Dear Skoogfit

May 3, 2012

Dear Skoogfit,
Now that I am 6 weeks post partum, do you have any exercises that will strengthen my pelvic floor muscles? I have been reading online and am getting mixed reviews on whether I should even be lifting weights if I feel that my pelvic floor has weakened…any tips would be great!

After a vaginal birth, many women complain of a weakened abdominal wall and pelvic floor. Some may be recovering from episiotomy tears, diastasis recti, or C-section recovery, so a gentle and conservative approach when beginning an exercise routine is key.

Assuming this 6-week post-birth mother has received doctors’ clearance to work out, she should begin with a few basic stretches on a daily basis, holding each pose for 30 seconds, minimum:

Additionally, she can begin her training regimen right where she left off prior to giving birth. If she walked, she should take that back up again. Hit the weights while pregnant? Hop right back on that horse! She should perform kegels to strengthen the actual pelvic floor muscles, but I believe that strength training while performing the drawing-in maneuver is much more effective at strengthening the core than crunches, kegels or any other ‘core’ exercise.

A good, basic strength training program will include:

She should also do overhead press and pushups if she has no shoulder issues (breastfeeding can wreak havoc on a woman’s posture and rotator cuff). Balance and core stability training should be basic, but gradually increase in intensity over time. She can begin with:

  • elbow plank
  • hip bridges
  • 1-arm/unilateral strength work, like a 1-arm row or 1-leg balance deadlift

When it comes to training the post-natal client (or anyone for that matter), I’m a firm believer in listening to your body. Some women give birth and lace up their running sneakers 3 weeks later. Some aren’t ready until 12 weeks post-birth. Have patience. Know that your fittest days are ahead of you. I promise!

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