5 Exercises for Your Post-Baby Belly
Get Your Pre-Baby Body Back
Spoiler alert: Crunches are as ineffective as they are dull for toning your ab muscles. In fact, working only the outer abdominal muscles, as crunches do, without strengthening the underlying ones first can actually make your pooch worse.
"Working your abdominals from the inside out is the key to a flatter tummy and lasting results," says Pasadena, Calif.–based fitness expert Tracey Mallett, creator of the Get Your Body Back DVD.
Mallett designed this easy postnatal workout to tone the transverse—your deepest abdominal muscle—quickly. With your doctor's OK, try the first move one week after delivery, eventually working up to all five moves, three to four times a week. Keep clicking to master the moves.
Do this move as early as one week after you have your baby if you had a vaginal delivery; if you had a C-section you might have to wait 8 to 10 weeks. Lie on your back with your knees bent and a pillow under your hips and another between your knees. Feet flat and your arms at your sides, inhale, then exhale and draw your abs in and tuck your pelvis under slightly, squeezing your buttocks as you do a Kegel. Hold 5 seconds and release for 10 reps.
Benefits: Improves deep abdominal strength and stamina.
After six weeks, add this move to your routine. Lie on your back with feet hip-width apart, knees bent. Inhale, then exhale as you draw your abs up and in toward your spine. Tilt your pelvis up, lifting your hips off the floor into a bridge [shown]. Slowly lower down to starting position. Repeat 5 times, building up to 10.
Benefits: Strengthens the transverse, buttocks and lower back.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and abs drawn in. Flex your left foot, pressing your heel into the floor. Keeping your pelvis still, inhale, then exhale as you use your deep abdominal muscles to push your left heel away from your body, keeping the knee slightly bent [shown]. Return to starting position. Alternate sides, doing 5 slides on each side, working up to 10. Do these first three exercises together and in order for the next two weeks, then add move 4.
Benefits: Strengthens the transverse and lower back, supporting your core.
Lie on your back, knees bent. Place a towel across your upper shins and grasp each end. Pull the ends of the towel and squeeze thighs together. Inhale, then exhale as you draw your abs in and lift your shoulders off the floor [shown]. Hold, and contract and release, your ab muscles 10 to 12 times, working up to 20. Do moves 1–4 in order for two weeks.
Benefits: Strengthens the transverse.
Single-Leg Stretch with Towel
Add this move at 12 to 14 weeks postpartum, doing moves 1–5 in order. Lie on your back with your knees above your hips and your shins parallel to the floor. Place a small towel on top of your thighs, hold on to the ends and push against your thighs to create resistance. Lift your head and shoulders and extend your left leg out as you exhale [shown]. Switch legs and repeat, alternating legs for 5 reps and working up to 10.
Benefits: Strengthens the transverse, giving you a stronger, sleeker-looking torso.
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