When we start talking about postnatal exercise for your core there is one big don’t  –DON’T DO CRUNCHES”

The still-healing, Postnatal Core doesn’t, in general, respond too well to PRESSURE.  Traditional crunches make pressure.  Pressure builds against a still-healing abdominal wall and any healing diastasis.  Pressure builds and is forced down towards the Pelvic Floor which if not strong/functional enough to do its job of supporting the sphincters, leads to issues such as Stress Urinary Incontinence or uncontrolled flatulence.

postnatal exercise Postnatal exercise should be designed to complement your role as a new mum


Post Natal core exercises do not have to be done on the floor. After all, we do not use our core and glutes lying on the floor. As mums, we are constantly lifting, bending, walking and carrying. So in my view, the job of the postnatal trainer is to prescribe functional postnatal exercises  that will assist her in her role as mum and her ability to return to the type of exercise she was doing  before

So what kind of postnatal exercise can you do?

There are lots of new mums who have had an active pregnancy and come from a background of heavy weight lifting and running. They want to get back to this type of exercise, and in that case, the postnatal trainer will help to get them back to doing these things as much as possible, with appropriate adaptations.

postnatal exercise - adaptations of core exercises

Let’s look at a few adaptations of traditional exercises that are appropriate to a healing postnatal core

Kettle Bell Swing  > Kettlebell Squat

The kettlebell swing is an exercise that puts a load of pressure through the core and is unsuitable for a weak pelvic floor or diastasis. It can easily be swapped to a kettlebell squat. This works similar muscles in  a more controlled way and will still elevate the heart rate

postnatal exercise - don't do kettlebell swing          postnatal exercise: The kettlebell squat is better than the swing

Box Jump > Leg Drives 

The box jump puts huge pressure on the pelvic floor and core due to its ballistic nature. A simple swap here is single leg drives onto a step. The height of the step can be adjusted. This exercise has the added bonus of using the core to balance on one leg. With one foot always on the floor, the pressure on the pelvic floor is reduced making this suitable for mums with pelvic floor weakness.



Pull-Ups > Lat Pull Downs

Pull-ups create a lot of tension through the core due to the fact that the person is pulling up the weight against gravity. An effective exercise which works the same muscle group is the Lat Pull Down. I would suggest starting  with a narrow grip to reduce pressure



Shoulder Press > Single Arm Press

Taking a weight overhead will need a certain degree of core tension to stabilise it and push both hands above the head.  A simple swap here would be a single arm press.



Single Arm Bench Rows: Single Arm Cable Rows

The prone position of a single arm row may not be ideal for a diastasis or a weakness in the pelvic floor. A simple alternative which keeps mum upright is a single arm row using a cable machine. The exercise can be progressed by adding a squat.


Lunges > Split Squats

Substituting a lunge for a split squat removes the impact of the exercise while working the same muscles and elevating the heart rate



Press Up > Dumbbell Chest Press 

Due to the position of the press up this exercise creates huge pressure through the core as the person moves their whole body weight away from gravity. A better chest exercise would be a dumbbell chest press done on the floor.

Seek Professional Guidance

When embarking on an exercise program after having a baby, I would always recommend seeking professional guidance, whatever level you were at pre-pregnancy.  A trainer qualified and experienced in postnatal exercise will be able to design a program suitable to your needs and levels and progress it appropriately.


How Soon Can I start Postnatal Exercise?

After pregnancy, most women want to get back to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight as soon as possible and may feel under a lot of pressure to do so. If you exercised regularly before you had your baby, you may be itching to get back into a postnatal exercise …


It is also worth considering a 6-week check with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist who will be able to assess pelvic floor function and offer advice on safe return to exercise,


postnatal exercise