That post baby blur known as the fourth trimester is a great chance to do a body reset that will pay off way into your fitness future. Follow this postpartum ab workout to regain strength in your core and develop a strong mind-body connection with this important muscle group.
Practice Breathing Exercises
Are you sitting down for this? Good, that's exactly where your stronger-than-before core begins. "Recovering your core strength — in your deep abdominals and pelvic floor — starts with breathing exercises," says Or Artzi, a group fitness instructor at Equinox gym in New York who is certified in postnatal conditioning. Try her drill to strengthen your posture.
A. Sit tall, and place your hands on your lower ribs, fingers in front, thumbs around your back. Inhale so that you expand your rib cage (and into your hands) all the way: front, back, and sides. Then on an exhale, just let it go.
B. Next, repeat the same inhale, and focus on releasing your pelvic floor muscles.
C. Do a third big inhale, and on the exhale, engage your pelvic floor muscles. Consciously squeeze from all directions.
D. Finally, inhale and then exhale as slow and long as you can — so there's no air left in your lungs — feeling your navel draw toward your spine as a result, while you engage your pelvic floor. "Your core will be tight like a boxer bracing to absorb a punch," says Artzi.
Try Bodyweight Moves
Now get on the floor to build on that core wake-up call. This four-move postpartum ab workout from Artzi dials in your abs, pelvic floor, and more without planks. "I'm actually practicing these exercises as a warm-up for my clients who are not pregnant," she says. They're so good that you'll want to keep them on repeat. Go through the postpartum ab workout circuit two to three times. (Related: Post-Pregnancy Core Strengthening Exercises with Emily Skye)
Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift one leg in the air and squeeze glutes as you raise hips. Hold for a count, and lower. Do 10 reps. Switch sides, and repeat.
Tabletop Heel Tap
Lying on back with knees aligned directly over your hips and bent 90 degrees, slowly tap one heel and then the other to the floor. Do eight to 10 reps per leg.
Lying on back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, press one heel forward on the floor as you straighten the leg. Return to start, then repeat with other heel. Do eight to 10 reps per leg.
Start on the floor on all fours, then raise one arm straight forward and the opposite leg directly behind you. Switch sides; repeat. Do 10 reps per side.
Finally, Consider the Sneeze Test
Banking low-impact cardio like a walk "can make a happy heart and a happy mama," says Artzi. As for when the time is right for running or burpees, check in with your pelvic floor muscles. "If you experience leakage after a sneeze, a cough, or laughing, return to the steps above so that you establish that control back; you'll be heading out strong." (BTW, this is what your first few weeks of postpartum exercise should look like.)