35 Postpartum Workout Moves That Are Just as Good as Having a Trainer

35 Postpartum Workout Moves That Are Just as Good as Having a Trainer
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Workout mom with baby
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Giving birth may be an unparalleled joyous experience, but postpartum physical challenges can sometimes be tough to tackle. It's important for new moms to remember that they should feel healthy and get their strength back to more easily focus on that new bundle of joy. The good news is there are plenty of body-positive, postpartum exercise techniques (no trainer necessary) for strong supermoms to try.

Anxious to start a new mom workout routine? We spoke with four fitness experts who specialize in postpartum strength training (many of whom are moms themselves!): Heather Tyler, personal trainer and owner of Simply Fit LA; Dayna Kurtz, a personal trainer with a certificate in training pre and postnatal clients; Kendra Fitzgerald, a postpartum corrective exercise specialist and co-founder of Devoted Mamas; and Crystal Widmann, a personal trainer and women's fitness specialist at Y2BFit. 

"It's so much more than just 'getting that body back,'" Kendra Fitzgerald tells CafeMom. "I want moms to feel even stronger than before they had kids and be able to go into any gym class and not make any issues worse."

The postpartum period lasts up to six months while the body adjusts to its new changes after giving birth, according to an article posted in the Journal of Prenatal Medicine, so there's no rush to begin getting back in shape. It's also important to remember that not all exercises are treated equally and that exercises like HIIT or weight training should only be attempted by women who are further along in the postpartum process.

Crystal Widmann tells CafeMom that moms should wait until the first postpartum doctor's appointment (about six weeks after giving birth) before beginning any exercise routine. However, some low-impact stretches like the Transverse Abdominal Contractions can be begun almost immediately after a natural birth. Other exercises like higher intensity drills or anything using weights will likely take several months to get back into.

"As always, we should listen to our body," Heather Tyler tells CafeMom. "Walking and swimming are good first introductions. Stay hydrated and consume enough fuel if breastfeeding (usually an extra 400-600 calories per day before strenuous exercise)."

Tyler said that after giving birth, she was walking and stretching by weeks two and three, planking after week four, swimming after week six, and doing resistance work after week 12.

That being said, everyone's body is different and some women may take a longer time to adjust than others. As always, consult a doctor before beginning any exercises.

From challenging HIIT exercises to simple neck stretches, these 35 training moves and cardio exercises are designed to make the physical transition from pre- to postnatal easier on Mom's body (and help keep up with those midnight feedings!).

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  • Postpartum Planks

    1

    "Planks are great for retraining the core: for lifting, holding, twisting, carrying, and all the things new moms will do with their little one," Heather Tyler says. 

    Tyler suggests trying four different plank positions: the default "push-up" position, leaning on forearms and elbows, and planking on each side. Start by aiming for 30 seconds total, and then slowly add time as the plank position becomes more comfortable. 

  • Postpartum Walking and Stretching

    2

    Sometimes the best exercises are the simplest ones. Make sure to move around (with baby in tow!) to keep those muscles working. Tyler suggests accompanying walks with simple hamstring and quad stretches: Extend one leg toward the sky and the other to the ground, while pulling the upper leg toward the head. 

    "Movement and releasing the muscles are important for postpartum moms since we sit in static positions and lie down so often with the new ones," Tyler says. "Stretches are great things to combat lower back pain."

  • Postpartum Targeted Weight Lifting

    3

    After having a baby, there are some hidden physical challenges that new moms don't even think of, like strengthening wrists and forearms.

    Tyler suggests holding a light weight (5-10 pounds) in one hand, while supporting the forearm from wrist to elbow (and don’t move forearm) and holding the weight up and down, and repeating this simple exercise 10 times, three reps for each arm. This exercise will improve overall grip and forearm strength.  

  • Postpartum Neck Stretches

    4

    "We hold, nurse/feed, and pick up the baby all day," Tyler says. "Necks are easily compromised and often cause pain to radiate down the arm to the wrist."

    To alleviate that pain, stretch the neck to the right side by gently placing pressure on it with the weight of the right arm on the side of the head, Tyler says. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then look down toward armpit and hold for 30-60 seconds, and then back to first position and hold 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the left side.

  • Postpartum Bench Press

    5

    Bench or chest presses are for maintaining upper body strength, possibly the most important muscles that moms use every day.

    Heather Tyler suggests starting with light-medium weights: lie flat on a bench, hold the weights with arms bent at 90 degrees, (elbows toward floor), press upwards overhead with arms extended straight over the shoulders, and repeat. She recommended three sets of 12-15 reps per day. 

  • Postpartum Rows

    6

    Another important upper body strength training exercise is the simple row

    "Lean slightly forward with a straight/neutral back, hold weights just above the thighs and pull arms back, bending elbows and keeping weights as close to waist as possible," Tyler explains. "Squeeze shoulder blades together then release controlled back to starting position." 

    She recommended three sets of 10-15 reps each. 

  • Postpartum Swimming

    7

    Looking for a cardio exercise that gets the heart pumping? Graduate from simple walks with baby to one of the most recommended exercises for new moms (or anyone).

    "Swimming is one of the best full-body cardio activities, pre and post baby!" Tyler says. 

  • Postpartum Bike Riding

    8

    Another oft-overlooked cardio exercise for busy moms is bike riding. There are even plenty of baby carriers for moms who want to bike with baby. 

    "Even biking short distances will help moms condition and get back on track," Tyler says.

  • Postpartum High-Intensity Interval Training

    9

    Yes, even postpartum moms can do some light HIIT training to really kick off the metabolism. 

    "Combine strength and core exercises with these higher-intensity cardio moves," Tyler says. She suggests trying short bursts of burpees, jumping jacks, and high knees / jogging in place. 

  • Postpartum Jumping Rope

    10

    Jumping rope is not just for kids. This relatively cheap cardio exercise can be done from home and is a great way to burn calories while Junior is down for his afternoon nap. 

  • Postpartum Sumo Squats

    11

    "These are great for strengthening muscles in the back, pelvis, legs and butt -- the sumo has an added option of giving arm muscles a boost, too," Dayna Kurtz tells CafeMom. 

    Here's how to do one properly: Stand with feet about a shoulder's width apart, and toes pointed at about a 45-degree angle. Tuck the tailbone under to engage the core muscles. Take a deep breath and slowly bend the knees and then slowly rise back to a standing position. For an added arm boost, get the baby involved!