I've never had a super strong core, never had a 6 pack. Frankly, that's not what I'm looking for. But I do want to have the core strength to do moderate exercise everyday, keep up with these rascals and simply feel healthy. It took my body a good 3 to 4 months to feel my "normal" again after having my son almost 5 years ago. I gave birth to my daughter almost 9 months ago and I am still working to get my core muscles back to what feels normal to me. This isn't about bouncing back or going to my pre-baby weight, that ship has sailed and frankly I'm fine with that. I carried two human lives and ushered them into this world, I am completely accepting of my softer midsection. But this time around my core was so weak it was causing me discomfort, I felt sluggish and moving my body took more effort. If I wanted to begin working out again, which is so important for my mental health, I would need to strengthen my stomach.
Me weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my second baby.
I wanted to get stronger, but my stomach was so weak and altered from pregnancy that I didn't have the strength to workout as I had before. It didn't make sense to start doing crunches and planks to tighten my stomach muscles, but what should I do? I began researching postpartum exercises. I learned that so many of the muscles that support our core are strengthened through other larger muscle groups within our body - mostly our legs, glutes, posture or posterior chain of muscles. Once I found the key exercises that would help re-build my stomach muscles I began doing them whenever I had time and always with proper form. It is so crucial when working out to use proper form, especially when you're dealing with a weakened muscle group - like my baby making tummy!
Here are some of the exercises that helped me rebuild my core. It took a solid 3 to 4 months of practicing these specific exercises before I could workout harder with other strength training and HIIT workouts.
Heel Taps (laying on your back)
Start by doing 3 sets of 10-15 reps of the above exercises. A quick google search for any you're unfamiliar with will help. Along with doing this workout I would do pelvic floor exercises and breathing techniques to help pull the abdominal muscles (the 6 pack) back together, since often times the toll of pregnancy on the body results in these muscles separating slightly (a more serious instance of this is called diastasis recti, you should seek help from a medical professional if you think you have this). If you're ever short on time just try to add some squats into your day - these have a huge benefit on strengthening your core and the posterior chain. And if you simply don't have the energy as a new mom to focus on any exercises, try to do some movement or stretching and always maintain good posture - it helps so much with that posterior chain of muscles.
What does it mean to activate your core?
Draw your belly button to your spine and pull your belly button up, as if you were drawing your stomach in and up your spine. When doing a pose, like heel taps, you want to ensure your lower back is flat against the ground at all times - if not back off and do less reps. You'll slowly build strength and will be able to do the exercises with proper form by keeping your stomach muscles drawn in.
Take a deep breath in allowing your belly to fill with air and as you breath out forcefully draw your stomach towards your spine while pulling your belly button up towards your diaphragm. Always remember to draw your belly in on the exhalation So, imagine your belly button pulling back against your spine and up towards your ribs.
Do about 10-15 complete breaths once a day.
I used the Tone It Up app and am in love with their philosophy, how they teach their workouts and their focus on female empowerment through building strong bodies and minds. They have tons of great workouts for prenatal, postnatal, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), plyo, and foam rolling. It's worth every penny!
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