It’s hard to navigate postpartum life, never mind navigating postpartum workouts.
Your body has changed, and while that’s not a bad thing, you may also be dealing with some not so pleasant changes, like leaking, Diastasis Recti, or back pain.
*note: each section contains workout links.
When we think about core or pelvic floor dysfunction, we tend to think only about, well… our cores and pelvic floors. But, by only thinking of those areas, we may be ignoring some of the contributing factors to that dysfunction!
Let’s take a quick look at the upper body. Pressing things overhead, rotating, pressing things away are all actions that we do in everyday life. But, if we don’t have the strength for something, we tend to hold our breath, bear down, and suck in our abs for dear life. Lack of range of motion may also make us push our chests out and use our abs instead of the upper body for this lifting.
This combo of holding breath, bearing down, and less than ideal posture can put too much pressure on our cores and pelvic floors, and may keep them from healing. This is why upper body strength is so important! The good news is that you don’t have to do anything crazy to see some results or improvement. Awareness, proper form, and consistent practice can go a long way. No hours of time working out needed, because busy moms don’t have time for that!
So, enough chatting, here are the upper body exercises. You can do them all at once, or maybe just pick a few. Don’t forget to stretch when you’re done! Range of motion is very important for overall strength and health.
Side raise https://youtu.be/ke6CUy4Utsk
Banded shoulder rotation https://youtu.be/aKyHEXYaH4w
Triceps kickbacks https://youtu.be/Wv4nuKvtDXc
Triceps overhead press https://youtu.be/k2yYpV1t9iA
Plank with shoulder rotation https://youtu.be/GYOK61JEJBY
Stretch and release https://youtu.be/5_ycfr958To
Have you noticed that your butt is flatter now that you’ve had a baby or two? Does your back hurt, especially when lifting or carrying something heavy?
Our glutes are the powerhouse of our bodies. They were made for heavy lifting and moving. But, they tend to get turned off after we’ve had a baby. Think about it: when we’re pregnant, everything grows bigger out in front, so the body compensates by shifting those hips forward. We are most likely squeezing those butt cheeks together as well when doing the lifting or moving of all the things. (side note: clenched butt = clenched pelvic floor) The human body; master of compensation.
Over time, this can become our regular posture, so we never really work those glutes. When it’s time to hold a kid, or lift something off the ground, we are most likely rounding our backs, squeezing our butt and abs for all its worth, holding our breath and hoping for the best. But we are forgetting to use the major movers! The back, core and pelvic floor are stabilizers, not movers. No wonder our backs are yelling by the end of the day!
So, let’s get those butts moving again. Pay careful attention to your breathing and alignment, as this plays a huge role in overall pressure management!
Side hip thrusts https://youtu.be/PCHPobBK-Vk
Penguin walks https://youtu.be/fHQR8W3hnXI
Single sided glute bridges https://youtu.be/Dt7vEaKErTk
Froggy bridges https://youtu.be/x8SNjvnAVbU
Stretch and release https://youtu.be/Su4-KlGj7UM
Back strength is super important. Everything in the body is connected, so if your back is weak, other areas will have to do the lifting. Your upper/midback was meant to lift the heavy things, your lower back is meant to stabilize.
Watch your form as you’re doing these exercises. Try to keep neutral posture (ribs over hips, in a straight line) as this allows the diaphragm to work well with the core/pelvic floor, and it also allows the muscles to do their thing if they’re lined up. Is your low back rounded? Try to lengthen your glutes to support the low back. This will help reduce injuries.
You may notice that when upper body work gets hard, we tend to suck in our bellies, clench and tuck our butts, and stop doing that beautiful diaphragmatic breathing. Awareness is key!
Band pull aparts https://youtu.be/VRO6sY-vLf4
Band pull downs https://youtu.be/aMRPrm1ZSx0
Rear delt flys https://youtu.be/f9DP935mtRY
Face pull rows https://youtu.be/kZ0rZSXmzxg
Stretch and release https://youtu.be/AKJBMHbB5O8
Inner thighs aka adductors
Your inner thighs are kind of like external versions of your pelvic floor. So, if they’re tight or weak, there’s a good chance that’s what your pelvic floor is like too. It also goes the other way; by improving your inner thigh strength and flexibility, you are also improving your pelvic floor function!
Adductors are important for pelvic stability, especially in pregnancy and even postpartum.
Sumo squats https://youtu.be/sby-VCiUug8
Lying leg lift https://youtu.be/eeEhXPWxjrM
Pile squats https://youtu.be/r9ceBUykFE0
Pillow squeeze https://youtu.be/Ny-Bx9C-DZU
Your core is made of more than just your abs. Your core does all kinds of things in everyday life, so your workout should reflect that.
Muscles get stronger due to gradual overload. So, if you have diastasis recti, you can improve your DR by gradually challenging those muscles.
How do you know if you’re doing too much? If you notice doming or coning, pain, pressure, or peeing, that is a sign to back off. You can reset your breathing and alignment and try again, but maybe you need to modify a movement, or wait a few weeks before trying it again.
I also want to say that there are no specific safe or unsafe exercises for DR, it all depends how you’re doing an exercise. Some people will notice coning in planks, others won’t. So its important to look and feel your belly so you can see what’s going on!
Take the time to stretch and release. Muscles need to move in a full range of motion in order to get stronger, and that includes the relaxation part.
90-90 breathing https://youtu.be/XEs7Tut-ZpA
Side plank and reach https://youtu.be/RY_TlsqYJq8
90-90 breathing with weight pass https://youtu.be/qxBg8doG_fg
Bear plank with shoulder tap https://youtu.be/jC2dx2l7oJI
See-saw plank https://youtu.be/O5vi4fWxASE
Stretch and release https://youtu.be/Ze9z5gldlKI