Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Post natal women (new Mums!) are often given the OK from their Doctor to return to exercise after 6-8 weeks. This means that you might have a Mum who has given birth less than two months ago in your classes! Postnatal fitness specialist Kimmy Smith shares some simple modifications to help post natal clients to return to exercise in a safe and positive way.
Kimmy’s Golden Tip: Because every new mother is different, it is always a great idea to refer them to see a physio specialising in women’s health in your local area. This has 3 great benefits:
The mother will really appreciate the extra effort you are taking to care for her health and wellbeing.The mother will learn how to listen to, and take care of, her body. This will help to make your job a little easier as you can work together to create a workout that is safe and effective for her. You will gain the respect of local physios. This can be an invaluable source of referral business and may lead to plenty of other opportunities to guest blog or even speak at events.
Kimmy’s top 5 modifications
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. As a general rule, it is also a good idea to avoid any exercises that:
Make her hold her breathInvolve lifting weight above her head.Crunch through your midsection.Have you standing in a wide legged position.
1. Instead of Abdominal Crunches try…
Almost every woman experiences some form of stomach separation during her pregnancy. Abdominal crunches, sit-ups, V-sit ups or any weighted ab exercise can actually cause this stomach separation to worsen. Instead of crunching exercises try these ab exercises which will help to strengthen her traverses abdomens
Quad Arm / Leg ExtensionsPlank Hold in Quad PositionSide Plank on KneesQuad Push UpsSingle Leg Toe Taps in Supine Position with lower back imprinted on mat (check for her belly ‘popping’ which will indicate too much load through her core).
2. Instead of high impact moves try…
The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends waiting until around 4-6 months after birth before returning to previous activity levels (provided pelvic floor and core strength have returned to normal).
High impact exercises such as running, jumping, skipping and weighted exercises such as kettlebell swings or clean and press can cause a lot of strain on a weakened pelvic floor. In place of these exercises try lower impact forms of cardio such as cycling, swimming or rowing. Narrow stance squats and lunges are great to strengthen legs and isometric exercises are a great way to build muscle endurance and tone.
3. Instead of wide leg stance try…
Standing in a wide legged position makes it harder to contract your pelvic floor (try it if you like!). A simple modification is to ask the new Mum to take a narrow stance. Keep cueing her to engage her pelvic floor and reminding her to draw her belly button back toward her spine to gently engage her mid-section.
This is where a referral to a physio will come in handy, as she will better understand your cues to engage pelvic floor and core and will be able to activate these subtle muscle groups more easily.
It is also important to note that squatting exercises should only be done to parallel, any lower and she will be placing unnecessary strain on her pelvic floor and core.
4. Instead of weighted exercises try…
This might sound really obvious, but always start new Mums with body weight exercises. If you are worried that she won’t get enough of a work out, add in some isometric exercises and small pulsing movements. These will help her to really switch her muscles on and she will definitely be feeling the burn.
An example might be:
10 squats in narrow stanceHold for 20 seconds at the bottom of her squat position (about a 1/4 squat)20 squat pulses at that 1/4 squat position
Add weighted exercises in slowly and focus on control. She will be lifting a baby most of the day, so practice functional movements.
Don’t forget to offer additional rest to your postnatal clients. They might be returning to exercise after a year or more off. Ease them in gently so they can avoid injuries and feelings of fatigue. In my opinion post natal fitness is about empowering the mother to feel good. We want her to feel energised and vibrant, not exhausted and injured!
Kimmy is an expert in post natal fitness and wellbeing. She is the founder of www.kimmysmithfit.com a fitness and wellness hub created to help all Mums feel beautiful, fit and strong. Kimmy is the author of the Fit Mummy Project - the Complete Online guide to Post Natal Fitness and Wellbeing. She is also a Mummy to two beautiful girls, a former professional athlete, a personal trainer, 200HR RYA Qualified yoga teacher and Barre teacher specialising in post natal health.
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