One of my favorite exercises to prescribe during postpartum rehabilitation is the Heel Slide. This exercise allows for safe and progressive retraining of the deep core system, which is essential for optimal function and injury prevention. In this article, I’m offering 5 Heel Slide progressions to help you get stronger postpartum!

What is the Heel Slide Exercise?

Heel Slide exercises are a great way to strengthen and restore function to the deep core system. The deep core system consists of the muscles in the abdominal region, also known as your abs and pelvic floor. These muscles are responsible for helping you maintain good posture and stabilize your pelvis when you walk or run.

Your deep core consists of the diaphragm, the transverse abdominals, the multifidus and the pelvic floor. Permission to use copyright image from Pelvic Guru, LLC
The deep core muscles are significantly impacted by pregnancy. As they stretch to accommodate the growing fetus, coordination between the muscles is disrupted. Postpartum, these muscles feel weaker and less responsive. In order to safely retrain these muscles postpartum, it’s best to start with an easy version of this exercise.

How Do You Do a Heel Slide?

Heel slides are performed in a supine, or back-lying position. Early in the postpartum recovery process, roll into and out of the supine position.

Use your breath.

Use an audible exhale (like blowing out candles) paired with gentle pelvic floor contraction (i.e. a kegel) to help kick on your core. Exhale during the leg extension or lowering phases, inhale to bring your leg back to the starting position.

Alternate breathing strategies

If you desire more or different support through your core, try a different breathing strategy.

1) You can exhale through the whole range of motion

Begin your exhale (+ pelvic floor contraction) as you extend your leg, and continue your exhale until you return to the starting position. Inhale between reps.

2) You can begin your inhale before you start moving.

Begin your audible exhale (+ pelvic floor contraction) BEFORE you begin to extend your leg. Inhale to draw your leg back in.

Bring awareness to “good” form.

When you extend your legs, your back shouldn’t pop off the floor, your chest shouldn’t flare upwards. Your torso shouldn’t move at all throughout the movement. If you cheat, it’ll feel easier- but you won’t be getting the benefit.

How Do You Progress Heel Slides?

As you continue to work on your postpartum recovery, it’s important to progress the exercises.

How do you know when to move on? You should be able to easily do 12-15 reps, while breathing and while maintaining a neutral back and pelvis (see above).

If you can’t hold on to your neutral back OR if you feel your abdominal wall pooching upwards rather than contracting like a corset during the hardest parts of the exercise, you’re at a progression that is too hard. Go back one step.

Following are 5 progressions of the Heel Slide exercise. Progress them in order.

1. Heel Slide Progression #1 – Basic Heel Slides

To peform a basic heel slide, keep your heel in contact with the ground as you slowly extend one leg. Exhale to extend your leg, inhale to slide your heel back in.

2. Heel Slide Progression #2 – Heel Slide with a Hover

To perform a Heel Slide with a hover, keep your heel just an inch or two above the ground as you extend it out. Exhale to extend your leg, inhale to draw it back in.

3. Heel Slide Progression #3 – Toe Tap

Exhale to bring your knees into a 90/90 position (tabletop). Exhale to lower one leg to the ground. Inhale to bring it back to 90.

4. Heel Slide Progression #4 – Leg Extensions

Exhale to bring your knees into a 90/90 position (tabletop). Exhale as you extend your leg, inhale to draw your leg back in.

5. Heel Slide Progression #5 – Dead Bug

In this movement variation, you’re extending opposite arm and opposite legs. Exhale to extend, inhale to reset.

Share your experience!

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used these heel slide progressions in your own workouts. What was your experience? Did they help improve your deep core function and strength? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Get the MOST out of your Heel Slide with a rock solid breathing strategy:
Learn how👇🏽👇🏽.
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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.

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