Whether you exercised while you were pregnant or not, you will need a little time to heel after having the baby. Doctors recommend 6 weeks, or longer for Caesarean.
However... if you can't possibly wait until the 6/12 weeks are up then there are some things you can do to prepare your body to getting back into exercise. If you're used to HIIT training, lifting heavy and getting super sweaty then you might not like these too much, they're gentle but effective! The level 1 exercises are also good to help heel a 2 finger + Diastasis Recti Gap.
The exercises I'm going to share are more about reengaging with your abs, helping them to recover from being stretched for the last 9 months. They can be done when you start to feel ready to move your body, some even just days after giving birth. You can do them on the floor at home, or in the garden, or even in bed!
These exercises are designed to help build your core and working the Transverse Abdominis (The deepest ab muscle that wraps around the spine for support, stability and protection.)
Let's start with the very first exercises you can try, then build on them over the coming weeks.
Standing or sitting belly button to spine contraction - top help flatten the abdomen and help with correct posture
Breathe in, then as you exhale draw the tummy button gently into the spine, hold for a few seconds, and relax - without pushing out the abdomen
Throughout the day, increase the hold as you progress and remember to breathe throughout!
Bridge - To use the Rectus Abdominis to articulate the spine, with the help of the glutes and hammys. Also great for stiff backs!
How to: Lie on your back with feet flat on floor. Peel your hips off the floor as you exhale. Pause at the highest point with your shoulders still firmly on the floor. Gradually bring your hips back down, slowly thinking one vertebrae at a time. Don't squeeze your bum too tight at the top of the movement as you might get a cramp!
Level 1- 6 weeks post baby (Kneeling should be avoiding pre 6 weeks)
Find your neutral all fours position, hips over knees, shoulders over hands, fingers facing forwards. Tilt pelvis to the extreme one way, and then the other, then find the mid point between the two extremes to find your neutral spine.
Bird dog - to help use the Transverse abdominis to help stabilise the torso when moving arms and legs.
Inhale. As you breathe out bring belly button to spine and bring one arm out ahead of you and the opposite leg out behind you. Try to lift parallel to the floor. Try 6-12 repetitions on each side. Go slow and breathe.
Toe touches - Challenge the Transverse Abdominis to stabilise when moving the legs
Sit in a table top position (lie on back with legs up at 90 degrees) as you exhale draw belly button into spine and lower your left foot to the floor, keeping your back down on the mat. Breathe in to lift leg back to table top, switch legs.
Modified plank - To help stabilise the torso
Lie on the floor, upper body lifted on elbows, hips down. Draw belly button in and lift off the floor, using your abs, remember to breathe!! Hold for seconds then come back down. Remember to keep your head and spine in line. If this is too tough, try keeping your hips on the floor.
WHAT TO AVOID?
- Exercises for the obliques, for example Russian twists
- Exercise which involves too much side bending
WHAT IF I STILL HAVE A BIG GAP?
- Start with the level 1 exercises and work those deep TA muscles. You can do these everyday, particularly the naval to spine contraction. Don't rush it, heel yourself from the inside.