Congrats on the arrival of your baby! But what does motherhood mean for your workouts? Here’s what new Moms need to know about lifting and training.
How Training Can Help You Physically & Emotionally
As a brand-new Mom, you are probably experiencing a huge range of emotions about your own body right now. Some might be expected, and others might have completely taken you by surprise. Lifting weights and spending a little time in the gym (or simply carving out some time in your day at home to work out) can be a really valuable part of the post-pregnancy journey back to “you”.
Strength training can physically help your body repair and heal, and can do a great job in helping you feel better about post-baby body. Lifting can strengthen your self-confidence and mental resilience, as well as your muscles. If you trained before you were pregnant, it will give you a touchstone to connect with your own identity, outside of being a Mom and a source of care and nutrition for your baby. And if you’re new to lifting, get ready to experience the incredible side effects of strength training.
The First 6 Weeks
It goes without saying that you should only start or return to a strength training program under the guidance of a trainer who understands postpartum training, and that you should discuss your plans with your health practitioner. You might face some resistance (lots of health professionals still aren’t crazy about the idea of new Moms lifting weights), but it’s a good idea to tell them about your plans in any case.
Exercises To Help Post-Partum
Your focus should be on regaining stability, core and pelvic floor strength, and function. Body weight exercises will probably be enough, but you could get hold of some resistance bands or a suspension trainer if you were already training before your pregnancy.
As soon as you feel ready, you can start to work on connecting with your core through breathing exercises. Sure, these won’t feel like much if you’ve been used to getting under the bar, but it’s important not to neglect this early stage of getting back to training. You can work on your core strength whilst lying down on your back or side, sitting, or standing up. Connecting with your core and pelvic floor through controlled breathing exercises will help you gain back some control and stability through the abdominals, pelvic floor, low back and glutes. This will be far more effective (and less risky) than sit-ups, crunches or other direct ab work at this early stage.
Once you feel that you can connect your breath with your core, you could add in bodyweight glute bridges, clam shells (lying on your side) or gentle heel slides to gradually challenge core control a little more.
If you have resistance bands, band pull-aparts are a useful upper body strength and mobility exercise. And if you have use of a suspension trainer, you could add inverted rows into the mix if you feel confident with the move.
To work on stability of your new, post-pregnancy body, challenge your balance with a kneeling lunge and overhead stretch. Kneel on the floor in a lunge position, and reach the arm of the kneeling leg up, stretching over gently to the other side. Contract your glutes, stretch the hip flexor and ribs, and start to work on mobility and stability in this slightly unstable position.
Bodyweight squats are another great move you can introduce pretty early on after birth. Work on sinking back and down, and contracting the glutes and quads as you come back up to standing. Body weight squats will help you regain mobility through the low back and pelvis, and reintroduce your body to the idea of squatting.
Exercises To Avoid
You’ll probably have a pretty good instinctive sense of what’s not good for your recovering body. Avoid traditional ab exercises like sit-ups, crunches, plank holds and leg raises. Hold off on plyometric exercises like burpees, jump jacks, sprints and other conditioning type exercises. Overhead presses should be avoided until your body has healed a little more, as should any weighted exercise which encourages intra-abdominal pressure or places downward pressure on the pelvic floor (barbell squats and lunges, for example). Right now, these exercises will do you more harm than good, even if you’re super keen to get back to your old routine. Your pelvic floor needs more time to heal, and if you experienced abdominal separation then you need to be extra careful.
Use your gut feeling when it comes to intensity and discomfort. You can probably expect exercises to feel a little strange at first, and that’s probably OK. But if anything feels painful, is causing discomfort where you had any stitches, if you feel pressure on your bladder, or if you’re leaking pee, then stop. Working out in the first 6 weeks after giving birth is about gently encouraging function, stability and control, not about muscle gain or fat loss.
Take All The Time You Need
There are no rules about how often to work out when you’re a new Mom. How could there be, when every baby is different? But doing a little core work, body weight strength training, mobility and stability work will definitely help you regain your strength and set you up for a more enjoyable return to strength training once you get there.