Exercises you should probably avoid post-baby and what to do instead!
Do you know which exercises to avoid post baby? Maybe you’ve recently had a baby and you feel like you’re beginning to emerge from the bubble you’ve been in for the weeks post-birth. You’ve been to the doctors for your 6-week check and you’re cleared for exercise. Perhaps you’re starting to think about getting active again. Before pregnancy you may have loved HIIT/Bootcamp/running and you’re keen to get back to exercise ASAP…
Not a ‘gym bunny’?
Maybe you had your babies many months or even years ago? Exercise hasn’t been a priority before. You’ve been pretty busy after all! But now you’re ready to start working out and you’re tempted by those ‘drop fat fast with HIIT’ programmes that seem to be everywhere…
All of the above is completely understandable! But, that doesn’t mean it’s the approach you need right now. Certain exercises can cause more problems than they solve after you’ve had a baby.
If you haven’t done any rehab work after the birth of your baby then below are some of the exercises you should probably avoid.
Exercises to avoid:
When you think about ab exercises, crunches are often front of mind!
You might be desperate to get your strong tummy back. Crunches may seem like a great option. But… crunches are actually one of the exercises to avoid post baby. The abdominal muscles are still recovering from the huge strain of carrying a baby.
There may be some Diastasis Recti (gap in the abdominals). Diastasis Recti can be made worse by performing forward flexion exercises such as crunches. Even if you don’t have a gap, your abs are very likely weakened and unable to control the kind of pressures that crunches put on them. There are a plethora of ‘ab’ (core) exercises you can do when you are recovering from having a baby, so don’t despair.
A full front plank can seem like the ultimate core strengthening exercise. It’s an impressive feat to hold the plank for a full minute or more. Plank challenges are popular for this exact reason.
However, don’t be tempted to join one just after you’ve had a baby. The combination of downwards pressure on the front abdominals. Increased intra-abdominal pressure that occurs during planking. All this means the plank just isn’t the best exercise for your postnatal core. It could worsen any Diastasis Recti present and cause you back or pelvic floor issues, if you’re unable to control the pressure fully. Switch your planks to side planks. Or practice planking against the wall or up on a bench from your knees. This will take some of the pressure off the abdominals and allow you to progressively strengthen the core.
People may tell you that ‘of course you leak urine now, you’ve had a baby’. And it is common, but it isn’t normal. Leaking urine is a sign that something isn’t working correctly so you should pull back from that exercise and seek help. If you approach your postnatal rehab in a sensible way. Seek the help of a pelvic floor physio and a qualified postnatal fitness specialist. Then these issues can be helped and even avoided.
This one is a biggie for a lot of people. If running is your first love, then having this as one of the exercises to avoid post baby might not be what you want to hear. But… running is a high impact activity. The continual impact on an already weakened pelvic floor and core can have some consequences. Leaking (of urine or faeces), a feeling of heaviness or bulging anywhere in your pelvic floor or through your front abdominals, pelvic pain or back pain. These are all indicators that running is too much for your body currently. Swap your runs for brisk walks – you’ll still get all the benefits of fresh air and raising your heart rate, without all the impact.
It may all seem a bit discouraging and as if there are many ‘forbidden’ exercises. The above exercises to avoid, are not forbidden forever, they are just best avoided for now.
Once you have done the rehab work and have a strong, well functioning core and pelvic floor. Then you can absolutely start adding in these exercises again. Just always be aware of how your body reacts to exercise. If you feel bulging, discomfort, pain, leaking or anything else that feels ‘off’ then that exercise at that level may not be suitable for you yet.
Want something easy to follow at home?
Our Stronger Mother programme is designed to be safe and effective for postnatal women. The programme takes you through a progressive course of core and floor, and full body, strengthening exercises. Stronger Mother will set you up to return to the exercise you love safely and make you a stronger, even more awesome mother!
What to concentrate on instead:
This might seem like odd and slightly obvious advice. After all, we all breathe, don’t we?
Yes, we all breathe! But, breathing is an interesting habit as it is unconscious (we do it regardless of whether we’re thinking about it or not). But ALSO conscious (we can control our breathing as and when we need to and it absolutely affects how we feel and how our bodies react).
Just take a moment to feel how you breathe. If you’re like most busy mums, your breaths are probably quite shallow and up in your chest. You might be feeling stressed and this style of breathing can be contributing.
Learning to breathe deeply and connect our breath to our core and pelvic floor function is one of the fundamental skills we need to really get our core strong again after baby. Give this a try:
Practice taking long deep breaths in that expand the ribs to the sides and allow everything to relax, many of us breathe only upwards into our chests, increasing our stress levels. Spend a bit of time concentrating on your breathing.
Lay down on your back or side, in child’s pose or sitting, however feels most comfortable and natural to you, and breathe – you should feel everything expand and release as you breathe in and a slight lift and contraction as you breathe out. Look for a lift in the pelvic floor as you exhale – this will be the foundation of being able to activate the pelvic floor and core.
Lay on your back, core engaged, knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Arms by your sides. Ribs down.
On your out breath march one leg up and back down maintaining the bent leg position. Then alternate.
Glute bridges are a great postnatal exercise!
Lay on the may with your knees bent.
Start to bring the hips up pressing the heels into the floor, 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.