Post-Baby Body: Abdominal Sculpting

Let’s face it, your abdominal muscles have been through the wringer this past year. Maybe your baby belly expanded slowly or maybe it popped suddenly overnight! Either way, your abdominal muscles have been stretched and weakened during your pregnancy. Your abs are part of your core and they are very important in supporting your back. If they stay weakened, you will have poor posture, back pain and could easily injure yourself simply by picking up your newborn. The Daily Mom Abdominal Sculpting workout is going to help you get your abs back.

Some women experience diastasis recti, or a split in the rectus abdominis muscle after pregnancy. If you have this problem, you will notice a tenting in your midsection when you try to contract your abdominals. It’s important that you don’t perform certain abdominal exercises with diastasis recti. If you think you have this problem, discuss it with your doctor.  For those women already diagnosed with Diastasis Recti – we have found that The Dia Method is a great way to get your abdominals back in shape!

  • Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program as each individual heals differently after pregnancy.  Women who have had a c-section will generally need to wait at least 6-8 weeks after surgery before starting abdominal exercises.
  • Do 1 set of each exercise the first 2 weeks.  Increase to 2 sets for the next 2-3 weeks and then to 3 sets.  Rest 30-60 seconds between each set.  If you have already been exercising regularly, you may be able to start with 2 sets and advance from there.
  • If you don’t feel like you’re ready for the full routine, start with the abdominal vacuum exercise for a week or two.

Don’t have time to do the whole workout?  Do at least 2 exercises from each muscle group (Rectus Abdominis, Transversus Abdominis & Obliques).  Do the other exercises at your next session.  Try to do 3 sessions each week.

Equipment recommended: Exercise Ball

Vacuum

Primary muscles worked: Transversus Abdominis

Do it:

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet resting comfortably on the floor.
  2. Pull your belly button in towards your spine as far as you can.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.  Repeat 10 times.
Form tips:  Imagine that you are hollowing out your stomach.

Too Easy?  Build up your hold time as you get stronger.  Try the exercise in sitting and standing positions.

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Crunch on Ball

Primary muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis

Do it:

  1. Sit on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Roll your back down the ball slowly until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor.
  3. Cross your arms over your chest.
  4. Contracting your abdominal muscles, raise your upper body to no more than 45 degrees.
  5. Perform 20 repetitions.
Form tips:  Keep your upper body straight as you lift it.

Too Easy?  Place your arms behind your head or straighten them behind your head.  Move your feet closer together to create a greater challenge and work your oblique muscles as well.

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Bicycles

Primary muscles worked: All abdominal muscles

Do it:

  1. Lie flat on your back on the floor with your abdominal muscles contracted.
  2. Place your hands gently behind your head and lift your knees to 45 degree angle.
  3. Slowly, move your legs as if you were pedaling a bicycle.
  4. Alternate touching your elbows to the opposite knees as you twist your torso back and forth.
  5. Perform 20 full repetitions.
Form tips:  Don’t pull on your head with your hands.  Pretend you have an apple under your chin to maintain the space there.

Too Easy? Straighten each leg out just above the floor before bringing your knee back up to your elbow.

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Reverse Crunch

Primary muscles worked: Obliques & Rectus Abdominis

Do it:

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet resting comfortably on the floor.
  2. Put your hands on the floor next to your sides.
  3. Bring your knees up towards your chest so they are bent at a 90 degree angle.
  4. Contract your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the floor slightly.
  5. Hold for a couple seconds and then lower your hips in a controlled manner.
  6. Perform 20 repetitions.
Form tips:  Control the movement with your abdominal muscles – don’t use momentum.  If your back is arching off the floor, try alternating legs and tapping the floor with your toes.

Too Easy? Make it more difficult by placing your hands behind your head.

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Plank

Primary muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transversus Abdominis & Erector Spinae

Do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your forearms resting on the floor, palms down.
  2. Lift up off the floor onto on your toes and elbows.
  3. Keeping your back straight and rigid, contract your abdominal muscles so that your bottom is not sticking up or sagging.
  4. Hold for 20 seconds. Perform 3-5 repetitions.
Form tips:  Try to perform in front of a mirror or another person who can tell you if your body is straight.  Don’t arch your back or hunch your shoulders.

Too Easy?  Increase the hold time to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.  Try adding a leg lift to your plank.  Watch this variation here: Plank with leg lift.

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Prone Jack-Knife

Primary muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis, Chest, Back, Shoulders & Glutes

Do it:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart and your shins about hip-width apart on an exercise ball.
  2. Keeping your feet on the ball, bring your knees toward your chest.
  3. Return to the start position.
  4. Perform 12-15 repetitions on each side.
Form tips:  Keep your abdominal muscles braced throughout the exercise.  Don’t let your back arch.

Too Easy? Try a prone oblique roll on ball but make sure you have mastered the prone jack-knife first!  Watch this variation here: Prone oblique roll on ball.

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Vertical Crunch

Primary muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis & Obliques

Do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs up and knees slightly bent.  Place your hands behind your head.
  2. Contract your abs and lift your shoulder blades off the floor.
  3. Keeping your legs in a fixed position, lift your torso towards your knees.
  4. Lower your torso and repeat.
  5. Perform 12-15 repetitions.
Form tips:  Keep your chin up and don’t pull on your neck.

Too Easy? Reach your arms up towards your feet as you crunch up – be careful not to strain your neck.

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Side Plank

Primary muscles worked: Transversus Abdominis, Obliques, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus & Hip Adductors

Do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your forearm and hips on the floor.  Your legs should be straight with the top foot resting on top of the bottom foot.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the floor until your body makes a straight line from shoulders to feet.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
  4. Perform 3-5 repetitions on each side.
Form tips:  Don’t let your bottom push backwards, keep it tucked in.  Rest your whole forearm on the ground with most of your weight through your elbow.

Too Easy? Try adding a hip dip to your side plank.  Watch this variation here: Side Plank with Hip Dip.

 

Need to work on other areas of your body? Check out our other Post-Baby Body Workouts!

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.

Photo credit: The Art of Making a Baby

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Kristy Timm

Kristy lives in FL with her husband, and 2 daughters. She has a Bachelors and Doctorate in Physical Therapy and has worked in Orthopedics, Vestibular, and Ergonomics for the last 12 years. She loves spending time with her hubby and daughter enjoying music, reading, playing, and learning American Sign Language. Her other interests include traveling, being active, and catching up with family and friends.

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