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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!


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