A Simple Post C Section Workout Plan [For Busy Moms]

Today, we are going over a simple post c-section workout plan you can do from home.

Recovering from a c-section is hard work.

That’s why it’s important that you exercise in a safe but efficient way.

Let’s get started.

workout-plan-after-c-section

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

How long after C section can I exercise?

Most OBGYN’s would agree that you can begin exercising 6-8 weeks after a c-section. However, that is usually the best-case scenario.

Depending on how extensive your c-section was, recovery may take a little longer. Some women aren’t ready to exercise for 12 weeks or more.

Your provider will be able to give you more personalized recommendations.

It’s also important to note that you need to listen to your body when doing any kind of activity in the early weeks after a c-section.

What exercise can I do after C-section?

After abdominal surgery, it is important that you do exercises to help with c-section recovery.

There are three major exercises that you should start doing as early as possible.

  • Walking
  • Pelvic Floor Work
  • Core Breathing Exercises

These three exercises will make up the majority of your exercise routine In the first few weeks.

Exercises To Help With C Section Recovery

Walking After A Cesarean Section

Walking is the most important exercise that you can do post-op.

It stimulates blood flow throughout your body, activates muscles in your core and legs, and it gets your metabolism going.

You should try to begin walking the very next day after your surgery.

walking-postpartum-stay-fit

When you’re first starting out, make sure to get help getting in and out of the bed, and when taking your first few steps.

Here’s Your Goal:

  • Aim for 10 minutes of walking every single day. Break it up however you need. Take breaks. Do 1 minute at a time. Whatever you do, do not lie in bed all day!

For added comfort, you can also use an abdominal binder. There is no data that it actually helps with recovery, but a lot of women at my hospital find that walking is easier while wearing it.

You can usually get one at your hospital, but if not:

This one has good reviews on Amazon

Pelvic Floor Exercises Post Cesarean

Do you need to strengthen your pelvic floor even though you didnt have a vaginal delivery?

Yes!

Your pelvic muscles had to support a growing baby inside your uterus for months on end. They will be stretched out and weakened.

But the best part is:

You can do these exercises from any position.

Sitting, laying, standing, it doesn’t matter.

Start with just the kegel exercise and do it every single day. Check out The Best Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises to learn more.

Here’s Your Goal:

  • Do at least 30-50 repetitions spread throughout the day. For example, 2 sets of 10 in the morning, 3 sets of 10 in the evening etc.

Breathing Exercises Post Cesarean

Lastly, it is important that you master the diaphragmatic breathing drill. This exercise is important for opening up your lungs, training your diaphragm muscle, and activating your transverse abdominis.

The transverse abdominis is one of the key muscles in stabilizing your core, and healing diastasis recti.

deep-breathing

It’s a simple exercise.

We also encourage all post-surgical patients on the postpartum unit to do it.

That’s what the incentive spirometer device is for.

It helps provide negative pressure into your lungs to help them expand, and then you should exhale fully to feel your core muscles engaging.

Here’s Your Goal:

  • Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing daily. 10 repetitions two to three times per day.

So that will be your post c-section workout for at least 1-3 weeks.

Can I do squats after C section?

You can perform the squat (and other bodyweight exercises) 2-3 weeks post c-section. You want to make sure that you see your provider first before doing so.

Most OBGYNs will see you 1-2 weeks after your c-section to make sure your scar is healing appropriately.

By this time, you may or may not feel ready to do exercises like the squat.

As always, take your time and listen to your body.

When first starting out, use the back of a chair to help support you on the way up and the way down.

See the picture below.

squat

Alright, now let’s get to the Workout.

A simple post c-section workout plan

Before getting started with this workout, I want you to make sure of three things:

  1. You are at least 6-8 weeks post c-section
  2. You have been cleared by your doctor to exercise
  3. You have walked, strengthened your pelvic core, and practiced deep breathing at least 5x per week

Did you check off all three?

If so, you’re good to go.

These workouts are gentle, and can really help speed up your post operative recovery.

Each workout will aim to do three things

  • Strengthen your upper body
  • Strengthen your lower body
  • Strengthen your core

Let’s get started.

Workout 1

Wall Push-ups

The first exercise in your post c-section workout is the wall push-up.

wall-push-up

This is one of the best introductory exercises to help you strengthen the upper body.

  • Stand at least 12 inches away from a wall, enough to extend your arms against it.
  • Set your stance shoulder-width apart and place your outstretched hands against the wall.
  • Brace your core and go into a posterior pelvic tilt
  • Begin bending at the elbows, keeping them tucked and close to your body.
  • When your forehead approaches the wall, pause, then press back out.

Try to get 12 repetitions per set.

Wall Sits

The next exercise is great for training the muscles in front and back of your legs simultaneously.

postpartum-wall-sit

And the best part is, you don’t even have to move to do it.

  • Place your back against a wall with your feet 8-12 inches away from the wall.
  • Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Next, posteriorly tilt your pelvis by flattening your low back against the wall.
  • Squat down as low as you comfortably can.
  • Keep both feet flat on the ground, and your upper back flat against the wall.

Hold this position for 15 seconds.

Posterior Pelvic Tilts

The third exercise is the posterior pelvic tilt. This is one of the most fundamental exercises for you to learn postpartum.

posterior-pelvic-tilt

It forms the basis for almost every exercise you can do for diastasis recti training because its the easiest way to activate your transverse abdominis muscles.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • From here, flatten out your low back against the ground by contracting your ab muscles and tilting your tailbone up toward the sky.
  • This will naturally rotate your pelvis into a neutral position.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds without letting your low back come off the floor.

Try to do 5 repetitions per set.

Go through these three exercises 3 times total to complete Workout 1.


Workout 2

Towel Face Pulls Into External Rotations

The next exercise is the face pull into external rotation.

towel-face-pulls

This movement will strengthen your back and your shoulders, two neglected muscle groups.

To get the most benefit from this exercise, you will need a towel.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Hold a towel in your outstretched hands in front of you.
  • Next, begin pulling the towel apart as if you were trying to tear it in half.
  • Then, start bringing the towel toward your face.
  • As you get closer, begin externally rotating your arms up so that the towel ends up directly over your head.
  • Continue pulling the towel apart and concentrate on squeezing your scapulae together.

Do 12-15 repetitions per set.

Kneeling Squats

Next is the kneeling squat. This is an exercise that combines elements of knee flexion and hip extension at the same time.

kneeling-squat

It’s a great exercise that teaches you how to activate your glute muscles while training the quadriceps.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Get into a tall kneeling position with a cushion or rolled-up mat underneath your knees
  • Next, lower yourself so that you are sitting down on your heels
  • From here, squeeze your glute muscles to extend your hips back to the starting position.
  • Repeat using a smooth controlled motion.

Do 12-15 repetitions per set.

Heel Slides

The third exercise for workout 2 is the heel slide. This exercise further strengthens the ab muscles post-cesarean section.

postpartum-heel-slides

Heres how to do it.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
  • Tilt your pelvis posteriorly and then slide one heel on the floor until your leg is straight.
  • Make sure that your low back remains flat throughout the entire exercise.
  • Slowly bring that leg back up to the start, and repeat with your other leg.
  • Alternatively, you can do all of the repetitions on one side before removing on to the next.

Do 8 repetitions per side.

Go through these three exercises 3 times total to complete Workout 2.


Workout 3

Chair Dips

The first exercise of workout 3 is the chair dip. This is a good exercise to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder as well as your triceps.

chair-dips

Heres how to do it:

  • Find a chair or bench that is sturdy enough to hold your weight
  • Grab the edge of the chair with your palms down and elbows straight as seen in the image above
  • Make sure to keep your scapula retracted and hands outward throughout the entire movement
  • Do not place your hands forward as this can put your shoulder in a compromised position
  • Dip down by bending at the elbow
  • Return back to the starting position by straightening your elbows

Perform 10-12 repetitions per set.

The Staggered Hip-Hinge

The lower body exercise in workout 3 is the staggered hip-hinge. This movement is great for targeting the glutes, the low back, and the hamstring muscles.

hip-hinge

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stagger your stance approximately 18 inches apart with your feet pointing forward.
  • Next, begin bending at the waist and NOT at your spine (i.e keep your back straight).
  • Reach down, keeping your front leg relatively straight, until you feel a stretch in your hamstring muscle.
  • When you do, pause for a second and then come back up by squeezing your glute muscles.
  • You can make this exercise more effective by holding onto a dumbbell, a gallon of water, or some other external weight.
  • Don’t forget to train both sides.

Aim for 8-10 per side.

Modified Side Planks

The third exercise in this workout is the modified side plank.

modified-side-plank-pregnancy

This exercise comes up again and again because it is the best way to train the endurance of the oblique muscles. It is especially important for you to practice this movement after a c-section to help strengthen your core.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Lie on your side and prop yourself up on your elbow for support.
  • Keep the knee of your bottom leg bent and in contact with the floor.
  • Extend your top leg and place that foot on the ground for balance.
  • Next, lift up your hips off the floor and hold this position.
  • Make sure that you keep your back and hips as straight as possible.
  • Don’t forget to train both sides.

Hold the side plank for 15-20 seconds per side.

Go through these three exercises 3 times total to complete Workout 3.

How To Structure Your Workout

So there you have three distinct workouts to do by the time you are 6-8 weeks post-c-section.

I recommend that you do these workouts on alternate days like this.

WeekdayWorkout
MondayWorkout 1
TuesdayWalking/Pelvic Floor Work
WednesdayWorkout 2
ThursdayWalking/Pelvic Floor Work
FridayWorkout 3
SaturdayWalking/Pelvic Floor Work
SundayWalking/Pelvic Floor Work

After you feel comfortable with this workout (at least 4 weeks) then you can move on to more difficult workouts.

I have an entire article on postpartum weightlifting with a week by week plan liked at the bottom of this post!

Exercises to avoid after c-section

Okay, so that was a list of safe exercises you can do after a c-section. Now lets talk about ones to avoid.

The first and most obvious is the sit-up and crunch. These exercises place too much pressure on your abdominal muscles and can interfere with healing.

postpartum-situps

That’s why you should roll over out of bed, and not sit-up directly.

Instead, you need to focus on ab exercises that emphasize posterior pelvic tilt, and minimize trunk movement.

Other exercises to avoid include

  • Twsiting
  • Full Planks
  • Full push-ups
  • Heavy weight lifting such as overhead press, and squats

That’s not to say you can’t ever do these exercises. You will just have to work your way back up by using a workout plan like the one I outlined above.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Does The C section Pooch Go Away?

Some women will develop what is often called “the c-section pooch.” This is a layer of fat that overhangs where your c-section scar is.

This can form for several reasons.

  1. The manner in which your internal scars heal can shift the way your subcutaneous tissue sits on your belly
  2. Your core muscles are weak and stretched out
  3. Your body fat levels have increased

As a result, making the “pooch” go away requires a multi-factorial approach. This involves exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. I go into more detail in my post on getting rid of baby fat.

What Are The Best Exercise After C-Section To Reduce My Tummy?

There are no special exercises that will help you get a flat stomach after a c section. Instead, you need to focus on lifestyle changes that will help you lower your body fat percentage.

With that said, it is still important for you to perform core exercises as it will be very weak following your delivery.

What’s The Best Way To Fix A Weak Core After C-Section?

Fixing a weak core after a c-section will require you to strengthen your transverse abdominis and oblique muscles before your rectus abdominis.

That’s because these are the muscles that provide support to your abdomen and close up a diastasis.

That’s why my diastasis recti program follows a specific sequence. It starts off by showing you the best transverse abdominis exercises for postpartum women.

Doing the wrong ab exercises at the wrong time can lead to a worsening of your abdominal muscle separation.

When Can I Lift Heavy Weights After A C Section?

That will depend on your pre-c-section activity levels and how quickly you recover.

With that said, it is important that you follow a step-by-step process to get you back to the barbell.

postpartum-weightlifting-program

At the minimum, you should spend 3-4 months working your way back up to heavy weights.

I go over a week to week program you could follow for postpartum weightlifting here.

What About Running After A C-Section?

I have an entire post on running after your pregnancy. It describes a weekly approach to help you get back on the track.

postpartum-running-routine

Final Thoughts On Working Out After A C-Section

Getting into a workout routine after a c-section takes patience, time, and a well thought out plan.

As always, stay safe, listen to your body, and seek guidance from your providers if anything feels funny.

So now I want to turn it over to you.

How many weeks has it been since your c-section? Which of these exercises are you excited to try?

Comment below and let me know!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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