5 exercises for new moms to strengthen and tone postpartum


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Dec 12, 2022

Pregnancy may seem like a great time to put your feet up and relax, but regular exercise before, during and after pregnancy has great benefits for you and your baby. And the benefits of exercise don’t stop after delivery—women who exercise while pregnant are more successful in reaching their pre-pregnancy weight after giving birth.

Is exercise safe postpartum?

If you had a healthy pregnancy and expected vaginal delivery, it’s usually safe to exercise as soon as you feel ready. If there were complications or you had a cesarean birth, ask your OBGYN when it’s safe to exercise.

Exercise has the following benefits for postpartum women:

  • Helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
  • Boosts energy
  • Promotes better sleep
  • May help prevent postpartum depression

As your body continues to heal, especially if you are breastfeeding, make sure that you are nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods. Breastfeeding combined with a highly restrictive diet is not healthy for mom or baby. Breast milk production will come first, and your body will sacrifice its lean muscle tissue for the task if it is not getting enough food to fuel production. A reduction in lean muscle tissue decreases your metabolism, leaving you feeling even more tired and sluggish.

5 strengthening exercises for new moms

Strength training is one of the most effective ways to regain strength and muscle tone after pregnancy. Try these exercises below.

1. Glute Bridges

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Rest your arms by your side, palms down.
  • Tighten your abs. Tuck your pelvis so your low back is flat against the floor.
  • Squeeze your bottom tight as you lift your hips off the ground.
  • Give an extra squeeze with your glutes at the top of the movement, then slowly lower back to the floor.
  • Repeat for a set of 25.

2. Clamshells

  • Lie on your side, with your legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
  • Keep your feet together and without rocking backward, slowly raise your upper knee as high as possible without shifting your hips or pelvis or moving your lower leg. Your legs will look like an open clamshell.
  • Return the top leg to the starting closed position.
  • Repeat for a set of 25.

3. Squats

  • Stand with hips shoulder-width apart. Begin the movement by pushing the hips back as if you will sit back into a chair.
  • Bend the knees and lower down into a squat position. You should work to maintain a tall spine and proud chest as you lower down.
  • Push through the feet, straighten the knees and squeeze the glutes to return to standing.
  • Repeat for a set of 25.

4. Scapular wall slides

This exercise is great to open the chest and correct the rounded shoulder posture that many new mothers assume from cradling babies.

  • Stand with your back against the wall and feet about a foot away from the wall. You will be leaning back into the wall.
  • Tighten your abdominals and flatten your low back against the wall. Tuck your chin so that the back of your head is against the wall.
  • Bring the arms up against the wall in the shape of a field goal post. Slide the arms up the wall diagonally, forming a ‘V’ with the arms.
  • Draw the shoulder blades and drive the elbows towards your hip pockets, forming a ‘W’ with the arms.
  • Do not let the low back arch as you drive the elbows.
  • Repeat for a set of 15 to 20.

5. Plank

  • Begin by lying on your stomach on the floor. Position yourself on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders and your legs extended straight.
  • Lift your body off of the floor, onto your forearms and toes.
  • Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs.
  • Engage your leg muscles, tuck your chin and keep your back flat to create a straight, strong line from head to toes.
  • Hold that position.
  • Slowly lower to the floor.
  • Try to hold your plank for 10 to 15 seconds and progress to longer.

For all of these exercises, try and rest as little as possible between each, but give yourself some grace, too. Start out doing one set of each exercise to performing two, and then three sets each. There’s no equipment required and you can easily fit these into your daily routine while your baby naps.

Be sure to share any concerns, fears or questions about pregnancy with your doctor.

Don’t have an OBGYN you can trust? Find an OBGYN near you.

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