New mamas who love barre workouts, take note: Forget any visions of your crying baby rolling around while you attempt to hold a plank. Not only is this type of fitness proven to help you develop strong abdominal, pelvic floor and arm muscles, but it's an ideal way to sweat with your babe in tow, says Babies at the Barre founder Tori Levine.
After giving birth of her son in 2014, Levine, certified pre- and post-natal Pilates and barre instructor, started to explore the ways her babe could join her daily fitness routine—and discovered a real need for moms to understand how easy it is to stay on the exercise bandwagon, simply by using their babes—safely!—as props while working out safely themselves.
"There seem to be a lot of programs and people promoting a hardcore workout to 'get your body back', but there's no education about how to modify or make sure these exercises are safe," she says. "Without proper recovery time and strengthening exercises, moms are at a higher risk of causing further damage to their core and pelvic floor, which can cause long-term low back pain and incontinence issues. It's my passion to inform moms about how to gradually and safely heal their bodies after pregnancy and birth so they can return to exercising that they enjoyed pre-pregnancy and set themselves up to be able to have the energy and strength for the demands of motherhood."
You can follow Levine's YouTube channel to get inspiration for your at-home workout, or get started with these easy-to-try barre moves. Note: You can have your baby in a carrier and still safely do all of these moves. (If you don't have a carrier, Levine says it's perfectly fine to hold your baby in front of you, making sure that your hips are underneath your shoulders when standing. (That means no 'mom pose' with your butt tucked and hips pushed forward!)
"Whether your baby is in a carrier or you're holding her, make sure you are giving her kisses and talking to her about what you're doing," Levine says. "These are great exercises to provide gentle movement that can lull baby to sleep while you workout!"
Step one: Begin seated on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. From here, check your posture and stance. "Make sure you are sitting up straight with your shoulders stacked over your hips," Levine says. Then, rock side to side to make sure you can feel your 'sit bones' are pressing into the chair.
Step two: Breathe! "As you exhale, engage your core and pelvic floor muscles by imagining you are pulling your bellybutton to your spine and lifting the area between your sit bones off the chair," Levine says. Your main goal and focus here is to squeeze while you lift. Levine notes that you'll feel a burn in your inner abs because your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals are connected.
Step one: Posture counts! Stand with your feet together and your hands by your side. Then fire up your core and pelvic floor muscles as you begin alternating your legs left and right.
Step two: Now, that you've got the hang of it, up the ante and reach your alternative arm while raising your alternative leg. Do one set of 30.
Step three: Don't forget to check your stance! "Keep your shoulders down and shoulder blades squeezed together, your belly button pulled into your spine, and your pelvic floor squeezed and lifted," Levine says.
Step one: To begin this movement, stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, and knees bent in a semi-squat position.
Step two: Engage that core again! "Pull your belly button into your spine as hard as you can and imagine that this squeeze makes your pelvis tilt under slightly. Release the squeeze and return your pelvis to neutral," she says.
Step three: Now it's time for the upper body: "Add in some variation by circling your hips, 15 to the right and 15 to the left to start working your obliques," she says.