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adidas / April 2023

Postpartum Exercises: 6 Ways To Get Moving Again

Meet your body where it’s at with six balanced postpartum exercises to enjoy movement and gain strength.

During postpartum, your body is recovering from the incredible physical task of carrying and delivery—a process that takes immense strength, energy, and determination. In postpartum, you have permission to take space and time to relax and heal from such an event. We spoke with Amy Schemper, a personal trainer and postpartum exercise specialist, about how to navigate this phase with self-compassion and patience, and how to introduce postpartum exercises when the time feels right for you.
 
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When Is It Safe To Exercise After Giving Birth?

Usually, it is safe to start exercising six weeks after birth, but that doesn’t mean that gentle movement is off the table until then. “During the postpartum period, it's really important to give our bodies time to heal, especially in the days and weeks following delivery,” said Schemper. “Wait until your doctor or midwife has cleared you for exercise, which generally occurs after six weeks but can vary. However, while you need to wait for traditional exercise, that doesn't mean you can't get moving sooner. Taking walks and doing gentle stretching can greatly help support your recovery process, and practicing core breathing and postpartum pelvic floor exercises will help you reconnect with your core and restore function and strength.”
 
When your mind and body feel ready to start moving again, exercise is there for you. Welcoming a new life into the world is a big change, and exercise is a good way to claim some time for yourself and meet your body where it’s at. “Make it your goal to just get moving in whatever way you can. Try not to put expectations on how much or what you're doing,” said Schemper. “Try to shift your mindset away from ‘losing the baby weight’ and toward regaining strength and function, restoring posture and alignment, and generally feeling better and more like yourself.”
 

What Kinds Of Exercises Are Best For Postpartum?

Movement during postpartum should start gently, with a focus on core breathing and pelvic floor activation. As you recover, incorporate core stabilization and full body stretching and strengthening with moves like the bird dog crunch, hinge and row, and plié squats. “You may be tempted to push yourself in your workouts, but take it slow and listen to your body,” said Schemper. “Your body took nine months to grow and birth a baby, so it's going to take time to recover. Try to remember that your body did and is doing amazing things!” she said. Try this postpartum workout at your own pace, and know that you can modify the moves to meet your changing needs.
 

Postpartum Strengthening Exercises

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Core Breathing + Pelvic Floor Activation

Target muscles: Core and pelvic floor
 
About this exercise: “This is the most important postpartum core exercise. It strengthens your entire core, specifically the deep core Transverse Abdominis and the pelvic floor. This move can be done seated, standing, lying, or quadruped,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Place your hands on your stomach to feel your breath.
  2. Take a deep breath in, expanding your belly, then breathe out as you contract your core in, feeling the engagement in your deep core and pelvic floor.
  3. Continue breathing in this way.
 
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Hinge And Row

Target muscles: Core and pelvic floor
 
About this exercise: “This is the most important postpartum core exercise. It strengthens your entire core, specifically the deep core Transverse Abdominis and the pelvic floor. This move can be done seated, standing, lying, or quadruped,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Place your hands on your stomach to feel your breath.
  2. Take a deep breath in, expanding your belly, then breathe out as you contract your core in, feeling the engagement in your deep core and pelvic floor.
  3. Continue breathing in this way.
 
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Bird Dog Crunch

Target muscles: Spine and core
 
About this exercise: “This is a great gentle core exercise, strengthening through the entire back, plus a good stretch,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. In a quadruped position, engage your core and keep your spine straight.
  2. Extend your left arm and your right leg, then bring your elbow and knee together under your chest in a crunch. Extend your arm and leg out again, then lower to the quadruped position.
  3. You can alternate sides, or you can do multiple reps on just one side and then switch.
 
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Dead Bugs

Target muscles: Core
 
About this exercise: “Dead bugs are one of my most favorite core exercises because they target your entire core without flexing or extending the spine. The dead bug is a stabilization move and it's great for postpartum because it targets our deep core, and because it can be gentle for early postpartum, then easily progressed to be more challenging,” said Schemper.
 
How to do it:
  1. Lie on your back. Raise your legs so your knees are at a 90-degree angle stacked directly above your hips, and your arms are raised toward the ceiling.
  2. Engage your core and lift your pelvic floor, then gently lower your left leg and your right arm toward the floor, then lift each at the same time back to the starting position. Continue the movement with the opposite leg and arm.
 
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Plié Squat with Push Pull

Target muscles: Lower Body
 
About this exercise: "The toes out position makes it easy to connect with the core as you lift up through the inner thighs.  The bodyweight push and pull is great for mobility and you could progress to adding dumbbells," said Schemper
 
How to do it:
  1. Stand in a comfortable wide stance with your feet turned out about 45 degrees. Extend your hands above your head.
  2. Squat as low as feels comfortable while pulling your hands down into a "W" shape. 
  3. Stand and raise your hands above your head. Continue in this movement.
 

The Postpartum Journey

As new moms, it can be hard to find the time to exercise, but Schemper encourages finding movement where you can. “Exercise doesn't have to mean a full 30-40 minute structured workout,” said Schemper. “Short walks, five minutes of core connection while your baby is doing tummy time, getting squats and lunges while holding your baby, taking a few minutes in front of the mirror to work on your posture and breathwork—all of these add up.”
 
“Different seasons of life come with different challenges when it comes to working out,” Schemper continued; “Maybe you have to stick with shorter bouts of movement now, but once your baby sleeps through the night or gets on a regular nap schedule you can get more in. If you're back at work and time is limited, try fitting a workout in on the weekend. Give yourself grace and be kind to yourself! Also, remember that taking time away from your baby for yourself to work out (or other forms of self-care) is not selfish! Being your healthiest, happiest self is one of the best things we can do for our babies.”
adidas / April 2023