Tips to get started
Resume your pre-pregnancy exercise routine gradually. At about 4 to 6 weeks postpartum – or earlier if you’re physically able and your doctor says it’s okay – add the exercises below to your workouts.
If you had a cesarean, a difficult birth, or complications (like an infection or preeclampsia), you may need to wait a little longer before exercising.
To make these exercises more effective, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells (available at sporting goods stores), and a resistance band (essentially a long, stretchy piece of rubber, also available at sporting goods stores).
If you’ve used dumbbells or hand weights before, start with a lower weight than you used before and gradually work your way up. If you’ve never used weights before, try light ones – 3 pounds or less – at first. To increase difficulty, add repetitions, sets, or weight.
Begin each workout with a warm-up: Try some gentle stretching for five minutes followed by five minutes of marching in place or slow walking. Cool down afterward by slowing your pace and then following with some light stretching. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
You can add this abdominal strengthener to the routines you started in the first month.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and press the small of your back against the floor as you breathe out.
- Slide your feet away from your body slowly, using your abdominal muscles to keep your back flat.
- When your back starts to arch, stop sliding your feet out and bring them back to the start position – keep your stomach tight. Repeat eight to ten times.
Pay attention to your breathing throughout this exercise. Remember to tighten your abdominal muscles and flatten your back before you start sliding your feet away from you. As your stomach muscles strengthen, you’ll find you can push out your legs farther.
Seated lat row
This exercise strengthens and tones your upper arms and back. (“Lat” refers to the latissimus dorsi, the large muscle of the back.)
- Sit on the edge of a chair, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with a dumbbell on either side of your feet.
- Bend forward, bringing your chest close to your thighs. Keep your back flat.
- Grab one dumbbell in each hand, and let your arms hang straight down with your palms facing each other.
- Raise the dumbbells to your chest, keeping your elbows in line with your body. Be careful not to spread your arms out to the sides as you bend them. Then lower the dumbbells, straightening your arms and controlling the movement as you go. (Don’t just let the dumbbells drop down.) Repeat eight to ten times.
Resistance band lat pulldown
- Sit on a chair holding a resistance band overhead, stretched between both hands. Keep your arms straight and your hands at least shoulder width apart.
- Keeping the band taut, bend your elbows, bringing them down toward your waist until the band touches your collarbone. Repeat eight to ten times. (If you don’t have a resistance band, you can do this same movement with light hand weights.)