Are you a new mom looking for the best exercises to help you bounce back?
You are in the right place!
In this post you are going to learn:
- The safest exercises to perform after delivery,
- How to find time to work out as a new mom, and
- A simple new mom workout plan you could do at home.
Okay, let’s get started.
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. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. 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.
Which exercises are best after delivery?
The best exercises for new moms are ones that will help to strengthen your core and pelvic floor in a safe and gentle manner.
Your body went through some amazing changes to grow a baby inside your uterus.
As a result, your core muscles are weakened as the abdominal muscles had to stretch to support the rapid growth of your uterus.
In addition, the pelvic floor muscles get weak throughout your pregnancy as they are placed under a lot of stress in the antenatal and perinatal period.
Both of these happen regardless of the type of delivery you had. Vaginal or cesarean, you will need to strengthen both of these muscle groups.
So let’s discuss the best low impact exercises you can perform to start your postpartum fitness journey.
Part 1: Core & Pelvic Floor Exercises
The Kegel Exercise
The kegel is one of the most effective postnatal exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
This exercise can be performed prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy, and immediately postpartum.
You could perform this exercise from any position wherever you are, as it is more of an internal exercise that no one will ever know you are doing. 🙂
In this picture, I am doing it from a hands and knees (quadruped position).
The idea is to squeeze the muscles in your pelvis and hold it for a 1-2 second count. Pretend as if you are trying hard to hold in your poop or pee.
Sorry for that graphic, but it’s the best way to teach it.
This is single-handedly one of the best ways to treat and prevent postpartum urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Studies show that pelvic floor training has benefits noted even 1 year after delivery.
You could never perform this gentle exercise too much. So feel free to do it whenever you remember.
Diaphragmatic breathing is another great exercise to teach you how to activate your core muscles as you take deep breaths. It’s also one of the best introductory exercises for women with diastasis recti.
You see, many women breathe using their chest and accessory breathing muscles.
If you do this, you will typically see your chest rise and your shoulders shrugging.
This is not the most optimal way to breathe.
Instead, you need to learn how to breathe using your diaphragm to its maximum ability.
To do this exercise you can sit, stand, or even lie down.
It is best to put your hands over your abdomen as you take a deep breath. That way, you can get immediate feedback on whether or not you are doing it correctly.
At not point should your shoulders elevate.
Then, exhale as much as you can in a slow and controlled manner.
This will really help you to fully oxygenate your body while activating your core muscles.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt
The posterior pelvic tilt is another great exercise to activate your pelvic floor and core muscles in one easy movement.
This core exercise is best performed on the floor lying down on your back or against the wall.
Naturally, there will be a curve in your lower back when you are lying down or standing against the wall.
Ideally you want to flatten that curve by squeezing your abs, glutes, and pelvic floor muscles.
Not only will this exercise help to activate your core, glutes, and pelvic floor, but it will help to restore the anatomic alignment of your pelvis.
Because during pregnancy your gravid uterus, shifts your center of gravity forward which tilts your pelvis anteriorly, creating what we call “mom posture.”
We want to reverse that as anterior pelvic tilt can manifest as back pain. I go over more details in Postpartum Back Pain: What To Do About It.
The glute bridge is one of my favorite exercises.
It is super easy, you do not need any equipment, yet you really feel the burn in your hamstring and glute muscles.
The starting position is with you lying on your back with your knees bent.
Next you want to posteriorly tilt your pelvis so that you begin activating your core.
From here you want to squeeze your booty so that you can extend at the hips. At the end, you will have created a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
Hold the top position for a 1-2 seconds and then slowly lower yourself.
Aside from those gentle core and pelvic floor exercises, you could also walk!
Walking is one of the best, underrated exercises and one I strongly recommend prior to conception, during pregnancy and immediately postpartum.
- burn calories
- improve circulation
- decrease the risk of deep venous thrombosis, and
- strengthen the muscles of your legs
What’s even better is that you could walk with your baby!
I suggest walking 10-15 minutes per day at least 3-4 times per week.
So grab the stroller and get moving!
Part 2: Bodyweight Exercises
Secondly, you can begin incorporating some bodyweight exercises to your routine.
These are the best exercises to get your muscles and joints moving again in the early postpartum.
Before trying any of these exercises, be sure to get clearance from your healthcare provider first!
Here are the best ones:
- The squat is the best exercise for the quadriceps, adductors, and glutes. Learn more in How To Squat Safely Postpartum.
Foot Assisted Dip
- The dip is one of the best exercises for strengthening and toning the arms, specifically the triceps, shoulders, and chest. I discuss this exercise in more detail in How To Get Rid of Batwing Arms.
The Reverse Lunge
- The lunge trains balance, single-leg strength, stability, and core strength.
- The wall push-up is the best and easiest way to develop the upper body. It strengthens the shoulders, triceps, and chest. I go over this push-up and other variations in Pregnancy Push-ups.
Part 3: Light Resistance Training
The third type of best exercise for new moms is resistance training. To do these, you will need a resistance band, dumbbells, or kettlebells.
Here are some of my favorites.
- The band pull-apart strengthens the upper back, posterior shoulders, and rotator cuff. Use a light/small resistance band. You can get a set here on Amazon.
Banded Kick Back
- The band kick-back trains the glutes, hamstrings, and core. It is best done with a medium/strong resistance band.
Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension
Another simple exercise to help strengthen the back of your arms is the overhead tricep extension. Just make sure to not arch your back excessively.
Other Related Topics
How to find time to work out as a new mom
- You are exhausted.
- You don’t have anyone to watch your baby, and
- You need to do household tasks (cooking, cleaning, laundry).
But here are some tips to help you find time.
Tip #1 Short workouts
Your workouts do not need to be long. In fact, they can be pretty short.
If you can do some type of activity 5 times per week, thats only 30 minutes a day.
But if you can’t do 30 minutes – THAT’S OKAY TOO!
Something is always better than nothing.
Try to fit it in during these times:
- When your baby is sleeping or taking a nap
- When a friend or family member could watch the baby
- When your baby is in the swing
- You could even wear your baby and workout together
Tip #2 Integrate fitness into daily activities
You could also integrate some type of physical activity into your daily life.
Instead of taking the elevator all the way up, get off 1-2 floors early and take the stairs.
Go for a walk when your baby is being restless instead of carrying him/her around the house.
Park further away so you could take advantage of the extra steps.
Take your dog for more frequent walks.
Do what you can, when you can!
When can I start exercising after normal delivery?
After a normal delivery, the general postpartum exercise guidelines state you should wait at least 4-6 weeks before starting any sort of exercise program.
However, it may be possible to exercise before six weeks, as long as you aren’t doing any type of intense exercise routines.
Always speak with your provider for personal guidance.
To learn more about what exercises you could do and which ones you should avoid, check out exercises you should avoid postpartum.
Are there any specific postpartum exercises to help reduce my tummy?
Reducing your mommy tummy will require a combination of diet and exercise to help you lose any extra weight / fat.
In fact, diet is much more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss.
That’s because you cannot spot reduce fat.
This means that you cannot do hundreds of sit-ups, crunches, and other abdominal exercises to try and get a flatter stomach.
I am not saying this to discourage you, I just want to set your expectations and help you understand this will require a lot of work.
To learn more, I have a detailed article explaining the mommy tummy and tips to get a flat stomach postpartum.
Postpartum workout plan pDF
Alright mama, now I want to give you a free postpartum workout plan to get you started.
*Don’t forget to always check in with your doctor first before doing any type of workout program!*
Just enter your email to get the free workout routine.
Final Words On Exercising As A New Mom
Postnatal exercise is so important!
It can help you lose weight, improve your postpartum recovery, and decrease your risk of postpartum depression.
Use this fitness routine to help take care of your amazing body!
Now I want to hear from you.
What type of exercise are you most excited to try?
Has anything been holding you back?
Comment below and let me know!
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany 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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- Mørkved S, Bø K. Effect of postpartum pelvic floor muscle training in prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a one-year follow up. BJOG. 2000;107(8):1022-1028. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb10407.x
- Thabet AA, Alshehri MA. Efficacy of deep core stability exercise program in postpartum women with diastasis recti abdominis: a randomised controlled trial. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2019;19(1):62-68.
- Poyatos-León R, García-Hermoso A, Sanabria-Martínez G, Álvarez-Bueno C, Cavero-Redondo I, Martínez-Vizcaíno V. Effects of exercise-based interventions on postpartum depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Birth. 2017;44(3):200-208. doi:10.1111/birt.12294