Becoming a mother is incredible, but pregnancy and giving birth demands a lot from your body. Rebuilding and returning to fitness is a journey.
As a trainer, mom of two and creator of Emily Skye FIT, my postpartum workout program is built around the same strength training that helped me recover and return to fitness after my babies. It’s not about “bouncing back”, it’s about helping you regain strength and mobility, strengthening your pelvic floor and core, increasing endurance and getting you back to the activities you enjoy.
I’m here to tell you there are no expectations and no time limits. Your body is amazing. I want to help women focus on how their body feels and what it does, rather than how it “looks”.
All of my workouts have been created with safety as the top priority. It’s so important not to rush your postpartum recovery. Below, I’m sharing 5 strength-training exercises from my program that will help you start rebuilding strength.
Note: Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, as there are some situations where exercise may not be advised. FIT Post-Pregnancy has been designed so that you can commence the program after your 6-10 week postpartum checkup and with doctor’s clearance. This should be used as a guide only—do not start the program without your doctor’s permission. If you had a C-section, it is vital that you discuss your return to exercise with your doctor before beginning any new regimen.
5 postpartum exercises to rebuild strength
1. Alternating leg lifts
Even once you’ve been cleared for exercise, any core work at this stage of your recovery needs to be slow and controlled—remember, don’t push your limits.
I encourage you to get proactive about rebuilding your pelvic floor and deep core strength (which takes in 5 muscles sitting below your abs), even if you haven’t experienced diastasis recti. This move is taken from the very first workout of my FIT Post-Pregnancy program—that’s how important rebuilding strength in these areas is!
Lower yourself onto your back, knees bent with your heels just in front of your butt, arms by your side with palms on the floor.
Take a deep breath in, then as you breathe out, imagine you are zipping up skinny jeans—drawing up your pelvic floor and flattening your back to the floor.
Keeping your core engaged and your back flat, lift up your right leg up so your shin forms a tabletop.
Breathe in and gently lower the leg back down until your foot is back on the mat. As you breathe out, lift up the other leg, and repeat.
If you feel your back is lifting or your hips are rolling, reset and go again. Make sure you are breathing throughout.
2. Modified deadlifts
Wait to attempt this exercise until you are at least 12-16 weeks postpartum and ready to increase intensity.
Deadlifts are the perfect exercise to strengthen your glutes, quads and hamstrings, which is essential for picking up and carrying your new baby.
You can perform this modified deadlift using light dumbbells, or stick with bodyweight to find good form and start building strength.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, and arms straight so you are holding your fists in front of each thigh.
Now hinge at the hips, lowering your fists towards the top of your feet.
Stop when your fists reach your knees, then return to standing position, and repeat.
3. Skating lunges
Wait to attempt this exercise until you are at least 18 weeks postpartum and ready to lift the tempo with more HIIT-style cardio.
As well as continuing to build your leg and booty strength, these lunges will help to boost cardio endurance. You’ll need it when baby starts to walk!
Begin standing with your feet around hip-width apart and your arms slightly out to each side.
With your core engaged and head facing forward, step your right foot back behind and out to the side of your left foot.
As you land on the ball of your right foot, drop your rear knee toward the floor and bend at your front knee, reaching your opposite hand down towards your left toes.
Rise back up to the starting position, then step your left foot back and to the side of your right foot.
Take it at your pace, but try to keep up a steady side-to-side skating rhythm.
4. Standing shoulder press
Wait to attempt this exercise until you are at least 18 weeks postpartum and ready to lift heavier weights. This exercise is best with dumbbells or heavy canned goods.
Strengthening your shoulders will not only support carrying your baby, but keep your posture upright and help to prevent aches and pains that can come with breastfeeding.
Firmly plant your feet at shoulder width and engage your core.
Hold the dumbbells just above shoulder height, with a 90-degree bend in your elbows.
Now press the weights straight up until your arms are fully extended, hold for a beat, then lower them back down to starting position. Keep a steady pace.
5. Plank on knees
Wait to attempt this exercise once you are at least 12-16 weeks postpartum and ready to increase intensity.
Even if you haven’t experienced diastasis recti, this modified plank is another step in rebuilding core strength. Besides laying a great foundation for your return to fitness, a strong core will help to protect your back when you’re picking up and putting down your baby.
Lower yourself onto your knees and elbows, placing your elbows directly under your shoulders and pointing your toes out behind you.
Engage your core by pulling your belly button up towards your spine.
Try to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your glutes—don’t dip at the hips or stick your booty into the air.
Hold the plank for 40 seconds, remembering to breathe while you do.