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My Favourite Five Tummy Tightening Exercises For New Mums

Let me ask you a question: what is the first abdominal exercise that pops into your mind? I’m no mind reader but I’ll tell you what it is: it’s “sit-ups”, otherwise known as “crunches”, isn’t it? Yep, there are so many abdominal exercises to choose from and yet the world is totally obsessed with doing sit-ups, as if they were the answer to all our wobbly abdominal woes!


Let me let you into a secret. Ok, it’s not a secret but let me disillusion you: you could do 1000 sit-ups a day and it won’t change any of your tummy troubles! In fact, if you have recently become a mummy and your abdominals are separated, chances are, you’ll make matters worse by doing crunches because they’ll actually stop your poor abdominals from realigning and coming back together.


So I’d like to ask you to file away the sit-ups and focus on my top 5 tummy-tightening exercises for new (and less new!) mums. You mustn’t rush these exercises and the emphasis needs to be on quality rather than quantity. So I’d like you to really concentrate on getting the technique 100% spot on. Do these exercises, religiously every day for a week – grad me if you have any questions – and then let me know how you get on. Can you feel the abs working and tightening….? 

Amazing tummy tightening exercise #1: Bent knee fallouts

 

Postnatal Pilates

Step 1


Lie on your back in neutral spine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

Step 2


Breathe in to prepare and as you exhale, draw your abdominals gently inwards whilst drawing upwards on your pelvic floor.

Step 3


Let one leg fall out towards the floor, away from the midline of your body, without letting the leg “flop”. Keep the movement controlled and be sure that your pelvis doesn’t rock as the knee drops out to the side.

Step 4


Bring the leg back to the centre and repeat on the other side. As you perform this move, keep your shoulders relaxed away from your ears and avoid tensing the upper body.


Repeat 8 times on each leg.

Amazing tummy tightening exercise #2: Single leg toe dips

 

Postnatal abdominal exercise

Step 1


Lie on your back in neutral spine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

Step 2


Breathe in to prepare and as you exhale, draw your abdominals gently inwards whilst drawing upwards on your pelvic floor.

Step 3


Whilst maintaining your neutral spine, raise one leg so that your knee is directly above your hip, your shin is parallel to the floor, and your knee at a 90º angle. Try to avoid tensing your upper body.

Step 4


Now inhale to prepare and as you breathe out dip your foot down towards the floor by hinging at the hip, rather than bending at the knee. In other words, maintain the 90º angle at the knee as you dip the foot downwards.

Step 5


Ensure that as you lower your foot towards the floor, your pelvis does not start to tilt forwards causing an overarching of the back.
Repeat the movement between 4-10 times on one leg – depending on whether you can maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout – before repeating on the other leg,


Double toe dips

 

Mummy tummy exercise

Step 1


Lie on your back in neutral spine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

Step 2


Breathe in to prepare and as you exhale, draw your abdominals gently inwards whilst drawing upwards on your pelvic floor.

Step 3


Whilst maintaining your neutral spine, raise one leg so that your knee is above your hip, your shin is parallel to the floor, and your knee at a 90º angle. Try to avoid tensing your upper body.

Step 4


Now inhale again, push your lower back into the floor and lift your second leg up to meet the first, so that both shins are parallel to the floor.


NB If you feel your back beginning to overarch or if you feel tension/pain in your lower back, bring your knees in a couple of inches towards your chest.

Step 5 


Now inhale to prepare and as you breathe out dip one foot down towards the floor by hinging at the hip, rather than bending at the knee. In other words, maintain the 90º angle at the knee as you dip the foot downwards. The other leg stays in position


NB Ensure that as you lower your foot towards the floor, your pelvis does not start to tilt forwards causing an overarching of the back, the abdominals to dome or your lower back to hurt. 

Step 6


Bring your leg back up to the start position and now dip the other foot down to the floor, again, ensuring that the back does not start to peel too far off the floor.


Keep alternating legs and repeat the movement between 4-10 times on each leg, depending on whether you can maintain neutral spinal alignment throughout.

Amazing tummy tightening exercise #3: Single arm/single leg superman


NB If you suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and have sore wrists, please use the modified wrist position when doing this exercise.
 

 


Step 1


Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced (see the first photo).

Step 2


Extend one arm in front of you so that it is parallel to the floor. Make sure that you are drawing your abdominals inwards so as to avoid arching your lower back.


Step 3


Keep your back level when you lift your arm. Breathe and hold the position.

Step 4


Bring the arm back down and then swap over and lift the other arm. Think about lengthening through your back and arm.

Step 5


Now repeat this process with each leg: lift up your leg without arching your lower back; do not tilt your pelvis upwards; breathe and hold the position; lengthen through your back and leg.

 

Postnatal Pilates for abdominal separation


Repeat 4-6 times on each leg and arm

Amazing tummy tightening exercise #4: All fours abdominal pull-up


NB If you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, please use the modified hand position shown in the pictures (p70/72 modified hand position)

 

Step 1


Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced.

Step 2


Place one hand at the very bottom of your abdominals, just above your pubic bone.

Step 3


Breathe in to prepare and as you exhale, draw your abdominals gently upwards, as if lifting them away from your hand. As you do so, you should also feel your pelvic floor working too.

Step 4


Keep the abdominals lifted up and away from your hand, for a couple of breaths and then release for a rest

Step 5


Repeat 4 times, changing hands on each occasion and then sit back on your heels in child’s pose to relax. Do another set of 4 tummy pull-ups.

Amazing tummy tightening exercise #5 Knee Hover

 

Post pregnancy tummy exercise

Step 1


Set yourself up in a box position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Make sure that your back is in neutral. By this I mean that it should have its natural curves but these should not be too pronounced (see the first photo).

Step 2


Curl your toes under as shown in first picture.

Step 3


Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed between hands, knees and toes. Now breathe in to prepare and then draw the abdominals inwards.

Step 4


Once set up, take a breath in and as you exhale hover your knees a couple of inches off the floor without losing control of your neutral spine. This tiny movement will feel quite tough, so choose one of the following two options:

 

  • Either lift and lower repeatedly from box position to hover position.
  • Or, if the first option feels relatively easy, lift into a hover position and hold for between 2 and 6 breaths. If the abdominals start to shake, you have taken things too far and need to have a rest.

Complete between 2 and 6 hovers, depending on your abdominal strength.

So there you have it: 5 abdominal exercises that are NOT sit-ups and that are amazingly good at tightening up the post-pregnancy tummy. Just remember one other thing though: whatever you can pinch round the tummy area that is on top of the abdominals (when tensed) is essentially a layer of fat, and no amount of abdominal exercise, whether it be sit-ups or these postnatal Pilates moves will get rid of that.

How you deal with that side of things is a whole different story for another time, but think "healthy, clean eating" and think "short cardio and resistance interval training" like some of the ones I've sent you in the past...

Let me know on facebook or on the forum if you'd like me to create some fat-burning workouts for you to do at home.

 

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