Pregnancy Core Strength Exercises

As promised here are some core exercises that I started while I was pregnant and am still continuing today!

Transverse Abdominis (TA) Activation

  • Sitting against the wall, best to sit on a ball for beginners
  • Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling pull your belly button to your spine keeping everything tight. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
  • Repeat this 5-10 times increasing the amount of time spent in a static hold.
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – I think of a string attached from the inside of my bellybutton to the wall, I imagine this string shortening, pulling on my bellybutton and getting my stomach as flat as possible WITHOUT moving my ribs. This will ensure that you are working the right muscles!
  • Maintain good posture, shoulders back, head up.
  • FOR MORE OF A CHALLENGE – do this without a ball under you, in a sitting position supported by your legs.

Core strength wall sit

Kegels

  • Start by doing these in sitting, then try lying on the ground, side lying, or standing as I find the different positions activate different areas.
  • Feel as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine, pulling that pelvic floor up as high as possible, hold for 10 seconds then relax.
  • It is just as important to be able to completely relax these muscles (feeling almost as if you are going to go to the bathroom) as it is to tense them. Muscles only function properly if there is a good balance between tension and relaxation, therefore muscles that are too tight don’t work very well!
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – Think of a string going through the midline of your body out the top of your head. As this string shortens it pulls up on your pelvic floor. Try to activate this area without using any other muscles like your buttock or thighs!

kegel exercises

These exercises and daily walking and squats are the key to an easy and successful labor and delivery! Make time for exercise now before baby and you will reap the benefits later.

 

After Pregnancy… Exercises to rebuild that core and heal your diastasis!

 

TA Activation, Lying Down
  • Lying on the ground have your legs bent at a 90 degree angle
  • Take a deep breathe, as you exhale pull your stomach flat into the ground. Feel like your bellybutton is sinking.
  • I like to keep my hands on my stomach to make sure im working the right muscles, you should feel yourself ‘get skinnier’ without sticking your ribs out, or arching your back.
  • Back and shoulders should be flat on the ground with a slight neutral curve in your lumbar spine.

This is your starting position for the following exercises.

core strength activation

 

Heel Slides
  • From your starting position rest both heels on the ground. Slowly slide one heel out being careful not to not move anything other than your leg.
  • Do 5 on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.

core strength exercises

Leg lifts – Knees bent

  • From your starting position, take a deep breath, then as you exhale lower one leg down to the ground, touch your foot to the ground without resting and return to starting position. Try to not let your abdominals relax or arch your back.
  • If you cannot maintain a strong core position while doing this, start with going halfway to the ground.
  • Alternate legs, do 10 repetitions, rest, repeat 3 sets.

core strength exercises

Only when the above feels too easy, move on to the next exercise

Leg Lifts – Legs straight

  • From starting position straighten you legs. Keep your core tight and don’t let your back arch while doing this.
  • Take a deep breath in, as you exhale  lower one leg to the ground, bring back to starting position, repeat on other side.
  • Alternate legs, 10 repetitions,rest, complete 3 sets.

core strength exercises leg lifts

Hope you get the chance to try some of these ! The great thing is that they can be done in your bedroom with no equipment so they are easy to sneak in during nap time!

On another note, it’s really challenging to find pictures to demonstrate these exercises without infringing on some copyrights so I just took these myself after the gym really quick while the baby was still sleeping in her carseat!! So no judgement please! I am still getting my own body back and I have a long way to go,  but I am definitely feeling pretty great about where I am with my core strength right now. I was hoping to make a video but quite honestly between the baby crying and the dog barking I think it would take about 100 takes.

Take home points – key things to remember to do these correctly…

  • Never lift your head off the ground, keep a neutral neck, chin slightly tucked
  • Keep your core tight, as soon as your hips, lower back or anything else lifts off the ground or shifts in the wrong direction you are no longer working the right muscles.
  • BREATHE, it is important to breathe through these exercises as holding your breath doesn’t help much, and as much as that’s common sense its surprisingly hard to do sometimes!

See this picture for the WRONG way to do these exercises. By lifting your head up off the ground you are putting a lot of outward stress on your abdominals which can actually make your tummy look worse!

bad core exercises after baby

If you have any questions about any of these exercises please comment below or send me an email at natasha@fitmamasb.com and I will be happy to help!

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Working exercise into your day

I just wanted to touch on how challenging it can be to work exercise into your everyday routine with a baby. When I first started back at the gym I found that working out was an all day event. By the time I timed our feedings right, got myself dressed, got her dressed, loaded her into the car, brought her to the gym and got my runners on I was exhausted. But after a couple weeks it got easier and easier. I started back at Crossfit about 4 weeks after she was born, after being cleared by my doctor to return to exercise.  I went to an easy class and was able to modify a lot of the exercises to suit my current level. Since my daughter was so young when I started taking her  I feel like she never really knew any different. She now comes with me 4x a week and enjoys watching everyone workout! (Well I don’t really know if she enjoys it, but she definitely seems happy!) Working out with friends is a great way to develop accountability (I barely miss a workout), to get out of the house (otherwise I would barely leave), and interact with adults other than my husband! Having a baby can be isolating and exercise and support from others is one of the first thing I recommend to combat postpartum depression. Whether you start with a simple walk with a friend or lunges around the house while holding the baby, every little bit counts. If you get into the routine of incorporating exercise into your day from the start it will make it easier as your baby gets older! Check out my little one at 5 weeks old dressed to impress at Crossfit.

In fitness and good health,

Natasha

workout baby, crossfit baby, infant, postpartum exercise

 

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Postpartum Abdominal Recovery

Wow! Let me just say I never anticipated just how weak my core would be after delivering my beautiful baby girl. For weeks I felt like jello, and looked a little like it too! Ladies don’t be fooled…you are much stronger PREGNANT than you are after delivery. After delivering my nearly 10 pound baby and ridding my body of all that associated with it my abdomen was a mess. I’m pretty sure I had intestines floating around for weeks and my organs were all in shock trying to make their way back to where they should be. All those ligaments that have been stretched out for the past 6 months were getting some relief (finally no more pain!), but still affected by relaxin they were nowhere near where they should be. Now in order to understand the concept of abdominal rehabilitation after delivery there are a few things you must know first. a) What is relaxin, and b) Basic abdominal anatomy and c) What to do before you hit the gym!

What is relaxin hormone?

Relaxin was discovered in 1926 in pregnant guinea pigs. It was shown to cause the pelvic ligaments to relax, allowing the body to accommodate the strain of pregnancy and ease the passage of offspring through the birth canal. The hormone was later demonstrated to have a role in the softening, or ripening, of the cervix through collagen remodelling. Relaxin is produced in the corpus luteum, the placenta, and the uterus in females, as well as in other reproductive structures; this varies by species. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/496940/relaxin

Relaxin hormone is responsible for many injuries during and after pregnancy as it is present in your body for up to 6 months after delivery! It is important to remember this as you continue your journey of health in order to take extra caution and prevent setbacks due to injury. Your ligaments and joints are loose, particularly in your back and pelvis causing instability and contributing to pain and misalignment. That extra flexibility you gained during pregnancy can work against you when you start training again, so my biggest advice is to not overdo it!

Abdominal Anatomy Overview

Abdominal muscles

Image Source

Your ‘abs’ are actually composed of 4 different muscles, they are arranged in layers stretching in different directions across your abdomen. Your rectus abdominus is the muscle that most people associate with a 6 pack. This is where your diastasis will be if you developed one during pregnancy! See my post here for more information. Then you have your external and internal oblique muscles, your external oblique form that nice V shape you see on the cover of Men’s Health, and the internal oblique muscles run the opposite direction providing added stability, torque, and assistance with side bending. Lastly there is the transverse abdominus which in my case is the most important to be aware of postpartum. This is the deepest muscle of your abdominals. It wraps all the way around your midline in a horizontal fashion acting essentially as a corset keeping everything together. As you can guess, with all that stretching and movement in there during pregnancy this deep core stabilizer is incredibly weak postpartum and makes even simple movements, like a squat or pushup, extremely difficult. You truly do not realize how much you use these stabilizer muscles in everything you do until you lose them!

Before you hit the gym…

Lastly, I will review some things to keep in mind before you hit the gym…this may sound a little intense but I really really want to get my point across because I have seen too many people causing permanent damage while trying desperately to lose that baby weight.
1) If you are like me and feeling good after a few weeks you may just want to jump back into what you were doing before you got pregnant…STOP RIGHT NOW! Your body needs a much needed break after all that torture you put it through! Wait the recommended 4-6 weeks postpartum before working out again or you may find yourself dealing with unnecessary postpartum complications such as bleeding, pelvic pain, incontinence, or worse. This is granted you had a regular delivery, C-section recovery is obviously more challenging and as always, everyone should consult their doctor or midwife before starting any new exercise program.
2) Remember to take it slow, if it hurts, stop, think about it, and modify. Start with a simple walk, personally I couldn’t believe how challenging even walking is after not doing anything for a while!
3) Your baby and your health come first. If you aren’t sleeping, barely eating and trying to go hard at the gym you are going to compromise not just your milk supply (if you are nursing) but also your sanity. Be kind to yourself.
4) If you have any lingering impairements from pregnancy especially diastasis recti, hip instability, pelvic floor dysfunction, healing stiches, broken tailbone, etc, etc. make sure you check with your doctor first and take the proper precautions during your workouts!  Remember, even after you are cleared to workout your body is still healing and is very easily injured. I highly recommend hiring a trainer/kinesiologist/physical therapist educated and experienced in postpartum recovery. They will be able to guide you in doing proper exercises and modifications to avoid injury and gradually get back into a solid workout routine.
5) Lastly, CORE CORE, PELVIC FLOOR & MORE CORE…that is what you need to work on before even attempting any heavy lifts, strenuous movements, jumping, or anything else putting strain on those poor abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. Do you want to be incontinent and have a mummy tummy forever? If the answer is no then start doing those kegels and stay tuned to my next blog post for some exercises to do everyday!,

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My how time flies! 16 weeks postpartum.

February 8th, 2015

My how time flies. I decided after the birth of my daughter that I would take a little break from my website. I didn’t anticipate it to be a 3-month break but here we are! Babies are a lot of work! We have been truly blessed that our daughter sleeps well at night, but this means that she is up a lot of the day, leaving little spare time for myself. But now that we have started a more consistent nap routine I desperately would like to pick up where I left off. So this week I’m going to be playing catch up and try to write a few articles sharing what I have learned in these first few months postpartum. So here are some updates!

My daughter was born 9 days late, I ended up being induced, which was definitely not part of my ideal birth plan, but it was in the best interest of my health and my daughters. She was born vaginally, at a whopping 9lbs 12oz and 22.5” long. I won’t bore you with the details but I am happy to say that all my exercise prior to delivery paid off! I was able to push very efficiently and got that baby out as fast as I could with little injury. Even the nurses asked after my first push… “Do you workout? This is going to be easy for you!” That was probably the best thing I had heard all day. I will review my pre-delivery exercises and labor preparation in a future post so stay tuned for that!

It has been 16 weeks since she was born, and I have to say I am starting to feel more like myself everyday. In total I gained 65 lbs. during my pregnancy. Let me tell you, I never want to see those numbers on a scale again. I was large and uncomfortable. I had continued to walk my dog 45 minutes a day up until the day of delivery, completed my home exercises before bed every night and made sure I stretched and practiced my breathing techniques, but let me tell you…it was not easy carrying around all that extra weight, even having a shower was mildly exhausting! I currently have lost the majority of the weight and am happy to say I have 7 lbs. left to reach my target. Because I am nursing I decided that it was best to keep a few extra pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and shed the rest gradually through proper diet and exercise, and not through starvation. Because I had no postpartum complications I was able to return to exercising at 5 weeks, which was probably the best thing for myself and for my baby! She has been coming to the gym with me 4x a week since then and loves going out on our daily walks. It has helped make her a happy, well-adjusted baby who loves seeing new places and interacting with new people. I will talk more in the next post about what I have been doing in terms of exercise and how I have been working out safely in order to get my body back without causing injury. So excited to continue sharing this whirlwind adventure with you.

In fitness and good health,

Natasha

baby 16 weeks old postpartum

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37 Weeks Pregnant

September 16, 2014

37 weeks pregnant tomorrow!

No blog post lately because, well, nothing has happened! We are finally in the home stretch of this pregnancy. My goodness, being 37 weeks tomorrow makes it all more real, I’d love to keep this baby in until 40 weeks but knowing that she is considered full term now is such a relief. We are finished the nursery, bought everything we need, had a baby shower, and had one last weekend away just the two of us! I am proud to say that I am still working out at least 3 times a week, mostly consisting of swimming, walking, and pilates or yoga. I also do home exercises each day (squats, core exercises, stretching, and pelvic floor exercises) to prepare for the birth. I get a lot of stares at the gym and at the beach these days, but it’s all worth it knowing that staying active is keeping me and baby healthy and hopefully will lead to an easier birth! My husband has been so excited and so supportive, I just couldn’t ask for a better man. Here are some pictures of this nursery now that it is finally finished and a picture of me from last week! We are doing weekly progress pictures now, so I will post them all at the end after bubs gets here.

nursery1nursery2 nursery3 nursery4 nursery5 36 weeks

 

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