Postpartum Workout Plan
4 Min Read
Giving birth takes a toll on your body – both physically and emotionally. Many postpartum people will feel overwhelmed and exhausted after giving birth, which can make it difficult to return to a daily regimen. Other people, especially those who had a regular workout plan before and during their pregnancy, may attempt to get back to their fitness regimen before they are ready. It is important to have a postpartum workout plan, but how do you know when it is the right time to begin?
In this article I hope to answer your most pressing questions regarding postpartum exercise and when to begin.
How Soon Can You Exercise After Giving Birth?
Before you begin a strenuous exercise routine, it is important that you have clearance from your medical provider to begin exercising. This is especially true if you have had a c-section or had a complicated pregnancy or birth. In most cases, people who had a vaginal delivery can begin light physical activities a few weeks post pregnancy. Yet, you should only begin exercising as you are able.
During your 8 week postpartum check up, your doctor will most-likely recommend beginning returning to your normal pre-pregnancy routine. This can include light exercise and beginning to develop a workout plan for the months ahead. It is important that during this time you take it slow. Focusing more on spending time with your baby, your mental health, and making gradual steps toward recovery are more important than trying to lose weight fast or regaining that sexy, pre-pregnancy body.
Over the first 8 weeks or more, you may gradually integrate workouts as you regain strength in your core, upper and lower body, and neck. Ensuring that you make smart choices in your workout plan can help prevent overexertion, postpartum pain and bleeding, and help you reach a safer, sustained postpartum recovery.
It is true that 8 weeks or more can feel like a very long waiting period, but your overall health is more important than a slim body. However, making sure that the early stages of your recovery are done carefully can help you get back to a more intensive postpartum workout plan safer and sooner. Rest, hydration, and nutrition should be the focus in the early stages of your recovery.
When to Start Postpartum Workouts?
The appropriate time to begin postpartum workouts varies depending on your delivery experience. As mentioned above, many women who delivered their child without any complications or if they delivered vaginally, may begin with light exercise (i.e. walking, food prep, household activities) only a few weeks after their delivery. Women who delivered via c-section or experienced complicated birth, should wait until the 8 week mark, or talk with their medical provider before starting a fitness plan. I always recommend waiting at least 8 weeks, regardless of delivery method, in order to approach recovery well and safely.
What Are the Benefits of Exercising Postpartum?
Building a smart postpartum workout plan and returning to a consistent fitness routine may help many postpartum people close their diastasis recti gap, begin strengthening their pelvic floor, and help reduce baby weight. Some women may benefit by experiencing a sense of normalcy as they begin returning to their pre-pregnancy routine, others may benefit by having time dedicated to personal health and recovery – both with their bodily and mental health. Some of the primary benefits of building a postpartum workout plan include:
- Strengthening and regaining function in your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor
- Can give you a energy boost and can relieve stress
- Heal from postpartum issues such as diastasis recti and pelvic organ prolapse
- Can improve mental health
- Improve blood circulation
- Encourage better sleep
What Exercises Are Appropriate Postpartum?
When you first begin your postpartum workout, it is important that you begin focusing on the major muscle groups that have been affected by your delivery. Engaging in short-term periods of basic exercises (10 to 20 minutes) a day is a great place to start. As you continue to build strength, increase the time and intensity of your exercises as you are able. Whether you enroll in a program like Restore Your Core or plan your own workouts for postpartum recovery, a consistent, safe fitness plan can help prevent injury and relieve postpartum symptoms.
Below are some helpful exercises you can do to help build core and lower body strength.
Core exercises can be a great way to begin restoring core health, function, and strength after giving birth. During your pregnancy, it is very common to experience a weakening of connective tissues and your abdominal muscles, especially postpartum. Many women will experience diastasis recti at some point during or after their pregnancy. Although it is recommended to allow for your body to heal properly before beginning most core exercises, there are a few that we recommend in your postpartum workout.
- Breathing: Exercising proper breathing mechanics can significantly benefit your pelvic floor and core as your body begins to heal. Practicing rib breathing, or 3-D breathing, can help you recover as your breathing patterns may have changed after giving birth. I recommend that all my clients practice proper breathing mechanics as it is an important element in my program. This exercise can help reduce intra-abdominal pressure, engage your diaphragm and ribcage, and play an important role during your exercise routine.
- Candles Breathing: To coincide with the previous technique, candles breathing can be beneficial for many postpartum people during their recovery. However, it is important that if you feel any discomfort, heaviness, or strain in your pelvic floor or core, to wait until you’re healed a bit more before continuing. To begin this exercise:
- Come onto your hands and knees or sit comfortably. Try to imagine you have a cake with multiple candles on it either between your hands (if you’re on your hands and knees) or placed in front of you while sitting.
- Inhale and exhale slowly blowing out all the candles. As you do so, you should feel your abs slowly moving back and at the end of the exhale – they should feel very tight.
- Next, come to a sitting position and imagine there is an oval shaped object (be creative) in your vaginal canal. As you exhale and blow candles, lift that object up toward your belly button. With this movement, you should feel your deep core move both up and back as it begins at your pelvic floor. Do not squeeze your superficial vaginal muscles – the lift comes from a bit higher up than that. Do this 5X in a row, 1 X a day.
Upper Body Exercises
Your body undergoes many significant changes during and after your pregnancy. The additional weight your baby added to your belly can affect your shoulders, upper and lower back, as well as your core, body, and organ alignment. One of the most helpful exercises in our program is the floor angel.
- Floor Angels: are a great way to help regain strength in your upper and lower back as you recover from your delivery. Floor angels can help relieve shoulder and chest pain/fatigue from carrying your baby and breastfeeding. To begin a floor angel:
- Begin in an either seated or reclined back position. Once in position, stretch out your arms so that your shoulders are rotated enough to allow for your palms to be facing toward you and thumbs are reaching out behind you.
- Relax your shoulders and rib cage downward and begin slowly moving your arms like you’re making a snow angel.
- This motion can help relax and open up tight chest and shoulder muscles. Try to perform at least a few reps of this exercise every day, especially after multiple feeding sessions.
What Exercises to Avoid Postpartum
There are many exercises you should avoid during the first 8 weeks of your postpartum recovery. In our program, One Strong Mama, we firmly believe in a 5-5-5 program during the first 2 – 4 weeks before getting back into a more strenuous routine. 5-5-5 means spending 5 days resting in bed, 5 days around your bed, and 5 days within close proximity of your bed. After those two weeks are up, you can begin introducing walking and other light exercises.
Whether you are still feeling pain or feel totally fine after delivering your baby, it is extremely important that you take it slow. Performing the wrong exercises may be unhelpful to your body as it is trying to heal from a fairly large internal injury.
Avoid any exercises that apply unnecessary pressure or strain to your belly and midline. This means you should avoid any exercises that cause your belly to bulge (sit-ups, planks, squats, etc). This can cause any separation you may have experienced to worsen and can be very painful.
It is also important to avoid any heavy lifting or twisting in ways that can affect your abdomen or vaginal wall. Avoid exercises like crunches, oblique curls, roll-ups, or any similar exercises.
It may also be helpful to avoid yoga poses such as backbends or other spinal extensions as they, too, increase intra-abdominal pressure. Additionally, following advice from any flat belly programs or fast, baby weight reduction programs are a no-go. One of the most damaging lies our culture tries to instill in new mothers is that they should quickly begin trying to regain a bikini body or slim appearance.
If you are looking for a no-BS, helpful recovery program for your postpartum recovery, consider checking out our 12-week program: made by women, for women.