New mamas, are you feeling the pressure to “bounce back”? Maybe you’re comparing your postpartum body to others and feeling like you have to race to lose weight after your baby’s arrival.
I’m here to tell you there are no expectations and no time limits. Your body just did something freakin’ amazing. I want to help you focus on how it feels and what it does, rather than how it looks.
That’s why I created my postpartum fitness program FIT Post-Pregnancy. Designed in collaboration with a women’s health physiotherapist, this is the same training that I used to recover and rebuild after the birth of my babies – trust me, there was no “snap back” here!
First things first: always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, as there are some situations where exercise may not be advised.
Your postpartum workout plan should address diastasis recti and rebuilding your pelvic floor (more on these below) as a core part of the program.
My program was designed by experts in women’s health and postpartum fitness – as any safe post-pregnancy exercise program should be. Don’t compromise on your health and safety by attempting a program designed by people with no knowledge of postpartum exercise, and be particularly wary of any program that promises rapid weight loss.
Want some real talk about ‘bouncing back’?
Step 1: Again – and I can’t stress this enough – talk to your doctor! You should not start a regular postpartum workout routine without getting the green light from your doctor, usually, after your 6–10 week check-up. This is especially important if you have a pre-existing condition or are recovering from a C-section. Regardless of how active and strong you were able to stay during pregnancy, your body needs time to recover from giving birth.
However, there is a difference between a postnatal workout program and simply getting moving again. As long as you are pain-free and did not experience complications during birth, you may be able to safely begin gentle exercise as soon as a few days after delivery. Start small – try a walk 5-minute around the block (pushing the stroller if you like), then monitor how you feel when you get home. As well as your physical health, it’s good for your mental health to get outside and walk.
Once you’ve had clearance from your doctor and you’re ready to step it up, scroll down to find a free FIT Post-Pregnancy workout as well as some of my favourite postpartum exercises.
Remember, you’re not on anyone else’s timeline when it comes to post-baby fitness.
When you begin your postpartum fitness journey, it is essential you target two areas in particular: strengthening your pelvic floor and addressing any ab separation (diastasis recti).
Your pelvic floor (the sling of muscle and tissue that supports your uterus, bladder and bowel) was supporting a whole lot of extra weight during pregnancy, so now needs help healing and rebuilding. The best exercise for the job is Kegels (contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor), which will help promote blood flow and reduce incontinence. Take a look at how to get started.
Before you consider any type of post-baby ab workout, you need to address ab separation. Diastasis recti occurs naturally in a high percentage of pregnant women as hormones relax the connective tissue between your six-pack, and the growing uterus puts pressure on the muscles, causing them to separate. It’s important that you take your time to rebuild, starting with deep core activation and supported exercises.
I’ll help you rebuild with a focus on these two key areas in my FIT Post-Pregnancy program.
As your postpartum workout plan takes shape, be sure to prioritise exercises aimed at rebuilding your stability and mobility. Keep reading for a full postpartum workout video and some of my favourite moves.
Now is not the time to beat yourself up about weight gain or go on a crash post-pregnancy diet plan for weight loss (I would never recommend crash diets or negative self-talk at any stage!) It’s important that all new mothers are having meals and snacks that provide sustained energy and high nutritional value.
If you’re breastfeeding you don’t necessarily need different foods, but you will need extra energy – that’s because breastfeeding burns up energy, and your body is taking nutrients from you to make milk for your baby.
All new mamas should choose low-GI foods for sustained energy release. Include protein regularly to help you feel full, and make sure you’re getting a good range of nutrients – including iron – as your levels may be low from pregnancy.
Remember, nutrition is a key part of any fitness journey, not just when you’re postpartum.
Stage 1 of FIT Post-Pregnancy – which includes the workout above – is intended for women who are at least 6-10 weeks postpartum, have received clearance from their doctor to recommence exercise and are ready to start regaining their strength and fitness.
Can’t get through an entire after-pregnancy workout right now? That’s okay! Try some of these isolated moves.
If you’re just getting started
Each of these exercises is taken from Stage 1 of my postnatal workout plan in FIT Post-Pregnancy. This first stage promotes healing and recovery using gentle strength, mobility and stability movements.
This functional exercise will build leg, booty and back strength to help you support your baby, for instance when lifting them into or out of the bath. With a chair sitting behind you, squat down as if you are about to sit on it – just lightly touching the seat with your lower glutes before standing upright again. Keep a slow and steady pace.
Glute bridge + Kegel
Lying on your back, with knees bent and feet on the floor, engage your glutes and raise your hips up until you form a straight line from your knees to your chest. To get even more from this move, contract your pelvic floor to do a Kegel and hold it as you lift your hips.
Carrying and breastfeeding your baby requires spine and back strength and mobility, which this exercise is perfect for. Grab a pair of light dumbbells (soup cans or filled water bottles can be used in a pinch!) for this exercise. Lying on the floor, with a pillow supporting your neck and lower back and your knees bent, bring the dumbbells together above your chest, then lower each arm out to the side – lightly touching your elbows to the floor – before bringing them back together above you. Repeat at a steady pace.
This move is great for firming and strengthening your inner thighs, glutes, quads and hamstrings – all vital when you’re getting up and down to look after your baby. Take a wide stance, then squat down as low as you feel comfortable. Use your arms to help guide the movement.
Stage 2 of my FIT Post-Pregnancy program increases the intensity of your strength training and introduces some yoga and light cardio to the mix. You should be (at minimum) 12–16 weeks postpartum before starting this stage and have clearance from your doctor. There are checklists to complete throughout my postnatal workout program to help you know when you’re ready to move on.
All-fours arm + leg raises
This move is a must for rebuilding core strength. Place your knees and hands on the floor, forming a tabletop position with your back. Engage your core and raise your right leg while at the same time reaching your left arm out in front of you. Lower them back down, then repeat with your left leg and right arm. Aim to lift your heel higher than your booty.
A great move to strengthen your chest and arms for breastfeeding and carrying your baby. Get into a push-up position, keeping your knees and feet on the floor. Your hands should be under your shoulders and elbows should stay close to your side. Lower your chest towards the floor (it doesn’t need to touch the floor) then push yourself back up. Maintain a steady pace.
Supported single-arm row
It’s important to keep building up your back strength to prevent aches and pains. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and rest your right arm on a chair. Your left knee should be close to the chair and slightly bent, while your right leg is extended behind you. Now raise the dumbbell up to hip level, really giving your shoulder blades a squeeze. Repeat on the opposite side, using your left arm for support.
Slow leg lowers
Another key move to gently rebuild core strength. Lie down on your back, with your knees up in the air and shins out straight. One leg at a time, lower your leg to lightly tap the ball of your foot on the floor.
As a new mother, I know you have a lot going on, so why not let me take care of your post-pregnancy workout plan? The easiest and most effective way to safely return to fitness after pregnancy is to follow my FIT Post-Pregnancy program. Start the journey at emilyskyefit.com with your first 7 days free.
Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.
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