Progressing Your Ab Exercises Postpartum - The Next 5 Exercises
Ok, so you’re feeling stronger and ready to progress your abdominal strengthening exercises? That’s great to hear! Just make sure you started with the basics and are not experiencing any pain or symptoms. If you missed the first part of this blog series, check it out here:5 Exercises to Tighten your Belly after Babies.
Remember, the key to success without causing further damage to your core is to build up slowly. It takes the body time to fully heal. It can take a lot longer than you wish it did, especially if you have been diagnosed with diastasis recti or are experiencing a separation of your abdominal muscles.
For some mothers it could be 3-4 months before you’re ready to progress your exercises. Just listen to your body and continue to make adjustments when you truly feel ready. There is no rush, so take your time with these and stop immediately if you are unable to perform them properly.
There are two quick ways to tell if you are doing these correctly or not. First, if your stomach starts to protrude or stick out then stop. You should be able to maintain a tight core with your belly tucked in throughout each of these exercises.
Second:if your back starts to arch at all during the exercise then your core isn’t strong enough to support the movement.
If you notice either of these things then stop, re-adjust and try again with a smaller range of motion. If you can’t do the movement without immediately sticking your belly out or arching your back then stop and return to the basics.
Ok, now that I’ve hopefully warned you enough and your feeling confident to progress let’s get to strengthening your core!
1. Bridge Pose
• Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Perform a small pelvic tilt and start to lift your hips towards the celling. Try moving slowly and lift one vertebra at a time. Hold for 5-seconds and then begin to lower back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.
• Tip: Maintaining the pelvic tilt through the bridge pose will help engage your core and glutes.
• Count: Start with 5-10 repetitions in a session and build up to 20. You can mix it up by doing more repetitions or trying to hold the bridge pose for 10 seconds at a time and doing fewer repetitions.
2. Table Top with Arm and Leg Extensions
• Come to your hands and knees. Maintain a neutral pelvis, tighten your belly and pull your core inwards. Align your neck and head with your shoulders. Extend one leg at a time behind you and hold for 10-seconds. Repeat on other leg. Then extend one arm at a time and hold for 10-seconds. Repeat on other side.
• Tip: Maintain a flat back and keep your pelvis level when you lift either an arm or leg. Use a mirror to make sure you aren’t arching your back or rotatingyour pelvis.
• Count: Start with 3-5 repetitions for both your arms and legs on each side. Work up to 10 repetitions.
3. Isometric Ab Press
• Lie on your back with your legs lifted to a 90-degree bend at your hips and knees. Perform a pelvic tilt and place both hands on your thighs. Using your hands press into your legs but do not let them move. Maintain your pelvic tilt the entire time.
• Tip: As you press into your legs do not let your back arch. You’ll know you’re doing it right if your back stays flat on the floor and you feel your abs engage as you press into your legs.
• Count: Press and hold for 5-10 seconds while you inhale and exhale. Release. Repeat 5 times and build up to 15 times.
4. Single Leg Lift
• Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Perform a pelvic tilt to engage your core. Extend your right leg straight and while maintaining the pelvic tilt lift your leg until it is level with your bent knee. Lower back to the floor. Repeat 10 times on the right side and then switch to the left.
• Tip: Maintaining the pelvic tilt as you do each leg lift is key. You can place your hand under your low back to make sure it is staying pressed into the floor during the entire exercise.
• Count: Perform 10 leg lifts on each side and progress to 20 repetitions.
5. Heel Taps(This is by far the hardest exercise on the list so only lower your leg as far as you can maintain proper alignment!)
• Lie on your back with your legs lifted to a 90-degree bend at your hips and knees. Perform a pelvic tilt so your low back is pressed into the floor and your transverse abdominis are engaged. While maintaining the pelvic tilt slowly lower your right leg until your heel taps the floor. Return the leg to your starting position and repeat on the other side.
• Tip: Maintaining the pelvic tilt throughout the entire motion is key! If you notice your back start to arch at all then don’t go any lower with the heel. It’s okay if you only lower a couple of inches and return to the starting position. You’d be surprised how few people have the core strength to do this exercise properly so work within your limit.
• Count: Start with 5-10 repetitions on each leg and build up to 20 repetitions.
Remember to always engage from your lower abdominals. It’s still best to avoid any crunching type of exercise until you have mastered the above exercises or until you feel strong enough. The key to core strengthening is not quantity but the quality of the movement and maintaining a core contraction throughout the entire movement.
Hopefully you’re starting to feel more fit and notice the benefits of a stronger core. It’s good to keep in mind your abs are not the only part of your core strength. Your pelvic floor and glutesalso playa major factor in your core stability.
Note about the author: This article was brought to you by Kathryn Lane, Doctorate of Physical Therapy.
Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.