Having a baby is one of life’s greatest joys however pregnancy can leave your stomach in a not so joyous state. Many mothers are shocked at how long their stomachs take to flatten and firm up after their new bundle arrives.
The good news is there are some fantastic exercises to help speed up this process which can be done at home with no equipment or gym membership. Once you’ve got the go-ahead from your doctor give these belly-busting workout tips a go.
Abdominal exercises are the secret, but not just any abdominal exercises. If you want fast results, give sit-ups a swerve and work your transverse abdominals or core muscles first. These are your deepest abdominal muscles and lie across your mid-section, connecting your back and rectus abdominals which run down your abdomen.
Transverse abdominals support the body and especially your posture, which means they’re crucial for new mothers who will be carrying, pushing and lifting more than they probably ever have before.
Try this gentle exercise to get started. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat and place your hands slightly below and to the sides of your belly button. Press two fingers from each hand into your lower abdomen and imagine a magnet drawing your belly button towards the ground.
Draw your stomach down towards the floor with your pelvis and chest still. Stop drawing your abdomen when you feel it tighten. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat 10 times. Increase as your strength improves.
Another great transverse abdominals exercise is leg raises. Lie on the floor and put your hands under your bottom. Raise one leg off the ground about mid-way and slowly lower it back down. Swap to the other leg and repeat. Make sure you keep your back flat. Aim for 10 leg raises in a set at a time and increase your sets as the muscles strengthen.
Pelvic tilts are another excellent transverse abdominals exercise. Lie on the floor with bent knees and feet on the ground. Lift your pelvis up and hold for a few seconds then drop down. Keep your upper body on the floor. Aim for 10 tilts in a set at a time and increase your sets as the muscles strengthen.
Traditional stomach exercises like sit-ups work your rectus abdominals and can also be beneficial even though they don’t target your transverse abdominals. They’re not as good at flattening your stomach but they certainly help to define it once you’re making progress.
Try crunches or sit-ups by lying on your back with your feet on the floor. Keep your arms by your side or behind your head and raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Remember to tighten your stomach and keep your back on the floor. An advanced version is the reverse crunch where you lie on the floor with your feet in the air then raise your feet up to the ceiling and lower.
If you feel the need to sign-up for a class, go for one like Pilates which targets your core and involves lots of stomach exercises, particularly for the transverse abdominals. Classes tailored to new mothers are also ideal because you can often bring your baby along and working out with other mothers is great motivation.
Exercises to help flatten your stomach should also include aerobic activity three times a week because it elevates the heart rate, boosts fitness and burns calories. Try brisk walking while pushing the pram, a light jog or anything that gets your heart going.
Importantly, any fitness program designed to flatten the stomach should involve shedding the fat covering your newly-exercised abdominal muscles. So adopt a low-fat eating plan and if you’re breastfeeding seek nutritional advice from a health practitioner.