From the expert: 4 tips for (safely) starting to strengthen your core after having a baby

core strength experts fitness postpartum May 04, 2022

From our 2022 resident scholar and prenatal and postpartum fitness expert Jessica Sennet, founder and CEO of Mighty Mom

 “How do I strengthen my core after having a baby?”

That’s one of the most common questions I get from new moms when they are thinking about returning to exercise after giving birth. And you know what? It makes so much sense. 

If you think about it, the muscles of the core are the most compromised during pregnancy, labour and delivery—and with all the confusing information out there in the digital world, it’s hard to know exactly what to do and where to start. 

But don’t worry; I’ve got you! I’ve helped thousands of women return to exercise after giving birth, and I’m going to give you all my best tips to help you start to move your body with confidence and start making progress right away. 

Let’s dive in!

Connect to your breath

Building strength in your core after baby cannot happen if your core muscles are not activating and communicating with each other properly. Your deep core muscles (diaphragm, transverse abs, pelvic floor and your multifidus, which is also known as your back muscle) are compromised during pregnancy and it takes some time to rehabilitate them in postpartum recovery. When you breathe, these muscles work together to create a pressurized system in your body that supports every movement you do. If you learn how to engage and relax these muscles correctly, you will be building a strong foundation for your entire body. My suggestion would be to work with a pelvic-floor physiotherapist and a postpartum trainer to help you learn your core mechanics and proper breathing techniques to set you up for success. You can’t build a house without a great foundation and you can’t build a strong core without proper breathing mechanics. It’s always worth the time and energy.

Start at the beginning

You may be in a hurry to get to planks, crunches and sit-ups, but choosing appropriate exercises that don’t put too much load and pressure on a weakened core system is the fastest way to make progress without the increased risk of injury. Once you have your breathing foundation, start with exercises like bird dogs, side planks, glute bridges and elevated planks in those first weeks of exercise. Progress to slightly more challenging exercises over time and you will see a huge progression week over week. 

Listen to your body

Remember, if you feel pressure or pain in your pelvic floor or back, experience incontinence or urgency or see coning through the front of your abdominals (which is something we call diastasis), these all may be signs of core dysfunction. You may have to pull back a bit while you keep working on the basics. Don’t worry, you will get there.

Go for it if you’re ready

Remember not to stay in “rehabby” land forever. When an exercise feels easy and you’re not experiencing any signs of core dysfunction, go ahead and try out some more challenging moves. You need to load the abdominal wall to make it stronger, just like any other muscle in your body. This is truly what will take your progress and results to the next level. Learning when to progress is essential to building a strong core system.

Want to see a great postpartum core workout? Click here for an exclusive Mom Halo workout that will lead you through some of my favourite core exercises for early postpartum and how to progress them. 

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