Post Partum Workout Guide
From all of us at Team Betty Rocker, congratulations on your new family addition!
We created this workshop to help you make the transition back into training safely and effectively.
We’re here to help with diastasis recti testing and correction, breathing, pelvic floor and core work to reconnect and integrate you systemically so you can transition back into exercise in the most supportive way for you.
Before you get started with any of our recommendations, always consult with your healthcare provider, as they should provide you with personalized information, restrictions or guidelines based on your medical history.
As you progress through this workshop, keep in mind everyone’s journey looks different. This guide is designed to help you navigate the path ahead no matter what point you are starting at, and help you tailor it to your own specific needs. If you are a Rock Your Life member, this workshop can be found in the specialty area in your challenges and workshops library, and is laid out in a live calendar format which you may find more enjoyable to follow.
Meet Coach Nikki, who will be your guide through this workshop! Coach Nikki Cotton is a certified Yoga Instructor ERYT200; AFAA Certified Personal Trainer; Mat Pilates instructor; Team Betty Rocker Coach and has completed additional training in pre natal and post partum fitness.
We invite you to keep this blog post page open and work through these videos over the course of weeks, utilizing them as many times as you like. Your journey will be unique, and you can reference this as often as needed.
As you move forward you will be learning more about the following key points:
- Diastasis Recti – how to identify and correct the condition
- Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
- Ineffective breathing patterns and why the breath matters
- Muscle and joint imbalances stemming from ligament and tendon laxity
- Low back pain due to pregnancy and postpartum posture
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction
- How to workout safely and gradually through a series of progressive movements
2: Diastasis Recti
In your next workshop, Coach Nikki is going to cover diastasis recti: what it is, and how to test for it so that you know which workshop to move on to next.
How to check for diastasis recti
Diastasis recti can occur in 3 areas: high above the navel (just below the sternum), just above the navel (approximately 1 to 2 inches), and below the navel (between navel and pubic bone).
Make sure to check all three areas. The finger check is the most common and readily available way to check for diastasis recti but it’s important to note the gold standard is an ultrasound.
For self check follow these simple steps:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Place your fingers on your navel pointing towards your pelvis, and press down.
- Lift your head up about an inch while keeping your shoulders on the ground.
- If you have diastasis recti, you will feel a gap between the muscles that is an inch wide (~ 2 fingers) or greater AND/OR the space between the gap is soft allowing your fingers to sink deeply into the abdomen.
Once you have completed your test you will have determined if you are able to contract your transverse abdominis.
- If you have a gap but CAN recruit your transverse abdominis move on to VIDEO 4 to learn how to integrate the pelvic floor into this system.
- If you are not activating the transverse abdominis or unsure what you feel move on to VIDEO 3.
3: Activate the Transverse Abdominis
Now that you’ve done your diastasis recti test and determined your transverse abdominis is inactive, we’re going to go over how to activate it.
Not only are the transverse abdominals important for diastasis recti healing, they are crucial for proper abdominal pressure control and regulation. If they are not toned and utilized with the coordination of the diaphragm, it puts your pelvic floor and abdominal wall at risk of unnecessary pressure.
This may contribute to low back pain, lack of support and protection for your internal organs resulting in organ prolapse, decreased hip stability, hernias, incontinence, and other pelvic dysfunctions. But the great news is it’s NEVER too late to learn these activation techniques!
4: Pelvic Floor Integration
In this video, we’ll build on an active transverse abdominis, and how to integrate it with your pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor does so much more than most of us realize. More than just holding in your internal organs or helping you to not pee when you sneeze (as many of us have experienced during or post pregnancy) it is an endurance muscle helping you to balance and create stability throughout your day.
This is why overworking it through constant contractions like Kegels may have a counter effect causing it to be fatigued and tight. The pelvic floor works in beautiful synergy with the respiratory diaphragm. To start establishing this connection you must first work your breath and the mind-body connection.
In this video you will learn to:
- Access the respiratory diaphragm to naturally engage the pelvic floor
- Identify and isolate the muscles of the pelvic floor
- Perform a Kegel contraction properly
- Identify when and how often to use a Kegel contraction
- Integrate the action of the transverse abdominals and the pelvic floor together
- Ways to help the pelvic floor work in a more functional manner through natural movements in your day
5: Spinal mobility and breathwork
Now that you’ve mastered the integration of your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis, we’ll focus on breathing techniques and spinal mobility for improving your posture.
- Chest stretch at the wall
- Corner stretching
- Open Chest with strap or band
- Cactus arms (on floor to start, at wall to progress)
- Side lying rib mobility test to mid back (thoracic) rotation
- Seated twist
- Standing rib mobility to decrease rib flare
It’s important to keep in mind that even though you may feel ready or have the energy to do more intense work early on, it may not be the best option as your body is relearning to function as an integrated system.
Continue to perform this sequence as often as you like throughout your day or week until you feel comfortable and confident then move on to Day 6: Full Core Integration.
6: Core Integration Introduction
In this video you will learn to use your core as a stabilizing system. These movements are meant to be done with caution and consideration of where you are currently in your healing journey. You may be beginning these exercises anywhere from 6 weeks up to 4 months postpartum but as always listen to your body first and if you are unsure please seek advice from your healthcare professional.
Additionally it is recommended that you do not attempt these moves until you have confidently and successfully learned to integrate the core as a whole through pelvic floor, transverse abdominal, and diaphragmatic activation as outlined in Videos 3 and 4.
These exercises are progressive, and will teach you how to create a solid foundation before moving to the next variation of each move. With this in mind it may be of great benefit to watch the video through first and then follow along to the level that suits you best.
As you move on to the next two videos you will see these moves again as beginner Level 1 and advanced beginner Level 2 workouts that may be performed several times a week (at the appropriate level) until you have built up strength and endurance to do the moves with ease and are ready to move on.
- Core stabilization with limb movement progressing to Dead Bug
- Trunk curl with alternating knee lift
- Bridge lift to single leg knee lift
- Inner thigh abduction
- Side plank variations
- Bird dog (spinal balance) to bird dog crunch
- Modified to full plank variations
7: Core Integration Level 1
HOW TO USE THIS WORKOUT: This is a beginner Level 1 core circuit. It is designed to help reestablish strength and stability. The circuit is performed for two rounds. As you increase strength you may repeat the circuit as many as three to four rounds in each session.
FREQUENCY: Start slow with 1 to 2 days a week increasing to 3 days a week making sure you have plenty of rest between sessions for at least 4-6 weeks before moving on to Video 8 advanced beginner Level 2 core circuit as well as Videos 9-11 of this workshop.
- Abdominal crunch
- Modified Dead bug
- Bridge lift
- Side lying abduction
- Modified Side plank hold
8: Core Integration Level 2
HOW TO USE THIS WORKOUT: This is an advanced beginner Level 2 core circuit. The moves here will build off of your foundation from the Level 1 core training. The circuit is performed for two rounds. As you increase strength you may repeat the circuit as many as three to four rounds in each session.
FREQUENCY: 2 to 3 days a week making sure you have plenty of rest between sessions. You may move on to Videos 9-11 in addition to this workout.
- Abdominal crunch with knee lifts
- Dead bug
- Bridge lift to single leg bridge
- Side lying abduction
- Side plank hold
- Bird Dog
- Plank hold
9: Lower Body Progression
HOW TO USE THIS WORKOUT: Now that you have established a great foundation from your core training it’s time to use your core as a stabilizing mechanism for your lower body bodyweight exercises.
You may do these exercises while also incorporating your Level 2 core circuits. Each exercise starts with a base move in the first round and a progression is given in each consecutive round. Stay at the level that feels right for you and always listen to your body first.
FREQUENCY: You may do this workout as many as 2 – 3 times per week with rest between sessions.
Format: In exercises 1-5, there is an option to progress the intensity. You’ll do 3 rounds of each exercise.
Exercise 1 Progression:
- Squat to box (10)
- SL squat (5 each side)
- Pistol squat to box (5 each side)
Exercise 2 Progression:
- Side to side lunge (10)
- Step out (5 each side)
- Step out with leg add cross (5 each side)
Exercise 3 Progression:
- Deadlift (10)
- Staggered single leg deadlift (reach to box) (5 each side)
- Balancing single leg deadlift (reach to box) (5 each side)
Exercise 4 Progression:
- Stationary Lunges (5 each side)
- Reverse lunges (5 each side)
- Elevated lunge (5 each side)
Exercise 5 Progression:
- Hip thrust (10)
- Feet elevated hip thrust (10)
- Single leg hip thrust (5 each side)
- Open hip lunge to hip rotation (5 each side)
10: Upper Body Progression
HOW TO USE THIS WORKOUT: You may do these exercises while also incorporating your Level 2 core circuits and Lower Body bodyweight exercises. Each exercise starts with a base move in the first round and a progression is given in each consecutive round. Stay at the level that feels right for you and always listen to your body first.
FREQUENCY: You may do this workout as many as 2 – 3 times per week with rest between sessions
Perform each move 8-10 reps at the appropriate level moving to the next progression as strength increases. Repeat for 3 rounds.
Equipment: elevated surface, yoga block or foam roller, blanket
- Reclining scapular retraction/protraction
- On the wall scapular retraction/protraction push/pull
- Prone (table) scapular retraction/protraction push
- On the wall elbow butterfly retraction
- Table top single arm elbow butterfly retraction
- Prone elbow butterfly retraction
- Facing the wall Y low trap activator arm lifts
- Prone Y low trap activator arm lifts (child’s hinge with head support)
- Prone extended Y low trap activator arm lifts
- On the wall Push ups
- Elevated push ups
- Floor push ups
- Triceps dips (feet varied)
Side lying push ups left
Side lying push ups right
11: Full Body Progression
HOW TO USE THIS WORKOUT: Once you have established a strong foundation in your upper body, lower body, and core bodyweight moves you are ready to add resistance with weighted objects. You will be offered progressions for many of the exercises.
Always start with the base move and assess how you feel. Move onto the next level as you feel stronger and always listen to your body.
FREQUENCY: Perform this full body workout as many as 3 times a week as a stand alone workout. Alternatively you may add this workout once a week in conjunction with one upper body, one lower body, and one core workout with ample rest between each workout.
Format: Perform each move in each superset for :30 seconds with minimal rest between each move, then repeat each superset a total of three times before moving to the next superset. Each round will have an option to progress in intensity.
- Deadlift to alternating rear step progressing to rear leg lift
- Weighted bridge lift progressing to single leg weighted bridge lift (L/R)
- Scapular retraction push ups progressing elevated to floor
- Push up to alternating side plank progressing to inner thigh clam lift
- Weighted squat to biceps curl progressing to single leg squat (L/R)
- Reverse lunge to one arm shoulder press (L/R) progressing to alternating reverse lunge to double arm shoulder press
- Weighted single side Dead Bug (L/R) progressing to alternating weighted Dead Bug
- Ab crunch hold with side to side heel taps
- Prone alternating wide arm lifts progressing to Y arm lifts
- Hinged reverse fly
12: Mindset, Meditation and Mobility Introduction
In this intro to yoga video, Coach Nikki will set up your next two classes: Gentle Chair Yoga and Gentle Mat yoga. Both classes are designed to deepen the breath, to use mindful observation, and to create careful movements as you gain more mobility throughout the body. You can use household props to make each move more accessible and to provide feedback for the nervous system.
Mindfulness meditation as embodied in a gentle yoga practice is truly your ability to let go of tension, control your body through focused observation, and connect to your body on a deeper level. It can be a very effective way to speed up the postpartum recovery and fitness progress.
Once you can integrate your body, mind, and breath you can build a great awareness and foundation for successful movement both in exercise and in daily living.
Start with the Gentle Chair Yoga class (next video) as soon as you would like, as it is safe for all abilities.
Continue to the Gentle Mat Yoga class once you have the ability to move up and down from the floor comfortably (usually around 4-6 weeks or as cleared by your provider).
Repeat the videos as often as you like throughout the week. To gain the most benefit try to incorporate these mindfulness practices into your schedule at least 3 times a week.
13: Gentle Chair Yoga
In this class you will experience a gentle seated yoga flow to aid in relaxation, mobility, and body awareness.
WHAT WE WILL COVER:
- Guided centering and breathwork
- Neck stretches
- Spinal mobility
- Hip opening
- Low back release
- Chest opening
- Seated relaxation
FREQUENCY OF PRACTICE:
Repeat this practice as often as you like in its entirety or any of the moves that feel good and useful throughout your day. Taking just a few minutes each day to connect your mind, body, and breath will add up. If you are new to this practice try repeating this guided class 2 times a week for 3 weeks and then do it on your own as you become more comfortable.
14: Gentle Mat Yoga
In this class you will experience a gentle mat yoga flow to aid in relaxation, mobility, and body awareness.
WHAT WE WILL COVER:
- Guided centering and breath work
- Neck stretches
- Spinal mobility
- Side body and rib lengthening
- Hip opening
- Low back release
- Chest opening
- Guided relaxation
FREQUENCY OF PRACTICE
You may do this class once you have the ability to move up and down from the floor comfortably (usually around 4-6 weeks or as cleared by your provider). Repeat the videos as often as you like throughout the week.
To gain the most benefit try to incorporate these mindfulness practices into your schedule at least 3 times a week.
15: The Transition Conversation
In this workshop, we’re going to cover important considerations for transitioning back into a regular workout routine. These guidelines will help you make your transition as smooth as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though you may feel ready or have the energy to do more intense work it may not be the best option as your body is relearning to function as an integrated system.
Exercises to avoid for as much as 4 months postpartum include any moves that include intense cardio or plyometric type exercises:
- Jumping Jacks
- Running upstairs
- Running / Sprinting
- Intense cycling
- Vigorous swimming
- Box jumps / tuck jumps
As well as front loaded ab exercises:
- Full planks
- Sit ups
- Rolldowns / Rollups
- Reclining straight leg lifts / leg drops
- Anything that can cause doming of the abs or uses the core to support bodyweight
Instead continue building deep strength and awareness while your core recovers by reviewing Video 6: Full Core Integration while mastering both the beginner and advanced beginner workouts (Videos 7 and 8). Once you feel confident and connected in your advanced beginner moves you are ready to add more load to your workouts.
As a next step in your core focus you can give the 21 Day Quick Core Challenge (one of our Rock Your Life Challenges) a try.
Getting back to training with your new body
- You’re ready is not everyone’s ready.
- Ease into it and check with your doctor.
- When you feel ready to move on, take time to review the Foundations of Functional Fitness as a gateway to the next chapter in your postpartum fitness journey.
- Integrate what you’ve learned about core stability and breath connection to the pelvic floor into all of your movements and challenge workouts.
- Know that it is always okay to modify a move or do something that suits your body better.
- Remember the 4 Pillars of Health apply to EVERYONE. It can be exhausting as the parent of a newborn so now more than ever sleep matters! In the beginning months you most likely will be running on very little of it, this is nature and it’s not your fault. There is no hurry here. Take time to adjust and before long you will be able to create healthy routines for both you and your baby. This will serve you now and in the future.
- As you move forward and if you are someone who will have a menstrual cycle check out our How to Train Through the Stages of Your Cycle blog post and the Eating and Training with Your Cycle two part podcast episodes:
- Consider working with a physical therapist that specializes in postpartum care. With hands on assessments this may help regain quicker control of the pelvic floor, correct posture misalignments, and if you had a c-section they may also help with releasing abdominal adhesions that can inhibit proper core function.
Thank you for joining us and we hope this information was valuable to you as you go through this transition!
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