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Postpartum Ab Workout

This postpartum ab workout includes exercises designed to help strengthen the abs and core after pregnancy.  The exercises shown were developed by physical therapist, Shirley Sahrmann, specifically for postpartum women. These moves focus on stabilizing the pelvis and strengthening the lower abdominal area, which is often weakened by pregnancy. These are progressive exercises, so you'll need to master each exercise (performing 20 reps without losing your abdominal contraction) before moving onto the next.  Take as much time as you need to progress, even if you only do a few exercises during each workout.

Precautions:

  • Get a doctor's clearance before starting any type of exercise program.  For normal births with no complications, your doctor will usually clear you for exercise in 4-6 weeks after giving birth.
  • If you've had a c-section, you may need more recovery time before trying abdominal exercises.

Equipment Needed

A mat.

How To

  • Begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up of light cardio (walking in place, etc.) or do this workout after your cardio routine
  • For each exercise for as many reps as you can, while keeping the abdominal contraction described in the Basic Breath exercise below.  When you're able to complete 20 reps of each exercise, progress to the next exercise.
  • Perform each exercise with slow and controlled movements.  Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.

Basic Breath
Lie on your back, knees bent and arms at your sides.  Inhale and exhale a few times and focus on keeping a neutral spine (don't flatten the back or arch the back, but find a comfortable place in the middle).  Take a deep breath and while exhaling, tighten the abs and pull the navel towards the spine.  Concentrate on contracting the muscles below the belly button without flattening the lower back against the floor.  Practice this move, contracting and releasing.  When you're able to do this without arching or flattening your back, you're able to stabilize the pelvis and move on to the next exercise.  This Basic Breath will be used for all of the exercises.

Sahrmann Exercise #1
Lie on the floor with the knees bent.  Perform the Basic Breath and, keeping one knee bent, slowly slide the other leg out until it's parallel and just a few inches off the floor.  Bring the leg back and repeat on the other leg.  Once you're able to complete 20 reps on each leg, without losing the abdominal contraction, move to the next exercise.

Sahrmann Exercise #2
Lie on the floor with the knees bent.  Perform the Basic Breath and lift one knee towards the chest.  Straighten the leg so that it is parallel and about 2-3 inches off the floor. Bring the leg back to start and repeat with the other leg for 5 or more reps.  Once you're able to complete 20 reps on each leg, without losing the abdominal contraction, move to the next exercise.


Sahrmann Exercise #3
Perform the Basic Breath as you bring the knees up to a 90-degree angle.  Keep one leg bent and lower the other leg towards the floor, tapping the floor with your toe.  Complete 1-5 reps on the same leg and then switch sides.  Once you're able to complete 20 reps on each leg, without losing the abdominal contraction, move to the next exercise.

Sahrmann Exercise #4
Perform the Basic Breath as you bring the knees up to a 90-degree angle.  Keep one leg bent and extend the other leg out until it's parallel, but not touching the floor.  Repeat on the other leg, working up to 10 reps on each side.  Once you're able to complete 20 reps on each leg, without losing the abdominal contraction, move to the next exercise.

 

Sahrmann Exercise #5
Perform the Basic Breath and bring the legs into the chest.  Straighten both legs so that they're perpendicular to the floor.  Slowly lower both legs towards the floor, going as far as you can without arching the back.  Repeat for 5-10 reps, working up to 20 reps.

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More about postpartum fitness

Source:

Hyatt, Gwen and Cram, Catherine. Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise Design. Tuscon, AZ: DSW Fitness, 2003.

Photos © Paige Waehner

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