After having a baby, many women decide to head back to group fitness classes, hoping to get their “bellies” back in shape. While traditional crunches may not be appropriate, this is a time to “rebuild” the core, along with doing other supportive activities. If you teach a class that is specific to the postpartum phase of a woman’s life, feel confident using the following moves as a component of a safe, well-designed workout.
The exercises are adapted from a series developed by Shirley Sahrmann, PhD, PT, FAPTA, a physical therapist who specializes in rehabilitating abdominal muscles. The moves are taught as a progression: Participants perform each move with correct technique for 20 reps with each leg before moving to the next one. In a class setting, this requirement may be a challenge; therefore, teach the first three exercises and then add the last two over several weeks.
Note: All postpartum women should have a physician’s clearance before exercising.
Begin all exercises by lying on back, arms extended at sides, knees bent. Slowly inhale and exhale several times. On last exhalation, pull navel in toward spine and rib cage, and hold. Do not tilt pelvis or flatten the back. Maintain proper positioning of abdomen and back throughout all exercises.
Keeping one knee bent, slowly slide other leg out until it’s parallel with floor. Bring leg back and repeat with other leg. Alternate, completing 20 reps with each leg.
Lift one knee toward chest and straighten same leg so it is about 2–3 inches off floor. Bring leg back and place foot on floor. Repeat with other leg. Alternate, completing 20 reps with each leg.
Bring knees up to 90-degree angle one at a time. Keep one leg bent and lower other leg at hip joint, tapping floor with toe. Bring leg back and repeat on other side. Alternate, completing 20 reps with each leg.
Bring knees up to 90-degree angle one at a time. Keep one leg bent and extend other leg until it’s parallel to but not touching floor. Bring leg back and repeat on other side. Alternate, completing 20 reps with each leg.
Straighten both legs over hips so they are perpendicular to floor. Slowly lower both legs toward floor, going as far as possible without releasing abdominal contraction or overarching the back. Repeat for up to 20 reps.