Abdominal separation. It’s no joke.
In the eight months of not being pregnant between baby #1 and baby #2, my abdominals never came back together. And eight weeks after Adelaide was born I checked my gap and could fit THREE fingers between my left and right abs. Pretty soon after that, I began really looking into a good post partum ab workout that would help strengthen and heal my core without causing more damage. I was frustrated with how contradicting everything seemed to be online so I talked to my doctor and a physical therapist and really listened to my body over the last few months.
I had so many of you ask about this when I’ve talked about working out post partum so I wanted to share. I am not a doctor so it’s important to consult with your physician and LISTEN to your body while you exercise post baby.
Here’s what I learned, what I did (well, what I’m doing), and what I’m avoiding:
At this point, 5 months post partum, there is still a slight gap in my abdominals but it’s less than a finger’s width which is smaller than I was at this point after baby #1.
You want to avoid anything that requires pivoting at the hip (like a traditional crunches or leg lifts). These exercises put a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall and can worsen your separation or slow down the healing process. I missed this memo the first time and did so many crunches after Lincoln was born. Not helpful.
Instead, you want to strengthen your whole core and specifically, your deep abdominals (transverse abdominals).
Movements to start with:
These are things I started a few weeks post partum and some of which I continue almost daily.
- Pelvic tilts: Lie on your back with you knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tilt your pelvis up, pressing your lower back into the floor. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
- Belly breathing: Breathe deeply so your stomach moves in and out instead of your chest moving up and down.
- Scoops: Sit with your bottom on the floor, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back about thirty degrees, using your hands to hold on behind your thighs. Scoop your abdominals by engaging your core, sucking your belly button into your spine, and slightly curving your back. Release by straightening your back and repeat.
- Cat + Cow Poses: These yoga poses (on your hands and needs arching your back and then rounding it) were lifesavers during pregnancy for me and I do them regularly for back pain. I read contradictory information online about these post partum but for me they’re great stretches.
- Walking: Just moving regularly and engaging your abs by sucking in is helpful.
- Childs Pose: It’s also relaxing and anyone who has had a baby within the last year needs some relaxation.
Movements to incorporate:
I added these at about 10 weeks post partum
- Planks: PLANKS! These have been the biggest game changer for me and the exercise I do the most. I break down my specific plank workout below but just do what you can and listen to your body. I quit when I’m feeling too much pressure and it took me weeks of regular planks before I could hold one for longer than 45 seconds. I started these when I started TRX at about 3 months post partum. I was hesitant but this is when I saw the biggest improvement.
- Single leg lift: I read quite a bit about avoiding leg lifts and I could feel they weren’t doing good things for my body but single leg lifts have been great. Just lie on your back with both legs flat on the floor and raise one up at a time.
- Body weight squats: I started with body weight squats but I also do them while holding my baby or my toddler so 10 – 30 pounds. Just be sure to be engaging your core while doing the exercise.
15 second plank, 15 second rest, 30 second plank, 30 second rest, 45 second plank, 45 second rest, 60 second plank, 60 second rest, 45 second plank, 45 second rest, 30 second plank, 30 second rest, 15 second plank.
Go as far as you can, listening to your body. If you can only hold a 30 second plank, skip the 45 second and 60 second steps but continue with the final 15 second plank. If you can only do 45 seconds, skip the 60 second plank but finish with a 30 second plank, break, and 15 second plank. Does that make sense? Basically, you’re working your way up and then down the ladder.
I also added in some side planks and eventually, when planking from my elbows, would push up to my hands in the middle of the plank and then go back down to my elbows for a bit of an arm workout and to engage my core in different ways.
Also worth noting:
This time around I also did purchase a post partum wrap and while I didn’t wear it religiously, it was really great at keeping my core engaging when I had it on. I just ordered this relatively inexpensive wrap and was super pleased with it (especially after reading reviews comparing it to things three and four times its price).
I’m also a huge proponent of great workout clothes. When I saw my sweet friend Taylor was debuting a pair of workout pants I jumped at the chance to own a pair (also edged on by the fact that I was sick of wearing my maternity workout pants and my regular clothes still didn’t fit). FIVE YEARS AGO Taylor was my very first paid sponsor of this blog and since then she’s finished fashion design school in NYC, designed for Tommy Hilfiger, and launched her OWN LINE of dance + athletic wear. Anyway, these high waisted leggings are perfect. They hold and suck and tuck in all the right places and are comparable to something you’d get at lululemon. She’s great. Her line is great. Check it out.
And now I’d LOVE to hear what post partum exercises you guys have been doing? What has worked for you? Did you walk with your little one? Join a gym? Take classes? Do tell 🙂
P.S. This post is not sponsored by anything or anyone other than my shrinking ab separation. I just like planks. And these workout pants. 😉
Do your fellow moms a favor and pin it for later: