If you feel like you “can’t find your abs,” this is the workout for you. Whether you’re pregnant, just got your 6-weeks clearance from your OB-GYN, or delivered a few months — or years — ago but are experiencing pelvic problems such as, ahem, leakage or back pain, this is the workout for you. Are you wondering “what the heck happened to my abs?” They’re in there. Let us reunite you.
Here are 5 of our FAVE core exercises to help you connect with your core in pregnancy and postpartum, strengthen your pelvic floor and help you to gently restore your core strength. When you’ve mastered this circuit and are free of symptoms — in other words, your abdominals have resumed their normal alignment and you can run to catch the streetcar without peeing your pants — you can start adding in more challenging core work such as planks and rotations.
Really focus! These moves are challenging when done properly.
sidelying core contractions
Lie on your side, head on arm. Place your top hand on your lower abdomen and bend your knees, feet together. Inhale as you relax your belly and let it drape over the floor. Exhale through your mouth as through a straw and draw your belly up and inward, off the floor, as you squeeze your pelvic floor upward in a kegel exercise (we will refer to this as “contracting your inner core” for all further exercises). You may feel a slight forward movement of your pubic bone but will not squeeze your butt or move your hips. Continue contracting as you breathe in and out naturally, with relaxed neck and shoulders. When you can hold this contraction for 10 counts while breathing, progress to the next exercise.
Lie on your side, head on arm. Place your top hand on your lower abdomen and bend your knees, feet together. Exhale, draw your belly inward and pelvic floor upward to contract the inner core. As you contract the inner core, lift your top knee and squeeze your glute (that’s your butt muscle) on the side of the top hip. Only lift as high as you can while still contracting the inner core and remaining on your side. Don’t rock back. Work up to 10-15 reps per side.
the burning bridge
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, near your butt. Place a pillow, rolled up towel or soft exercise ball between your knees and squeeze tightly with your inner thighs. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and find a neutral alignment (your spine is naturally curved, not pressed into the floor or arching excessively). Maintain that neutral alignment while you contract the inner core, as described above, and lift your bum a few inches from the floor while maintaing a firm grip on your pillow. Do not arch your back or let your ribs thrust toward the ceiling. Work up to 10-15 reps.
*if performing the following exercises in 3rd trimester, please stop should you feel any dizziness. For most women, these are perfectly safe throughout pregnancy; however, it is most important to listen to your body. Concerned about laying on your back for short periods of time (or even falling asleep on your back)? Read this.
the bent knee fallout
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, near your butt. Rest your hands on your lower abdomen and find neutral alignment, as described above, while you contract your inner core and feel your pubic bone move slightly upward (without squeezing your butt or flattening your back). Keep your left foot firmly planted into the floor and left knee pointing straight up; inhale as you allow the right knee to slowly “fall out” to the side ONLY as far as you can without rocking the hips to the side. Exhale, pulling the right knee back to centre position. Work up to 10-15 reps per side.
the heel slide
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, near your butt. Rest your hands on your lower abdomen and find neutral alignment, as described above. Contract your inner core, feeling your pubic bone move slightly upward (without squeezing your butt) and HOLD the contraction firmly. Inhale as you slowly slide one heel away from the butt, sliding only as far as you can without arching your back or letting go of your inner core contraction. Exhale, sliding back to start. Work your way up to 10-15 reps, gradually lengthening the size of your slide as you find you can hold the core contraction better. (The heel slide works best with bare or socked feet, on a smooth surface.)
You may perform these exercises every other day, or daily if you’re a real keener. We recommend following these moves with some brisk walking. We also recommend aiming said walking at a coffee shop because pregnancy and postpartum are as hard on your brain as they are on your core. Then, perhaps, picking up a bottle of wine on your way home. You deserve it.
Ready to progress to the next level? Try these 5 core moves with your exercise ball!
Stretch those new mommy muscles, while you’re at it.