Skip to main content

5 Essential Exercises for Postpartum Fitness

Years ago I proudly used the tagline: “I can help you get your pre-baby body back!” I no longer use that language as I think it is flawed. You’ve had a baby and your body has changed. My new slogan has become, “I can help you make your postnatal body stronger than your pre-baby body ever was!”

Your core needs retraining. Organs have shifted, ribs have moved, the abdominal wall has stretched beyond belief and the pelvic floor has carried an incredible amount of extra weight. Core rehabilitation has to be the underlying focus of your strength routine. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 of my go-to exercises for every postnatal client to help achieve a strong and healthy postpartum body.

Activating and training the glutes is imperative to pelvic stability control, which is why exercises involving the glutes are key to attaining postpartum fitness.

1. Squat: If your quads are more sore than your glutes, you are not squatting correctly! The lower your squat the more quads you recruit, but it is primarily a glute and lower back exercise.

  • Stand with feet hip width apart.
  • On inhalation bend your knees with a straight back, then push your bum back. The knees do not pass over the toes.
  • Exhale and contract the pelvic floor with the Core 4 cue* and press through heels to standing position. Lower and squat with fluid movement. Cue weight to outside of feet, push through glutes not midsole/quad.
  • Base gets wider the lower you go.
  • Drive hips back to maintain upper body position and weight distribution.
2. Lunge: Like the squat, the lunge is a compound lower body exercise that focuses on glutes. I spend a lot of time working on lunge form: first from a static position then moving into a reverse lunge dynamic exercise. Dynamic lunging requires a tremendous amount of pelvic stability control that needs to be developed before the exercise is added to a program.

  • Stand tall in split stance.
  • Load on front leg through heel and glute – bending the front knee a little in first position will help.
  • Weight balances 80/20 front heel to rear midsole.
  • On inhalation bend your knees 90 degrees – do not move forward and back; sink straight down. The front knee does not pass over the toe.
  • Exhale with Core 4 cue, press up with weight in front heel and push through glute.
  • Repeat 10 Left and 10 Right.

  • Having a strong upper back is crucial to maintaining proper posture and alignment. Breastfeeding is very hard on posture, and a strong upper back will offset imbalances resulting from the chronic forward position, leading to a stronger postpartum body.

    3. Rows: Standing cable (or TRX) rows target the rhomboids (shoulder blades) and support posture.
    • Grip is hammer- thumbs to sky.
    • Feet are hip width apart.
    • Keep elbows tucked in.
    • Exhale with Core 4 cue and pull with shoulder blades, not arms.
    • Keep wrists straight!
    • Pause for 1 second, then extend arms with inhalation.

     4. Reverse Flys: This exercise targets the trapezius, just above the shoulder blades. It’s a tricky exercise form-wise, to target the traps and not the deltoids (shoulders). I reduce resistance on this exercise to improve form, and some clients start with just the movement and no cable! Try a set of 10 with bodyweight only, and if you are doing it correctly you will feel it!
    • Grip is back of hands to sky.
    • Feet hip width apart.
    • Exhale with Core 4 cue and push hands away from each other, then bend the elbows to 90 degrees using your upper back- do not pull with shoulders.
    • In 2nd position, biceps are shoulder-height parallel to floor.
    • Keep wrists straight!
    • Pause for 1 second then extend arms with inhalation.

    The tricep is the quadricep of the arm and is involved in every upper body exercise. It is typically the first arm muscle I isolate.

    5. Triceps: Side push ups, dips, skull crushers or kickbacks- there are many ways to isolate the triceps depending on a client’s strength and preference.

    Tricep Push Up:
    • Lay on one side with arm underneath you and with lower hand on shoulder.
    • Upper hand on mat at armpit with fingers lifted to push through the ball of the hand.
    • Exhale with Core 4 cue and push up with upper arm.
    • Do not use weight of legs or momentum to assist with lift; keep body still and shoulders relaxed.
    • Remove momentum from the push up.
    • Keep elbow of push up arm pointing to toes.

    Skull Crushers:
    • Supine position, weights in hammer grip held together above head with arms extended.
    • Inhale and bend elbows 90 degrees, lowering weights to forehead.
    • Exhale with Core 4 cue and extend arms to first position, keeping elbows tucked.

    A trainer will ensure you are executing your movements properly, ensuring you get your “bang for your buck” and that you are not just “spinning your wheels.” A strategic targeted strength program will support alignment and core control, providing a solid foundation upon which to build all of your postnatal fitness ambitions!


Popular posts from this blog

I don’t have a Diastasis- Why is my abdomen still distended postpartum?

I get asked this question all the time! Here is my answer:
Research has shown that 100% of pregnant women will develop some degree of diastasis recti. A diastasis is a lateral separation in the abdominal wall between the recti or “six pack”, due to a stretching of the midline connective tissue or “linea alba”. Although some diastasis will heal postpartum, in many cases a separation will remain without restorative exercise.
Distention from DR will present as a doming in the midline. Women who heal a diastasis spontaneously or through restorative exercise may still find that their abdomens are distended, particularly after a meal and/or at the end of the day. If there is no diastasis, why is this?
This abdominal distention does not occur in the midline, but rather across the entire abdominal wall. This is due to a weakened hypotonic TVA- transverse abdominis muscle. The TVA is the deepest anterior abdominal muscle, wrapping around the midsection like a girdle, with a left and right side. T…

Day 3 Carb Flush- Ketosis

I am on Day 3 of my pre race carb flush. Here is my food plan for today:
- Coffee & Banana
<--- Left was my mid day post client meal- chicken chunks, red cabbage and spinach in a white sauce, quinoa.

---> Right was my dinner- raw veggies with homemade mayo, bacon (mmmmm), 2 perogies, edamame.

Tonight I had 1/2 pear, cheddar cheese chunks and 3 thick crackers. O yes and this......

Sangria FTW! :)

I am wrapping up the 3rd and last day of my carb flush. Tomorrow I begin to replenish, Friday is the big homemade pasta dinner we have planned, then Saturday is bean salad and regular program pre-race day. I have completely avoided refined sugar even in my coffee (favouring extra milk over sugar). I will continue this until race day and beyond, now seemingly hyper-mindful of glycemic indexes and performance (from race day to every day!).

The Mississauga Half Marathon Clinic at the Winston Park Dr. Running Room store had its last clinic meet on Tuesday. I loved running with …

Challenges and Strategies with Bodybuilding

It's been 4 months of a solid push 1-2x week in the gym weights to max with my buddy. A few weeks ago I wrote this blog post on the challenges of recovering from the workouts. I am doing my best to keep up with demands of calories and rest to support this program. I am not suffering the extreme symptoms as I was a few weeks ago, although the post workout fatigue on the following day is pretty noticeable.

I have noticed some tendon soreness post workout. My elbows feel as if they have been struck- tender to the touch. I mentioned it to a body building client of mine and she suggested wrapping to provide support as the tendons strengthen with the muscle growth. The only way to make these big improvements is to push the envelope, but I want to train smart, as always! Here is my gimpy exhibition in the gym- wrapped and pushing hard.

I've been able to max at 100lbs once. 90lbs is my new consistent max, with increasing ROM. I tend to cheat to get the reps, and form nazi that I am …