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Expert Reveals Top 5 Exercises for Postpartum Mothers

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New mothers can feel so much pressure to get back into shape after giving birth. Still, everybody’s postpartum bodies look different, and a rigorous gym routine is not always the correct answer – despite what we may see on TV. 

As part of Reebok’s Fitness Trainer Index, a study in which they have found out where it is best to become a personal trainer in the UK, along with the average costs of gyms and trainers around the UK, the team at Reebok has also spoken to personal trainer Emily Gilliland. She specialises in pregnancy and postnatal personal training to tell us the importance of investing in a personal trainer if you want to join or head back to the gym postpartum.

‘It can be incredibly tempting to rush back into exercise after having a baby. Your body may feel and look different, and you want to get back to feeling like yourself. The sweat-inducing high-impact HIIT session or boot camp is calling, but your postnatal body needs a different approach.’

‘It may seem boring, but postnatal rehab will help build back the foundations of your strength. Your body has been through a lot, and it needs some TLC to help it heal and recover fully. If you spend time now strengthening your core and pelvic floor, it will allow you to build your ideal, strong, functional body. It is helping you avoid any future issues.’ Check here for postpartum checklist.

Emily added: ‘High impact or unsuitable exercise too soon could create dysfunction – incontinence, back pain, pelvic pain, prolapse – even if none were present before.’

‘That doesn’t mean any exercise or being scared to move. However, it does mean the right exercises at the right level. If you have just had a baby, had a baby a while ago but have not exercised, attempted exercise but struggled with leaking/pain, etc. Then it would help if you began with gentle restorative movement that will re-connect you with your pelvic floor and core.’

She mentioned: ‘A qualified postnatal personal trainer will prescribe exercise that helps strengthen and heal and not worsen any issues you may be experiencing.’

‘They will also be able to account for any issues you may be experiencing postnatally. Such as diastasis recti or pelvic floor issues, or even a night with no sleep. They will also refer you to the relevant medical or health professional, should the need arise.’

‘If a postnatal personal trainer isn’t available to you, look for online programmes that have been created by postnatal fitness specialists, which will build you up and get you ready for whatever exercise you’d like to do in the future.’

Going back to the gym can feel overwhelming for some new mums, and many will not feel they have the time or extra money if this is the case. We asked Emily for her top safe exercises that postpartum mothers can do in the comfort of their own homes. 

Five safe at-home postpartum exercises

Leg Marches

Lay on the mat with your knees bent and feet about hip-distance apart. Start from a strong activated core position. Exhale and activate the core and pelvic floor. Keep your pelvis stable, with abs drawing lightly in and up and ribs down. 

Bring one foot up and down as if doing a bent leg march. Inhale as you bring the foot up and exhale, pulling the ribs and hips together and keeping the back flat on the mat, as you bring the foot down towards the floor.

Glute Bridges

Lay on the mat with your knees bent and feet about hip-distance apart. Start with a neutral spine; make sure there is no tilting the pelvis backwards or forwards. 

Begin the exhale and engage your core and floor. Start to bring the hips up, pressing the heels into the floor and squeezing the glutes. Hold for a second or so at the top, squeezing the glutes hard to ensure they are doing the work. 

Release as you inhale and come down, making sure you don’t drop the hips too fast. Come down in a slow and controlled motion.

Box/chair squat

Begin with a bench, box or chair behind you, far enough away so you have room to move but close enough so that you can finish the movement sitting on the box. To set up, start with your feet about hip distance apart. Ensure that the ribs are down throughout the movement and your core is engaged enough to ensure that the work is happening in your legs and glutes and not your lower back.

Start the movement by pushing the hips back as you begin to squat down. The knees stay tracking over the toes and do not push forward. Please don’t allow them to collapse inward during the motion. Ensure your balance stays in the mid-foot, not the toes and keep a lengthened spine as you fold at the hips and bend at the knees. Inhale as you come down to the box. 

When your bottom reaches the box, maintain muscle engagement (don’t relax into the seat), exhale, engage the floor and core and concentrate on keeping the ribs down as you push through the legs and glutes to bring yourself back to standing.

Band pull apart

Come up to standing or kneeling, if you prefer. Start with a long resistance band about shoulder distance apart at shoulder height. 

As you exhale, create your core activation by engaging the pelvic floor and pulling the ribs down to the hips, squeezing the shoulder blades together and using your back strength to pull the band apart. Arms straight with a slight bend at the elbow to relieve pressure on joints, ribs down. Inhale and release the arms back to the starting position.

Bird dog

Come into a quadruped position – knees under hips, hands under shoulders. Ensure the back is neutral and you aren’t sinking into the shoulder blades or arching the lower back. 

On exhale, activate the core and lift your right arm and left leg straight out so they end up extended in front and behind you. Squeeze the glutes. Don’t tip or twist or allow the back to arch. Inhale the arm and leg back down to the starting position and release the glutes at the bottom of the movement. Repeat on the other side.

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