After having babies, I completely understand that dire need to begin sweating off the baby weight, and to start moving to get back to feeling like your (non-pregnant) self. I get it! But so many times we fail to rebuild the most important muscle groups that were strained all during pregnancy and practically tortured through labor (ha!)…our core!
For the next 3 weeks, I’m going to give you 5-6 simple, postpartum friendly Pilates moves that can be done so long as you have clearance from your OB or midwife to begin exercising again.
(For the record, these moves can also be done if your babies are no longer “babies”, but you need to give your core some love!) Each move will focus on deep core stabilization and strengthening. Each week will build upon the week before, so shoot to complete each workout at least 2 or 3 times before moving onto the next one. These moves can be performed on their own, they can be added on to supplement a cardio or weight training workout, or you can even turn it into a quick Pilates circuit workout by completing 3 or so rounds of all the exercises.
So here we go with Week #1!
Postpartum Pilates Mini-Series (Workout 1 of 3)
When beginning any workout, (Pilates or otherwise!) it’s important to engage your abdominal or core muscles. So, our workouts will always begin with the lateral rib cage breath. Then, proceed on to other exercises.
Here is a quick rundown of the 5 moves:
- Bridge With Pelvic Floor Squeeze
- Bent Knee Marches
- Single Leg Hip Circles
- Single Leg Stretch
- Side Lying Series – Circles, Abduction, Knee Dive to Kick Out
Supine (lie on your back):
lateral ribcage breath: lying on your back with your knees bent and separated hip distance and feet on the floor, scoop your belly button towards the lower back and in towards your heart. As you scoop, try to find length between your belly button and center front of your pelvis (pubic symphysis). By keeping your belly still and abdominals engaged (yes, even through your inhales) you will feel your ribs moving laterally as you breath.
1)Bridge with Pelvic Floor Squeeze
- After finding your lateral ribcage breath, begin peeling your spine off the floor one notch at a time, starting from your tailbone.
- Initiate the movement by rocking your pelvis back towards your head, then lifting the pelvis and spine off the floor until you are balanced between your shoulder blades.
- Once you are at the top of your bridge (hips are up, but head is still down), squeeze your pelvic floor muscles (yes THOSE bathroom muscles) together and up. Think about engaging these muscles by first pulling the base of your pelvis into your center, then drawing the “floor” towards your heart.
- Try to keep your pelvic floor muscles engaged as you roll down out of the bridge.
- Repeat sequence 10 times.
2) Bent Knee Marches (opposite arm reach for extra challenge)
- Staying on your back, lift your legs up to tabletop position. Your knees will align over your hips, and the shins will run parallel to the ceiling.
- Press your hands down into the floor by your hips.
- Keeping your knees bent, lower your right leg down until your heel or toe touches the ground, then pull it back up to the start position and repeat with the other leg.
- Complete 10 sets
(Bonus: try the dead bug variation by raising your arm above head as the opposite leg taps the ground.) (optional) 5 sets
3) Single Leg Hip Circles
- Extend one leg straight up to the ceiling, with a slight turnout at the hip.
- Make sure your extended knee is very straight.
- Keep the other knee bent and very still as you circle the extended leg.
- Arms are pressed down by your sides to help with stability.
- Circle the leg 10 times each direction.
- Repeat on your other leg.
Added challenge: After you finish circles on one leg, place your hands behind your head and curl your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor while rotating your trunk towards the straightened leg. (optional) 5 reps
4) Single Leg Stretch
- Keeping your head down, Pull your right knee into your chest while extending your left leg away from you. (The lower your straight leg, the harder you have to work to keep your lower back stabilized so bring the leg higher to modify if needed!)
- With your exhale, use your hands to pulse the bent knee in over the same side ribcage.
- Inhale as you switch legs. 1 set is right then left leg.
- Complete 10 sets.
5) Side Lying Series – Circles, Abduction, Knee Dive to Kick Out
- Lie on your side.
- If using a mat, try to align your spine with the back edge of it.
- Stack your shoulders and hips as if aligned against a wall.
- Place your top arm in front of your belly.
Circles: Take your top leg and extend it long, reaching through your toes. Circle the leg the size of a basketball. Circle 10 times each direction.
Leg Abduction: With that same leg lengthened, press through your heel and lift the leg towards the ceiling. (Extra challenge, turn your toes down towards the floor and lift the leg towards the ceiling, leading with the heel) 10 times
Knee Dive To Kick Out: Bent the top knee and “dive” it towards the bottom knee, then straighten and lift the leg and press it out at a diagonal, higher than the hip. 10 times
Optional challenge: after sidelying work one one side, roll onto your back and complete 3 modified rolls to teaser before repeating side lying work with other leg. Be sure to repeat work on other leg!
Let me know how this mini workout goes, and be on the lookout for Postpartum Pilates workouts 2 and 3!