4. Move With Ease (posture and core strength)

move with ease

Just as important as re-toning/strengthening your deep core muscles, you want to train all the layers of your core to work synergistically (so that they are able to work together).  In relation to this we want to take care of postural imbalances.  Muscles that weaken during and after pregnancy aside from the pelvic floor and abdominal wall are the upper back muscles, and external rotators of the shoulder.  If you’ve noticed that after pregnancy you tend to hunch over, with your shoulders rounded forward, this is a good indicator that you need some postural realignment.  Other areas that are usually weak post pregnancy are the glutes, especially gluteus medius.

While some muscles become weak or lax, others become tight, which contributes to poor posture and can pull you further our of alignment if not stretched.  These areas include the chest, shoulders, lower back, hip flexor and quads.

These exercises I list below are what we call integrated core strengthening exercises, that work the core as well as posture muscles, WITHOUT movements that will create more tightness in the front of the body/lower back.  They are also safe to do if you have ab separation, however you need to be about to engage and control your deep core muscles first.  See the previous posts on “mummy tummy,” “kegels and the pelvic floor”, and “deep core strength” (transverse abs).

Side Lying Leg Lift Part 1
Lie on your side, head in line with your neck.  Bend the underneath leg for stability, stack your hip bones on top of each other, and engage your deep core muscles.  Your job is to keep them engaged throughout the exercise.  Push your top leg straight back as far as you can without rolling the pelvis back, keeping the leg straight.  Touch the heel down to the ground and then lift it up as high as you can in a straight line.  Repeat 10 times (your butt should be on fire).  Move your leg forward until it is in line with your spine, repeat 10 lifts from this position.  Then move your leg as far forward in front of you as possible (without losing core control or shifting your pelvis), lift 10 times in this position.  Keep the leg straight throughout the exercise, and your deep core engaged.  Switch sides.

Side Lying Leg Lift (Dome) Part 2
Same position as in part 1, start with your leg behind you, heel touching the floor.  Imagine your inner foot is sliding along a big dome as it lifts up to the back (find the same position at the top of the lift in part 1), circles over the other leg and down to touch the floor in front of you (same position as in part 1).  Repeat in the reverse direction (front to back).  Basically you are drawing a half circle from back to front, and then front to back.  That is 1 repetition.  Repeat 10 times.  Switch sides.

Single Leg Circles
Lie on your back, one leg straight up in the air, the other bent with the foot on the floor.  Engaging your core, and imagine drawing a dinner plate sized circle on the ceiling with the straight leg.  Repeat 10 – 20 times in each direction.  You should feel your inner thigh as well as your lower core.  Change sides and repeat.

Straight Leg Pelvic Lift
Lie on your back, deep core muscles engaged.  Exhale and draw your thighs up toward the navel slightly, trying to lift your feet higher in the air.  You want the base of your pelvis/tailbone area to lift off the ground.  Hold for a moment, and then lower with control.  Do not swing the legs, or just pull them up toward your face.  The action is up.  For more intensity hold a tennis ball between your feet/heels.  Repeat 10 times.

Windshield Wiper
Lie on your back, both knees up in the air, deep core engaged.  Keeping the knees stacked (you may want to use a tennis ball between them), move them over to one side, back to the centre, and then over to the other side.  Make sure your pelvic floor and transverse abs are continually engaged, and try to feel when your obliques contract and release.  You don’t need to shift the legs very far in order to feel this in your obliques.  Repeat 10-12 times each side.

Crazy Bird-Dog
Start on hands and knees, spine neutral, deep core pulled up and in.  Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously.  In unison, move the limbs away from the midline of your body (right arm moves farther to the right, left leg moves farther to the left).  Slowly bring them back to the midline, and switch sides.  Repeat 5 times each side.

Tennis Ball Rotator Cuff
Standing with good posture, deep core engaged, place a tennis ball in between your ribcage and elbow.  Your arm should be bent, and whatever happens, do not let the tennis ball go!  Using the back of your shoulder, push the back of the hand away from you, moving your palm out away from the midline of your body.  Hold a moment and then return to the start.  Repeat 10-15 times.

Stand with feet hip width apart, and engage your deep core muscles.  Your job is to keep them engaged throughout the exercise, which stabilizes your lower back.  Hold your hands up by your ears (think of old western movies), elbows out to your sides.  Squeeze in between your shoulder blades and try to pull the entire arm bone backward.  Raise your hands 4 inches up, and then back down to the start position.  Try and keep your shoulder blades squeezed together the whole time, without tensing the neck and trapezius.  Repeat 10-20 times.

Standing Reverse Fly Part 1
Stand tall and engage your core.  Start with your arms by your sides, palms facing the sky.  Raise your arms out from your sides until they are just below shoulder height.   Push your shoulders down away from your ears, and squeeze your back muscles to pull your straight arms behind you.  Make sure you keep a soft bend in your elbows (don’t lock the joint), and keep your palms rotated away from you.  Focus on squeezing in between your shoulder blades.  Repeat 10 times.  You can use an exercise band if you want to increase the intensity.

Standing Reverse Fly Part 2
This is the same exercise as above, with one catch.  A squat.  Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart weigh firmly in heels and arch of foot (but with your toes connected to the ground).  Keeping your deep core engaged, sit back into a squat position, maintaining dynamic stability in the spine.  Push through the heels and engage the back of your legs and glutes as you come up to a straight, standing position, repeating the standing reverse fly.  That is 1 repetition.  Repeat 10 – 20 times, maintaining proper posture, alignment and core engagement.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you!  Leave us a comment here, on our Facebook page, or our Facebook Profile.