Post Pregnancy Workout Plan
Having a baby brings about a great deal of changes, especially to a mother’s body. Some changes are temporary and revert back on their own, while others are permanent and become a new normal. Weight gain and reduced fitness are two common side effects that may not transition to pre-pregnancy status on their own but they certainly don’t have to be on the list of permanent changes either.
Thinking about your pre-pregnancy body and wanting to get healthier for your child are great motivators for ditching the extra weight after childbirth. And whether you’re a fitness professional creating a postpartum fitness plan or a mom setting up her own workout routine, we have the top tips to help you get that post-pregnancy body feeling more fit.
First things first: Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any postpartum exercise plan. Not all moms recover from childbirth at the same rate and certain procedures, such as a C-section, may require additional precautions. It may get frustrating to wait a few weeks, but allowing adequate time for the body to recover reduces the risk for setbacks and supports a safe road to fitness.
Ease into a Post-Pregnancy Workout Plan
Once your client has been cleared by her doctor to begin working out, start out slow. Your client’s body just cycled through a host of changes; respect those changes and give her body to time adjust accordingly. Begin with something simple like Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises can be done just about anywhere, which is especially convenient for new moms who struggle to find time for a workout.
Add a little more activity with short, easy walks to get the body moving and blood flowing. Walk on a smooth, flat surface, whether that is a treadmill in the gym or through the neighborhood. Relaxin, a hormone produced to prep the body for childbirth, may still be present postpartum, which can mean lessened joint stability. So, remind your client to skip the hills and rocky trails until stability and strength have returned.
Free weights are another option for easing into a postpartum workout routine. These are an easy addition to your client’s initial fitness routine if she isn’t ready to hit the gym yet. Keep the weight light, nothing over 20 pounds. Use just enough to get a feel for having weights back in your hands.
- Dumbbell flyes
- Dumbbell press
- Dumbbell curl
- One-arm dumbbell triceps extension
- Dumbbell triceps kickback
Lose the Baby Belly
Trimming down the baby belly is a common goal for new moms. This area went through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth, so have your client confirm with her doctor that she is safe to begin working her abdominal muscles. The transverse abdominis is one of the key muscles to strengthen when working to flatten that belly. Focus on drawing-in exercises—pulling the belly button toward the spine—and abdominal squeezes to start. As your client gains strength, add exercises such as plank, boat pose, and stability ball crunches.
Check in on your diet as well. You’ll need about 500 extra calories if you’re still breast feeding, so keep an eye on your intake to ensure you’re meeting the basic needs of your body. Make a point to eat healthy food—colorful vegetables and fruits, protein, and whole grains—to support your body’s needs while reducing any additional weight gain.
For additional tips, review the ISSA blog article about ditching the postpartum belly.
Workout with Your Baby
As your client builds her strength and endurance, start adding a few more options and encourage her to include her baby. Including the baby means mom and baby get to spend time together, which is always a win. A good stroller makes it easy to bring the baby along for walks. Also, holding the baby can add weight and resistance to several postpartum workout options:
- Walking lunges – hold the baby against your chest as you move through your lunges
- Overhead press – in a seated position, hold your baby at your chest and then lift her overhead and slowly lower down
- Chest press – lie on your back, baby on your chest, press her up toward the ceiling and slowly lower down
- Curl – lie on your back, knees bent with feet on the floor, and the baby at your hips; engage your core, lifting your upper body to your baby until shoulders are off the floor, hold, then release back down
- Reverse curl – lie on your back, knees bent with feet lifted, and the baby on your shins; engage your core, lifting your upper body and hip upward until you can kiss your baby’s forehead, then release back down
For each of these or any other baby-inclusive exercises, practice without the baby first, to ensure you have the moves down. Then make sure you can provide the correct support for your baby—some exercises may require the baby to hold its own head up, so save those exercises for later in the workout plan if your child isn’t ready yet.
Tips for Postpartum Fitness Success
Find a partner
Whether you gather friends for a daily walk, join a group class, or enlist the help of a personal trainer, having someone else involved in your fitness plan will promote motivation and support long-term success. Check out the ISSA article on postpartum motivation for more tips get you moving and keep your progress going strong.
Hydration is always important in supporting a healthy body, and even more so if you’re still breastfeeding. Check back on our hydration guidelines to make sure you’re getting enough water to support your daily needs plus more for when you’re exercising.
Get some rest
We know it can be hard to find time for yourself with a new baby, but this one is especially important. You need time for your body to recover, not just from exercising but also from the regular daily stress of being a mom.
Just as each pregnancy is different, so is each mother’s weight loss and fitness journey. Some moms are fit before getting pregnant and for other moms having a baby may be the first thing that inspired them to get fit. Focus only on your fitness level, your body, and your goals.
Navigating postpartum fitness can be a tough process, but the health benefits are worth it. Take it slow and keep your goals in mind.
If you enjoy working with new moms, considering expanding your skills to include the whole family with the ISSA Youth Fitness Certification. With this certification you’ll learn how to tailor a fitness plan to the unique needs of kids and teens as they grow physically and mentally.
Click HERE to download this handout and share with your clients!