Admin {{ oUser.name }} Logout Looking to lose weight? Try our FREE Calorie Counter » | Log In
All Articles Fitness Nutrition

Abs After Baby: How to Help Your Core Bounce Back

Slowly, but surely you can strengthen your core, and get your abs back in shape.

You watched your body change over 9 months as your baby grew inside of you. You may have even taken pictures. It wasn't easy, but the payoff is wonderful. Now, your baby is out, but your abs didn't bounce back. Well, that's normal. But don't despair. You can get your abs and entire core strong again with consistent effort and time.

Don't Rush It

Your abs didn't stretch out overnight, and they won't go back that quickly either. Let your body heal. Many doctors will have you wait at least six weeks before you begin exercising again. If you've had a C-section, it may be a little longer. In that time your abs will begin to shrink as your body heals on the inside. Once you get the okay from your doctor, you can start flattening that tummy out even more.

Diastis Recti

Your abdominal muscles can separate in the middle as your pregnancy progresses. The rectus abdominus muscle is like two long bands that go down the front of your body, joined together by connective tissue. Not everyone gets this separation, or some heal naturally on their own. However, some don't. Your doctor can determine if you have a diastis recti, or separation of your abdominal muscles. You may even be able to feel it yourself. You want to correct this as much as possible before you start doing any crunches, bicycles, or any other traditional ab exercises.

Drawing In

You want to start with the basics to heal the separation if you have it, and just build your core back up from the inside out. The transverse abdominus is below your rectus abdominus and acts as a corset for your body. You want to activate and strengthen it to pull in your waist and support your spine. If you've done Pilates or yoga, this is a movement you know well. If you're new to it, start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and arms at your sides. Take a deep breath in and feel your abs expand — not just your chest — as you inhale. You should see your stomach rise up. As you exhale, pull your belly button down and in. Force out all the air possible to really tighten your core. Hold for a second or two and release. Repeat 10-15 times.

Once you understand the movement and what it feels like, try it in other positions: seated, standing, on all fours, etc.

Add Some Arms and Legs

Now you know how to tighten and pull in the transverse abdominus or TA. So start adding some challenge by moving your arms and legs. Lying on your back, slide your right leg out to a straight position on the floor as you inhale. On the exhale, and as you tighten your abs, slide the foot back in. Alternate legs. For more challenge slide your leg out, but let it hover off the ground.

From an all fours position, extend one arm so it comes parallel to the floor as you inhale and bring it back down as you exhale and tighten. Alternate arms for 10-15 reps per side. Then repeat with your legs. When you're ready, do the movement with one arm and the opposite leg.

Increase Your Work

Once you can really activate your core, and you know that your abs are coming back together, start adding in the exercises you did before you were pregnant. Do just one set at a time, and really focus on pulling that core in tight during each repetition. Build up to what you were doing before you were pregnant until you are comfortable. Then you can add in some new exercises. Go slow and listen to your body.

Realistic Expectations

Everyone is different. Some women seem to bounce back within weeks of giving birth. Others can take months, or even a year to feel like they have their body back. Give yourself a break, and don't compare your journey to anyone else.

Also, all the ab exercises in the world will not get rid of stretch marks or loose skin. Exercise and eating right will help you achieve a healthy body weight, and improve muscle tone to flatten your abs so you can wear your clothes with comfort and confidence. Pregnancy changes your body, but you can still look and feel great.

[Image via Shutterstock]

{{ oArticle.title }}

{{ oArticle.subtitle }}