Best Prenatal And Postnatal Core Workouts In 2023
Having a healthy core is essential for both pregnant and postnatal women, as it helps to support the body during and after pregnancy. With the right workouts, you can keep your core strong while also improving your overall fitness level. In this article, we’ll cover the best prenatal and postnatal core workouts for 2023.
What Makes Up The Core?
When most people hear the words “strong core,” they think of 6-pack abs. And while it is true that the core includes the abdominal muscles, the core is NOT just the abs. The core comprises your entire midsection, front, sides, and back. The major muscles that make up the core include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and erector spinae. Let’s look at these muscles and then how to properly strengthen them before, during, and after pregnancy.
The rectus abdominis is the front portion of our abdominal muscles. When people think of working their core, they often envision the infamous 6-pack abs. It’s also the first place people look for change when they start exercising. Some exercises for the rectus abdominis include sit-ups, plank, leg scissors, and bicycle crunches.
The transverse abdominis is the deepest part of your core. Think of the transverse abdominis as a corset that lies beneath the rectus abdominis and wraps around the entire trunk of the body from ribs to pelvic floor, front of the body to back. If you are familiar with Barre, Pilates, or Yoga, you will know how to activate this muscle. It’s best to start exploring muscle activation of the transverse abdominis by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, push your low back into the floor by inhaling and pulling your belly button in towards your spine. This muscle is important to engage during almost every exercise, including squats, bench presses, curls, deadlifts, and more.
Internal and External Obliques
The internal and external obliques are muscles located on the sides of the torso that help us move from side to side and maintain an upright posture. They are found between your ribs and your hip bones. Common exercises you can do to work the internal and external obliques include Russian twists, standing crunch where you pull the opposite elbow to the opposite knee and side planks.
The multifidus travels up your spine and is found from your neck to your sit bones. It is responsible for side-to-side movement, lateral flexion, and extension of the spine. Bird dogs are a great way to strengthen the multifidus.
The diaphragm sits below your lungs and heart and is responsible for breathing in and out. It is also the muscle responsible for a lot of pushing during childbirth. Having a strong diaphragm is important to overall health and can help prevent heartburn too. Breathing exercises are the most common way to strengthen the diaphragm.
The pelvic floor muscles are found in between the pubic bone and the tailbone. They are responsible for many important bodily functions like continence, having sex, and childbirth. If you have a weak pelvic floor, chances are you might pee when you laugh, cough, or sneeze. You might have trouble using the restroom. The best exercise for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is Kegels.
The erector spinae travels the entire length of your spinal column on both sides of the spine, from the neck to the tailbone. The erector spinae is essential for good posture, side-to-side movement, and also flexion and extension of the spine. Doing the Superman and boat position is a great way to strengthen your erector spinae.
Now that we know what muscles make up the core, let’s discuss the best core workouts pre-pregnancy, prenatal, and postnatal.
Pre-Pregnancy Core Workouts
Pre-pregnancy is the time to really strengthen your core, especially if you’re planning on having kids one day. A strong core is vital during pregnancy as it helps with continence, posture, heartburn prevention, enjoyable sex, and childbirth. Additionally, a super strong core and low body fat percentage can result in a six-pack.
Ladies, don’t get discouraged if you don’t see the six-pack. Having six-pack abs as a female isn’t necessarily healthy, as it requires a very low body fat percentage, which can alter your fertility. You can still have a strong core without seeing the full six.
10-Minute Core Pre-Pregnancy Workout
Russian Twists With Medicine Ball – 1 Minute
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and lift your toes off the ground.
- Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight.
- Hold a kettlebell or medicine ball in both hands.
- Twist to the right and tap the kettlebell/medicine ball to the ground.
- Alternate sides and repeat.
Make sure to keep your back as straight as possible, point your toes, pull the belly button into the spine, and un-shrug your shoulders.
Plank – 1 Minute
- Place your hands directly under your shoulders with your arms straight.
- Spread your hands wide and position your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your legs strong by pushing through your toes, and pull your belly button towards your spine to avoid a hanging belly.
- Maintain a straight neck by keeping your gaze slightly forward.
Make sure to keep your gaze slightly forward, ensuring a straight neck.
Mountain Climbers – 1 Minute
- Start in the plank position.
- Bring your right knee into your chest while slightly rounding your back, then release your foot back to the starting position.
- Alternate by bringing your left knee into your chest, then releasing it back to the starting position.
- Avoid looking at your feet and craning your neck.
Make sure to keep your gaze forward. Rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat for three rounds.
Prenatal Core Workouts
As a pregnant woman, it’s important to keep strengthening your core. Contrary to popular belief, exercising your core during pregnancy is safe. While sit-ups may not be possible after the second trimester, and lying on your back past this point should be avoided, there are other ways to work out your core as your bump grows.
13-minute Prenatal Core Workout
Bird Dogs (Alternating Opposite Arms And Legs) – 1 Minute
- Start in a tabletop position
- Activate your transverse abdominis by pulling your belly button to your spine
- Stretch your right arm straight out and left leg straight back
- Switch to left arm and right leg
- Repeat this exercise.
Side Plank With Pulsating Hips – 1 Minute Per Side
- Lay on your right side
- Push your side body off the ground with your right arm
- Make space between your ear and shoulder
- Plant your right foot on the ground (if possible)
***Modification: drop the side of your knee to the ground and have your legs bent with feet towards your butt
- Keep your right hip off the floor.
- Pulse the left hip to the sky.
- Switch sides.
Standing Bicycle Crunches – 1 Minute
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- Take your right elbow.
- Bend the left knee up and tap your right elbow (or as close as you can get)
- Alternate sides
- Do 30 seconds of diaphragm breathing (sitting on the floor or stability ball, inhale your lungs, and fill your belly like a balloon. Hold for 5 seconds, slowly exhale, and push all of the air out of your lungs. Repeat until you reach 30 seconds).
- Repeat for 3 rounds.
Postnatal Core Workouts
Congratulations on giving birth. It’s a magical thing! Just remember to check with your doctor before returning to exercise to make sure it’s safe for you. If you had a vaginal birth without complications, it usually takes about 4-6 weeks to return to your exercise routine. If you had a c-section without complications, it can take about 6-8 weeks. Take it slow when returning to core exercises after having a baby, as your body has been through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth. Be kind to yourself and give your body time to heal.
10-Minute Postnatal Core Workout
Start by laying on your back and engaging your transverse abdominis by pulling the belly button into your spine.
Leg Extensions – 1 Minute
- Lie down on your back on a flat surface.
- Bend your knees and raise your feet off the floor, keeping your legs in a perpendicular position to the ground.
- Push your thighs and slowly bring your knees directly above your hips.
- Straighten one leg and slowly lower it towards the ground, tapping your heel on the floor.
- Bring the straightened leg back up and repeat with the other leg.
- Alternate with both legs and continue the exercise for the desired duration.
Top Taps – 1 Minute
- Lie on your back on a flat surface.
- Bend your knees and raise your feet, keeping your legs perpendicular to the ground.
- Push your thighs and bring your knees directly above your hips.
- Keep your knees bent and lower your right toes towards the ground, tapping it.
- Lift your right toe back up and repeat with the left toe.
- Alternate between your right and left toes and repeat the exercise for the desired duration.
V-Ups – 1 Minute
- Lie flat on your back on a flat surface.
- Straighten your legs and point your toes toward the sky.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the ground, reaching for your toes.
- Tap your fingers to your toes.
- Lower yourself slowly to the ground, keeping your arms and legs extended.
- Rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat for 3 rounds.
Wrapping It Up
If you’re pre-pregnancy, take advantage of this time to familiarize yourself with core workouts that you can incorporate into your fitness routine. During pregnancy, remember to listen to your doctor’s advice and stay active to prepare for childbirth. When you enter the postnatal phase, be sure to take it easy and be kind to yourself. Recovering from childbirth takes time, and it can take up to a year to regain your pre-pregnancy fitness levels. Make sure to enjoy your workouts, and don’t forget to take your vitamins!