We feel very lucky that Florida fitness and health guru Mindy Ulbricht sat down and shared her knowledge with us. Our readers sent in their questions, and Mindy answered up with some amazing tips for post-pregnancy abs!
Mindy Answers Up About Post Pregnancy Abs
Q: “What kind of abdominal exercises do you recommend for a stomach that has been completely ripped apart by three pregnancies? I’ve been told that standard sit-ups do more damage to the muscles. Is this true?”
Although I’ve never heard that crunches can do damage to the muscles, it is true that if the muscles are weak, there is more potential to strain the muscles in the abdomen and/or back by doing any abdominal exercise improperly.
Having a baby is an amazing joy, but pregnancy can definitely change your body! It is just as important to consider function as it is to be concerned with the aesthetics of the abs, especially after having a baby. We need our back and core to be strong in order to carry around that little bundle of joy, and honestly MOST of what makes abs flat and lean is related to diet.
It’s important to think of strong healthy tummies first, and the rest will follow. I love plank exercises because they put very little strain on the neck and can be done almost anywhere. The basic plank can be performed on the hands or the forearms. A lot of women complain that planks hurt their wrists, and many times this happens because the core muscles are not engaged, leaving your poor wrists to bear all the weight.
To ‘turn on’ the core muscles, gently draw the navel back toward the spine and then down a little. You can practice by placing two fingers over the belly button and then drawing the belly button away from your fingers just about an inch or so. Allow the ribs to drop down a tiny bit, shortening the distance between the ribs and hips, and you should feel the abs muscles engage or tighten.
The tricky part is to do all that while you’re in your plank! It takes some practice, but the more you practice the stronger you will get. Once you get all that down, work on holding the plank for up to 1 minute at a time.
Get Started With These Exercises:
Here’s a few fun plank exercise variations (all good for post pregnancy abs):
The Basic Plank
The basic plank can be performed on the hands or the forearms. Start face down. Using the technique described above, take a deep breath and press your body into a push-up position. Focus on making a straight line with your body, from head to heels. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat 3x.
Lay down on your side. Prop yourself up on your forearm or hand, with feet stacked one on the other. Raise your body up; make a straight line from your waist to your feet. Keep your shoulders back and chest open. You should feel this in your oblique (side abs). Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat 2x on each side.
Side Plank With Leg Lift
When you’re ready to take it up a notch, get into a side plank and lift the top leg about 6 inches. Keep legs parallel. Do 12 lifts, and repeat 3x on each side.
Plank With Leg Lift
Start from a basic plank. Lift one leg with toes still relaxed toward the floor, just a few inches from the ground. The farther apart the feet are from one another, the more focus is on the oblique muscles (the muscles to the sides of the abs). Keep hips in line with one another and parallel to the floor. Lift one leg, hold for 10 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 3x on each leg.
Side Plank Dips
From your standard side plank, dip the bottom hip toward the ground. Keep hips in line with one another and drop the hip just a few inches toward the floor. If you can, lightly tap the ground with your hip. Do 10 dips, and repeat on the other side.
There are a gazillion other ab exercises and most of them will strengthen and tone the muscles, but all of them should be done with good form.
- Always be aware of not pulling on or straining the neck and/or low back.
- Focus should be on keeping the abdominal muscles engaged.
- Keep the core tight and back strong. If you start to feel low back pain or feel it sagging toward the floor, it’s time for a break.
Find abdominal exercises that you like doing because if you don’t like it, you won’t do it. Give yourself little challenges, such as, “I can hold my plank for 15 seconds with good form, so next, I’m going to aim for 20 seconds!” or, “Today I’m going to try 3 different ab exercises.”
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