Hello friends! Today we have a post from Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT. (She was also featured in our Everyday Dreamers series.) If you’re looking for tips on postpartum core restoration from a Physical Therapist, look no further!
Did you recently have a baby and you’re thinking about doing your first ab exercise postpartum but you’re not quite sure where to begin? Postpartum core restoration – there’s a right way and a wrong way. As a physical therapist I highly recommend doing these 5 things in order to properly restore your core after having a newborn baby.
Follow these 5 tips, and you’ll get amazing results with your postpartum core restoration.
1. Master Abdominal Bracing
If you are ready to get serious about restoring your core postpartum, then you need to master this one exercise, and this one exercise alone, before doing any other exercise further on.
Abdominal bracing is so important for not only postpartum women but pregnant women too. This specific exercise targets a particular muscle group that acts like a corset around our torso. And wouldn’t we all like to have a tight corset wrapping around our stomach to keep our bellies flat postpartum. This muscle can do just that very thing. It can help draw in our belly button to make for a more flat lower pooch area that postpartum moms almost always get.
Abdominal bracing activates the inner layer of our abdomen, not the rectus abdominis (the 6 pack muscles). The transverse abdominis is 3 layers deeper into our core and can best be contracted by drawing your belly button in.
For beginners who have never done this exercise before I recommend lying down on the floor to start.
Bend both knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
Rest your arms at your side and start with a relaxed, neutral spine.
To begin this exercise, draw in your belly button as if you are trying to make it touch the floor. This will flatten your back.
Another way to think of activating the transverse abdominis is by bracing yourself as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach. It works every time!
You know you are doing the exercise wrong if you arch your back and you can reach your hand underneath the small of your back.
You are doing the exercise correctly if you can’t get your hand to slide under your back.
Hold this contraction for 8 seconds and then relax. Perform 5 repetitions to start.
2. Never Sacrifice Form
It’s important as new moms to make sure when you are working on your core muscles to never sacrifice form. If you do, injuries may come on more suddenly than you would have ever imagined. Your body has gone through a lot during pregnancy and also during childbirth. Your muscles aren’t as strong as they once used to be. So when you start to really get involved in a postpartum workout routine, you want to always be cautious not to overdo your workout.
Maintaining good posture and good form when working out your core is so important. Keeping a neutral spine is always the safest way to perform any core workout.
It’s easy to start to arch your back when doing a lot of abdominal exercises, it’s a way our bodies compensate due to weakness. Don’t let your pelvis tilt in the wrong direction in order to get in a few more reps. Pay attention to your body and stop the workout if you can’t maintain abdominal bracing during your workout routine.
3. Track Your Progress
If you don’t track your progress, then you are running a race blind. You probably have a goal of some kind to lose the baby weight at some point within the first year or two postpartum, and if you do, how else are you going to know if you’re headed in the right direction if you don’t write down some measurements? Tracking progress is the best way to keep you on track with your fitness goals and the best way to keep you motivated for more.
I encourage you to track several key important objective measures on a routine basis in order to see the results that I know you are hoping to achieve.
The first thing I recommend you do is measure your hip and width circumference. If you are looking for postpartum ab restoration to its fullest with a goal to get your pre-pregnancy body back, I recommend you write down your hip and width circumferential measurements on day 1 of your postpartum workout and track your progress each month following.
I also highly recommend you get a calendar and write down each day you work out and how many reps and sets you perform for each core exercise you do. Each week progress by either increasing the number of reps or the number of sets. If you feel you are ready for more of a challenge, then increase the number of abdominal exercises you are doing in your routine.
You should never be doing the same exact routine for 4 weeks in a row. You won’t see much progress with your weight loss or your strength if you do it that way. The only way you will get the results you want is if you progress something each week.
4. It’s Ok To Use A Postpartum Belly Wrap
I’m a huge advocate for postpartum belly wraps. Without them, I don’t know if I would have had as good of results with my 4 pregnancies. I used a postpartum belly wrap during the 4th trimester, and I had amazing results with them flattening my belly and assisting my uterus to contract back down to its normal size. I go into a lot of details on how to wear postpartum belly wraps on my blog, Live Core Strong,, but I do want you to know some important facts about postpartum belly wraps and postpartum ab recovery. The belly wrap will not speed up the recovery of your ab strength in any way; however, it will speed up the process of realigning your rectus abdominis muscles.
During pregnancy our abdominal muscles are stretched and sometimes need an outside force to help realign them. A postpartum belly wrap acts to approximate our abdominal muscles so that we can use them properly.
I never recommend working out with a postpartum belly wrap, but only to wear it when doing daily activities, like walking, doing the dishes or while holding your baby.
The main reason why I like to wear a postpartum belly wrap is to assist the uterus in quickly returning back to its normal size, which can be difficult to do when our abs are so weak in the early stages of postpartum recovery. The sooner our uterus returns to its normal size, the quicker our bellies get flat postpartum.
5. Embrace A New Lifestyle
Times have changed. You’re a new mom now, you will be carrying your new baby around for months and months, you’ll be bending over changing diapers even longer than that and you will be spending long hours on your feet taking care of everything in your household. Your body is doing a lot of work, even sometimes more work than you were doing before you had a baby. And for that reason, you need to be sure to take care of your body even more than before. You need to incorporate good habits throughout the day that will engage your core muscles with all types of movements and activities.
I highly recommend to get the best results with postpartum core restoration that you engage your transverse abdominis during sitting and standing functions throughout the day.
It’s recommended to practice doing abdominal bracing while sitting first and then learn to do it standing. Once you master this exercise in a sitting position, try practicing it during specific times of the day such as while eating a meal, watching tv or driving in a car.
Then move on to doing this exercise while standing. You can do it while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes or while holding and rocking your baby.
The more you do this exercise, the stronger your abs will become.
You’re off to a great start. Keep making good lifestyle choices such as eating healthy and wearing your postpartum belly wrap on a regular basis and you’ll see great results with your postpartum core restoration.
Remember, it’s not a quick fix to get your abs back after baby, but it takes time and patience. But there are 5 things to keep in mind when you are wanting to restore your core postpartum.
- Master abdominal bracing
- Never sacrifice form
- Track your progress
- Using a postpartum belly wrap is ok to do
- Embrace a new lifestyle
I think you are doing great so far with your postpartum fitness journey. Just taking the time to read this will give you such an advantage into restoring your core the right way postpartum. If you feel you are ready to take your postpartum ab journey to the next level, I think you’ll really love my FREE 30-Day Postpartum Ab Challenge that is specifically designed in a way to easily rehab your abs back after having a baby. The challenge only takes 3 minutes to start and includes only safe core exercises for a mom who just had a baby. Sign-up for the FREE 30-day postpartum challenge here.
Here’s the link to 30-Day Postpartum Ab Challenge just in case you need it: https://livecorestrong.com/postpartum-ab-challenge/
About Dr. Jena Bradley, DPT
Jena is a mom of 4 darling little girls, a physical therapist and founder of Live Core Strong, a blog focusing on motivating moms to live a life that incorporates fitness and fun throughout their motherhood journey. She aims to be the friend you always wanted to have who could guide you through the “fog” when faced with an “I don’t know what to do” mommy moment. At the most inconvenient time of her life, she embarked on a journey of sharing her story and expertise to inspire the next generation of healthy moms. You can learn more about Jena by visiting her blog, Live Core Strong.
As always, thanks for reading! I hope you found these postpartum core restoration tips from Dr. Jena Bradley helpful.