying bugs: Building on our stomach vacuums, “dying bugs” are a great way to activate a ton of abdominal muscles without moving the trunk through aggressive motion.
Remember to keep your stomach “vacuumed” in!
- Lay on your back with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees. Your arms are also reaching up towards the ceiling.
- Perform a stomach vacuum by contracting your TA (“sucking in”) and drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
- Hold this contraction in your stomach as you raise your right arm over your head while straightening your left leg down towards the floor (your back should stay flat and your belly button drawn in throughout this motion).
- Return to the starting position and repeat with the left arm/right leg.
3. Side planks: Side planks are a great exercise to work the obliques (lateral abdominal muscles) while not stressing the anterior abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis).
You should still focus on activating your TA with a stomach vacuum while holding this contraction, although you may find it a little more challenging as we’re now in a position where gravity acts on it a little more.
- Lay on your right side with your right elbow directly under your right shoulder and your legs out straight.
- Lift your hips off the ground to get into a “side plank” position. You should be on your right elbow and the outside of your right foot and be able to draw a straight line from your nose, belly button, between your knees, to between your ankles.
- Activate your TA by drawing in your belly button and holding 20-60 seconds.
- Repeat on the left side.
When talking about post-pregnancy ab rehab, it’s vital that we activate the RIGHT muscles in the RIGHT way whilst avoiding working the WRONG muscles.
This is the key to not only healing your postpartum abs, but increasing your core strength, eliminating “mommy’s tummy”, and helping you to live a healthier, more active life!
Read Next: How To Have A Healthy Pregnancy?
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