Postpartum core exercises need to be easy and approachable.
Below, I list (and show) three of my favorite, easy, postpartum ab exercises.
Bonus! The first two can be done immediately after your baby is born (as soon as you feel ready).
Key Principles Of Postpartum Ab Exercises:
- Postpartum abdominal exercises should engage and strengthen the deepest layer of abdominal muscles – the transverse abdominis. These muscles support the entire midsection and help bring the two sides of the abdominals back together.
- Gentle movements are best…especially at the beginning! You do not need to “work” your postpartum core hard. You need to gently wake-up the muscles so that they can begin working again. Ab exercises that are too intense movement can lead to more damage and longer healing time.
- Avoid traditional core exercises like crunches and planks until you can consistently engage your deep core muscles.
- Engage with the breath. The ab muscles are designed to engage as you exhale and relax as you inhale.
Best Postpartum Ab Exercises
Postpartum Ab Exercise 1: Lower Transverse Engagement
This first core exercise is great for when you just had a baby and are spending lots of time lying in bed nursing or snuggling
How To Do Lower Transverse Ab Exercises
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place the feet flat on the floor.
- Notice your breath and allow it to deepen.
- Place the heel of your hands on your ASIS bones (those bones at the front of the hips) and let the fingers rest on the low belly.
- As you inhale, let everything relax.
- As you exhale, imagine your ASIS bones drawing together toward the middle of your lower abdomen to engage your low belly.
(Watch the video above for more instruction on this.)
With some practice, you should feel the soft part of your belly (also known as your lower transverse) firm up slightly as you exhale.
You may also feel the pelvic floor engage, co-contracting with your lower transverse.
If you don’t feel the core engagement at first, don’t worry! It can take time to reconnect to these muscles. Just keep practicing and focusing on relaxing on the inhale and engaging with the exhale.
Postpartum Ab Exercise 2: Seated Transverse Engagement
In the second exercise, we will focus on strengthening the core while seated.
How to Do Seated Ab Strengthening of The Transverse Abdominis
- Sit on a chair. Find a neutral pelvis position where your sit bones connect to the chair.
- Slide yourself back against the back of the chair so that your core doesn’t have to hold you upright.
- Again, we are going to use our breath. As you inhale, let the belly relax.
- As you exhale, think about those transverse muscles that make up the ‘corset’ of your body engaging which will pull your belly gently inward. They wrap from the back of your spine all the way to the front. And reach from your ribs down to your public bone.
- As they engage, you should feel like you get taller and longer not like you are crouching or crunching.
Finding this feeling can take practice so, give it some time!
Postpartum Ab Exercise 3: 90/90 Breathing and Transverse Engagement
The third exercise is slightly more intense so please wait to do this until you have been cleared for exercise by your healthcare provider.
How To Do 90/90 Breathing and Transverse Ab Engagement:
- Lie on your back. If you have a yoga block at home, grab that and bring it to the floor with you.
- Place your feet on the wall creating 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.
- Take your feet slightly wider than your knees and internally rotate your legs just a bit. If you have one, take the block between your knees.
- Now, find your breath.
- As you inhale, everything relaxes. Try to inhale very deeply to prepare for a nice, long, exhale.
- As you exhale, draw the pelvic floor up first. Continue exhaling and draw the hip bones together to engage your low belly (As you did on the first exercise on this page). Keep exhaling and move the engagement even higher into the middle/upper transverse.
- Eventually, you may even feel like your upper transverse abdominals pull your ribs down so they come in line with the hips.
- Then take a deep inhale and relax everything, and begin engaging again on the exhale from the bottom up again. Pelvic floor, low belly, mid belly, upper belly, ending with a big inhale.
- If this simple version is very available to you, you can try giving the block a bit of a squeeze on the exhale to increase engagement.
There they are! 3 simple Postpartum Ab Exercises.
Once you have established some strength with these exercises you will then want to begin working with more functional movements.
General and Functional Postpartum Core Exercise
The exercises described here create an excellent foundation for your core-health. However, it isn’t enough to JUST do core exercises. If you ONLY focus on core strengthening exercises, your core will only be strong when you do those types of movements. You will be missing a key part of core health.
The second, often overlooked, factor to core health is functional strength. You want to make sure that your core is engaging during functional movements like twisting, reaching, and bending. Functional strength allows you to move through your day with strength and ensures your core is safe during everyday movements.
Yoga is an amazing tool for both general and functional core strength because it takes your body through a full range of movement under controlled conditions.
When we combine these two factors – general and functional core strength – your core will be strong in ANY situation or position you throw at it.