It can be tough to know EXACTLY where to start when you want to begin exercising after giving birth.
It will depend a little on a lot of things: For example, how far along postpartum are you? Are you experiencing any pelvic floor symptoms? What is your training history?
But there are a few things that you can bet on.
You need to start with breathing. Learn the Connection Breath to tap into your deepest core muscles. Breathing will help reset their function + restore their coordination.
Begin a strength training routine. Choose first exercises that target your inner core muscles, your glutes (max and medius), and your upper back.
Start with movements that are no harder than your activities of daily living. These should be bodyweight or very light resistance banded-movements
Start without load. Retrain your movement patterns. Learn to move in coordination with your breath.
Progress slowly towards more volume, more intensity, more complicated patterns.
Here are a few exercises to get you started. They tick all the boxes I mentioned above.
1) Connection Breath
The connection breath is a diaphragmatic inhale coordinated with a pelvic floor contraction (kegel) on exhale.
I offer a few different tutorials on the Connection Breath. Check out:
The Most Effective Core and Pelvic Floor Exercise for Pregnancy and Postpartum: the Connection Breath [Blog Post]
The No B.S. Guide a Stronger, Drier Pregnancy and Postpartum [FREE guidebook. Like 1:1 coaching for the Connection Breath!]
2) Pelvic Tilts
Roll onto your back. Exhale to tuck pelvis under (think pubic bone to chin). Bring attention to your lower abdominal muscles as you tuck your pelvis. Inhale to relax back to a neutral position.
3) Glute Bridges
Roll into and out of supine position. Exhale and squeeze glutes to lift hips. Do not hyperextend (over arch) lower back. Inhale to lower.
4) Heel Slides
Exhale to extend heel out. Inhale, or continue to exhale to bring heel back in. Neutral back and pelvis. Do not let back hyperextend or ribs flare upwards.
Keep hips stacked vertically or SLIGHTLY rolled forward. Squeeze glutes to rotate leg open like a book
6) Band Pull Aparts
Stand in neutral alignment with neutral pelvis. Pay attention to rib cage position, do not flare outwards during movement. Exhale to pull band apart. Inhale to release.
As you first begin exercising after giving birth, start with 2 sets of 8-10 reps of each exercise, 2-3 times a week. Slowly add in an additional set, increase your reps, increase your frequency. If you are just beginning your return to exercise postpartum, these should not be grueling. If you feel like you could do a little more, you’re doing just enough.
Make sure you’re applying the connection breath to the exercises- exhale + gentle pelvic floor contraction to exert, inhale to relax.
Stop if anything causes leaking, pain/pressure in your pelvic floor, doming of your abdominal midline or pulling around any scars.
Pro tip: I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing sexy about glute bridges and clamshells- but they have their place. You need a foundation of core strength and function to support the more intense work down the line. If you skip the rehab, it’s likely gonna slow you down later.
Note on timing: You may be able to start doing some of these exercises before your medical clearance at 6 weeks. But even if you’re able, you should still inform your provider of your activities and make sure you have no contraindications to exercise.
Get the most out of your postpartum exercise program:
[EXERCISE SPOTLIGHT]: Heel Slide Progressions for Pregnancy and Postpartum Workouts
[EXERCISE SPOTLIGHT]: Clamshell Progressions for Pregnancy and Postpartum Workouts
[EXERCISE SPOTLIGHT]: Glute Bridge Progressions for Pregnancy and Postpartum Workouts
Exercise After Pregnancy: A Complete Guide to Fitness in the Fourth Trimester
A user manual for your pelvic floor👇🏽👇🏽.
Get your FREE copy of
The No B.S. Guide to a Stronger, Drier Pregnancy & Postpartum.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.
Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.