One of the main things Pilates can help with after having a child is getting the feeling back in your abdominals. Start with very small, controlled exercises and ease your way back into working out. Watch the accompanying video for a visual guide on how to do this, and follow along with the instructions below.
The first of the Pilates moves that can help is the abdominal prep. This exercise is performed lying on your back, with your hands behind your head (elbows in a little), knees bent, and feet about hip-distance apart. Assume a neutral spine, with a little space between your lower back and the mat.
- Exhale as you curl your body up, pulling your abs in tight.
- Inhale as you relax your body back to the mat, and repeat several times.
The next Pilates exercise for helping you get your pre-baby body back, called a Tummy Tightener, works the abdominals more deeply. It's performed with your legs raised in a tabletop position. (See video.)
- Exhale as you curl your upper body up off the floor and press your lower back into the mat, tightening your abdominals.
- Hold this position and inhale. Continuing to hold this position, exhaling as you bring your abdominal muscles in even deeper, and hold on the inhale. Exhale again, continuing to pull and flatten the abdominals, and hold again on the inhale.
- Lower back down to the mat.
Repeat just two to three times, noting that it's normal to shake a little bit as you work the abs.
The next exercise, called the Rollover Prep, is also performed on your back, but with your legs straight up in the air (thighs squeezed firmly together) and your hands palms down at your sides.
- Keeping your thighs squeezed together, lift your tailbone up off the mat just a little bit as you exhale.
- Inhale as you lower back down.
When performed properly (with your thighs squeezed together), this Pilates exercise not only works your abdominals, but also your Kegel muscles, which is important after you've had a baby. Repeat several times, and then challenge yourself with some pulses before resting your legs down.
The next of these Pilates exercises focuses on lengthening the front of the body and working the upper back muscles. This exercise is good for new moms who are breastfeeding because it keeps the upper back muscles strong. It's called a Swan Dive Prep and is performed lying on your stomach with your legs hip-distance apart, shoulders slid down your back, and arms at the sides of your chest, elbows bent.
- Using your upper back muscles, lift your upper body up off the mat as you exhale. Press your arms into the mat just a little and open up through the chest.
- Inhaling, lower all the way back down, resting your chin on the mat.
If you want to get your body back after having a child, start with this series of Pilates exercises. When performed regularly, you'll begin to feel your abdominals connect again and start to see your old shape come back.