4 Beginner Exercises For Postpartum Core Recovery and Diastasis Recti

by Jun 12, 2019

Start exercising your core and tighten your belly after pregnancy with these 4 physical therapy recommended postpartum core exercises for beginners, which are also safe for diastasis recti repair (fixing abdominal separation).

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

 

Are you wondering which ab exercises you should be doing right after childbirth and which ones you should avoid? There are a lot of unknowns and it doesn’t seem like the doctors and nurses in the hospital give you much guidance after just giving birth. So I’m here to help give you my physical therapy recommendations for postpartum core recovery right after having a new baby.

 

Start With ‘Beginner’ Core Exercises During Postpartum

Waiting the 6 weeks for medical clearance to begin exercising after giving birth can feel daunting. You have a newborn baby, your belly still looks like you have a baby in it and your are eager to get back to your normal weight and size.

Beginning a workout program post pregnancy can be challenging for most women, and it’s important to start with beginner exercises rather than an advanced workout program that you may have been involved in prior to pregnancy. You’ll want to have realistic fitness goals after having a baby.

There are many reasons why you want to start with these Physical Therapy recommended postpartum core exercises first before beginning any other workout routine. In this article you will learn what the 4 best beginner core exercises are for your postpartum core workout, how to perform them properly and safely in your home without equipment and how to progress each exercise so that your workout is continuously challenging you in a way that meets your individualized needs.

Plus, if you have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation), you’ll want to continue reading. These exercises are also safe for diastasis recti repair and can be performed as soon as your doctor gives your clearance to begin exercising. I’ll also give you a list of which ab exercises you should avoid postpartum.

Related: How To Test For Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy | VIDEO

 

The first 2 min and 30 seconds of this video includes the 4 beginner postpartum core and diastasis recti exercises as described in this article. The remainder of this video includes the advanced exercises as described here.

Physical Therapy Recommended Postpartum Beginner Core Exercises

I have been practicing physical therapy for 10 years now, and I have delivered 4 babies naturally over the past 6 years. Through each pregnancy, I continued to workout at a pace that was comfortable for me. When I entered into postpartum, I waited until my body was fully recovered and healed before beginning a core workout routine. When my doctor and I felt I was ready to begin exercising again, these were the 4 exercises I started out with.

“And with all 4 of my pregnancies, I was able to return back to my normal size and flatten my belly with the help of these particular exercises.”

These exercises are specifically chosen for postpartum women who need to rebuild their core muscles, fix diastasis recti and improve back pain that was a result of pregnancy. They are highly used by physical therapists and are safe for postpartum women who are cleared to begin a workout program as per their doctor at their 6 week postpartum check-up.

*Please see disclaimer at the bottom of this post for more details

Why It’s Important To Start With These 4 Beginner Core Exercises

 

1. Starting with beginner exercises postpartum prevents injury

 

As a physical therapist, I’m always concerned about injury prevention and ways to avoid causing pain during exercise and movement. If you begin with a core workout routine that is too advanced, you are more likely to cause injury, strain and possibly long term negative side effects.

The last thing you want to do is put your body at risk of injury when what’s most important in your life right now is taking care of your newborn baby. Start slow and perform the exercises that are safe to do postpartum.

2. Your Postpartum Body Requires Time To Heal

Women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth have obviously gone through a lot of changes to their bodies that require time to heal and recover.

There is a time and place for advanced core exercises later on in your postpartum recovery; however, when it comes to 6-8 weeks postpartum, only these 4 exercises should be introduced first.

Your body is still healing after childbirth and the worst thing to do during the healing phase is to strain the muscles beyond what they can tolerate.

This is especially true if you have diastasis recti. The worst thing you can do is push your body too hard and too fast post pregnancy because you could increase your risk of widening the separation between your abdominal muscles and causing more damage to your core.  Starting slow gives your belly time to realign and heal properly.

Let your postpartum body heal from all the changes that took place over the past 9 months.

Changes to a women’s body during pregnancy:

  • Stretching of the ligaments
  • Laxity in joints (looseness)
  • Muscle changes (such as diastasis recti/abdominal separation)
  • Spinal alignment changes
  • Postural changes

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    3. The Beginner Core Exercises Are The Stepping Stone To Advanced Core Exercises

    If you plan on continuing on beyond the beginner phase of core recovery, then you’ll want to master these exercises before beginning any other core workout routine. If you master these core exercises, then you will be able to advance onto the next level of training.

    Just because you had a baby and your body has completely changed, it doesn’t mean that you will have to be like that forever. With work and determination, your fitness goals are possible. This is just the beginning, and in time you will be able to move on to more challenging core exercises that will help you to be more toned and stronger than ever before.

    Let’s begin!

    The 4 Best Beginner Postpartum Core Exercises

    1. Abdominal Bracing Supine (on back)

     

    Lie on your back with knees bent (Starting Position), tuck in your belly as if you are trying to pull your belly button down towards the ground.

    This is the motion to perform abdominal bracing, and to check to see if you performed it properly, try running your hand underneath your back. If you cannot get your hand under your back, then you performed it properly. But if you have an arch in your back and your hand can fit underneath, then you are doing it incorrectly.

    The key to this exercise is maintaining this position for a long duration with a flat back and tight belly.

    Start with a 5 second hold. Count out loud while holding your belly button down. Counting out loud will help you to breathe while exercising instead of holding your breath (which is not good!)

    Start with 5 second hold x 5 reps

    Progress to 5 second hold x 10-15 reps

    Advance to 10 second hold x 10-20 reps

    *You can perform up to 2-3 sets of these a day

    Related: The Best Beginner Core Exercise Recommended For Moms | VIDEO

    2. Abdominal Bracing with Alternating Arms

     

    Starting Position, perform AB and maintain AB while you lift Right arm over head and keep Left arm at side about 2 inches from the floor. Now switch arm positions and keep alternating your arms while maintaining AB.

    Start with holding abdominal bracing for 5 repetitions of alternating arms

    Progress to holding abdominal bracing for 10 repetitions of alternating arms

    Advance to holding abdominal bracing for 20 repetitions of alternating arms

    *You can perform up to 2-3 sets of these a day

    3. Abdominal Bracing with Alteranating Legs

    Starting Position, perform AB and maintain AB while you lift Right knee to chest and keep Left foot on floor. Now switch leg positions and keep alternating legs while maintaining AB.

    Start with holding abdominal bracing for 5 repetitions of alternating legs

    Progress to holding abdominal bracing for 10 repetitions of alternating legs

    Advance to holding abdominal bracing for 20 repetitions of alternating legs

    *You can perform up to 2-3 sets of these a day

    4. Abdominal Bracing with Alteranating Arms and Legs

    Starting Position, perform AB and maintain AB while you lift Right arm and Left knee to chest and keep Left arm about 2 inches from the floor and R foot stays on floor. Now switch arm and leg positions and keep alternating arms and legs while maintaining AB (tip: opposite arm and leg are moving up together).

    Start with holding abdominal bracing for 5 repetitions of alternating arms/legs

    Progress to holding abdominal bracing for 10 repetitions of alternating arms/legs

    Advance to holding abdominal bracing for 20 repetitions of alternating arms/legs

    *You can perform up to 2-3 sets of these a day

    Related: 15 Best Mommy and Me Postpartum Exercises With Baby | VIDEO

     

    Extra Tips to Remember When Performing Beginner Postpartum Core Exercises:

    1. Perform these exercises lying flat on your back on a solid surface such as the floor
    2. Be careful not to strain while getting down on the floor and perform a log roll while lying down and sitting up
    3. Perform all exercises in a pain free manner. If you have pain during an exercise, straining or discomfort, stop the exercise.
    4. Progress each exercise at a slow pace. Each day assess how your body feels. If you feel good, progress the exercise. If you are sore, take a break and back down a bit.
    5. Perform each exercise in a slow and controlled manner. Performing exercises at a fast pace may cause injury.

    If you are ready to advance on to the next level of postpartum core exercises and start challenging your abs beyond these 4 beginner exercises, then continue your workout with these 10 postpartum core exercises.

    Ab Exercises To Avoid During Early Postpartum

     

    These 4 exercises in particular should be avoided early on during your postpartum recovery due to the added strain on the abdominal wall. At a later time in your postpartum recovery, these exercises can be introduced at a slower pace.

     

    1. Sit-Ups and Crunches (such as sitting up in your bed or actually doing a sit-up exercise such as a crunch)
    2. Planks (including side plans)
    3. Leg Lowers and Straight Leg Raise (or any exercise that requires the slow lowering of one or two legs)
    4. Abdominal Twists (or any twisting movements while straining the abdominals)

    Conclusion

     

    These 4 beginner Postpartum Core exercises are highly recommended by Physical Therapists when it comes to core retraining and recovery post pregnancy. They are also safe for Diastasis Recti repair.

    Abdominal bracing exercises plus arm and leg alternating movements is a great way to retrain the core muscles in a safe yet effective manner when initiating a core program.

    If you have been cleared to begin a workout program by your physician at your 6 week postpartum check-up, then this is the perfect way to begin your new workout program post pregnancy.  It’s safe, easy, can be done at home with no equipment and is highly practiced by physical therapists.

    Give it a try, and let me know how you did with the workout! If you have any questions on how to perform these exercises, comment below. I would love to help.  You can always contact me directly by visiting my contacts page.

    If you have ever wondered if you have Diastsis Recti post pregnancy, which is common in 1 in 3 pregnant women, then check out this next article that teaches you how to quickly do a self exam for Diastsis Recti (also known as mommy pooch): How To Test For Diastasis Recti.

     

    Keep Smiling,

    Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT

    This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

    *It is important to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program and get medical clearance. Perform exercises at your own risk.

     

    About Dr. Jena Bradley

    About Dr. Jena Bradley

    Jena is a mom of 4 darling little girls, a physical therapist and founder of Live Core Strong, a blog focusing on motivating moms to live a life that incorporates fitness and fun throughout their motherhood journey.  She aims to be the friend you always wanted to have who could guide you through the “fog” when faced with an “I don’t know what to do” mommy moment. At the most inconvenient time of her life, she embarked on a journey of sharing her story and expertise to inspire the next generation of healthy moms. You can learn more about Jena by visitng her ABOUT page. 

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    Hi there, friend! I’m Jena, a mom of 4 and a Physical Therapist with a passion to motivate moms! I want to inspire you to be your best self by sharing my experiences and trusted advice on motherhood, health and fitness.

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