“Mummy Tummy” (also known as “Mom Pooch”) is a cute phrase for that nice, soft stomach many moms experience after having a baby. Some moms claim it never goes away. Each woman’s body is unique, there is a lot that changes your body during and after pregnancy, and you don’t usually get to decide what those changes are. I have searched through many popular articles that are out there about getting rid of “Mummy Tummy” but I want to go one step further and talk about gaining a strong core after having a baby. Our midsections are meant for more than being “flat” or “washboards” for aesthetically appealing reasons. They are the core of our muscular body and help support, stabilize, and power the rest of our body parts in their daily movements. Strong core muscles help lower the chance of back injury or pain, protect our hip, knee, and ankle joints from being taxed the wrong way, and allow us to do more physically. These core muscles are stretched during pregnancy and often times we need to be intentional to gain back lost strength and muscle integrity after having our babies. I will give you some exercises to help you do this and get started on gaining a strong core!
- TA Compressions: Your TA muscles (transverse abdominals) are your inner ab muscles that wrap around your body like a corset. You can strengthen these muscles even in pregnancy because they don’t separate the way your obliques do. These muscles also protect your back and help stabilize your pelvis. It is important to learn to engaged these muscles when you bend, lift, and carry objects.
How to do it: Sit tall in a chair or stand against a wall, take in a deep breath and then as you exhale, draw your belly button into your spine. It helps to imagine you are trying to pull on a tight pair of pants. Hold your abs “in” for a few seconds and release. Try to work up to holding them for 10 seconds at a time. Do several sets throughout the day! If you are standing against the wall, make sure your lower back is flat against the wall.
- Pelvic Tilts: Pelvic Tilts help you engage and strengthen your TA muscles as well as some of your glute and hip muscles. This exercise is simple, yet it is helpful in readjusting your pelvis and hip bones (even during pregnancy).
How to do it: Lie flat on the ground or stand against a wall. If you lie on the ground, have your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Start with your lower back flat against the ground/wall and your inner abs engaged. Inhale as you release your abs and tilt your pelvis back so your low back arches and lifts off the ground/wall. Then exhale, drawing your belly button in and tilting your pelvis back to the original position. Do 10 repetitions for several sets. They are helpful for correcting misalignments in the body if you do them several times throughout the day!
- Glute Bridges: These exercises help work your butt muscles that work with your ab muscles to create strength in your core. Glute bridges strengthen your butt muscles and your hip muscles as well!
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your inner ab muscles and pelvic floor muscles (that you use to do a kegel) and lift your pelvis off of the floor. Raise your pelvis until everything is aligned from your knees to your upper back. Squeeze your butt muscles to hold this position for a couple seconds and then lower back down to the ground. Complete 10 reps for 2-3 sets.
- Plank: A well-known exercise that works many major body parts at once!
How to do it: Get into push-up position, with your hands below your shoulders (or resting on your forearms). Bring your belly up “into your spine” and make sure your back is straight (no sway back or arched butt). Squeeze your butt muscles if you need more assistance. Hold for 15-60 seconds (as long as you can) and lower. ** Make sure you are breathing through this exercise**.
- Leg Lowers: This exercise is a little more advanced (if you are new to core exercises or still in early postpartum). This exercise targets the abs really well and allows you to focus on engaging your TAs (bringing your belly button in).
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your lower back on the ground and your TAs pulled in. Lift your legs straight up in the air over you and keep them as straight as possible and pressed together. Keeping that belly button pulled in and as you inhale, slowly lower down as far as you can without arching your lower back. Then exhale and raise your legs back up to the starting
Position, keeping your TAs pulled in. Repeat 5-10 times for 2-3 sets.
- Toe Taps: This exercise also isolates your ab muscles but is a little less difficult than the Leg Lowers.
How to do it: Again, start out flat on your back with your TAs pulled in and your low back flat against the ground. Lift your legs up with your knees bent so your lower leg is parallel to the ground. Inhale, keeping your TAs engage, lower one foot to the ground (while keeping your knee bent) until your toe touches the ground. Then exhale and bring the leg back up to starting position. Repeat this movement with the opposite leg. Do 5-10 repetitions per leg for 2-3 sets.
- Sitting twists: I love that this movement mimics real-life daily movements. Not only does it strengthen that core, but it also helps you to learn how to do this action correctly.
How to do it: Sitting on a chair or stability ball, lengthen your spine by sitting as tall and straight as you can, keep your shoulders lowered and pulled back. Engage your TA muscles and reach your arms out in front of you and clasp your hands together. Inhale, and as you exhale, rotate your whole upper body to one side as far as you can. Inhale, and come back to center, and repeat on the opposite side. You can add light weights for this exercise if you feel strong enough. Complete 5-10 reps per side.
- Woodchop: To challenge balance, as well as core strength, this exercise adds rotating movement to your workout. You can add light weights for resistance or use a resistance band to progress this exercise. You can also complete it without any weights at all!
How to do it: Standing tall with your legs hip width apart and your weight distributed evenly on both feet, clasp your hands together and hold them up and to one side of your body. Do this with your knees pointed to that side of the body and your upper body rotated in that direction. Then rotate your upper body and legs to the opposite direction as your bring your hands straight down diagonally, so they are now pointing down on the opposite side of your body. Remember to keep your belly button pulled in during this complete exercise. Repeat 10 times, then switch directions and complete 10 more times. Keep your knees soft during this exercise and your weight on the balls of your feet so you can rotate them easily.
A Few More Tips for Helping your “Mummy Tummy”:
Although having a strong core does not mean your tummy needs to be impeccably flat, here are a few tips to help reduce the bulge along with the above strengthening exercises…
- Healthy diet: Having healthy habits when it comes to eating is very important with body composition. Watch the amount of fat, sugar, and salt you consume. Make sure you aren’t eating excessively either! Practice a well-rounded diet high in nutrients.
- Include cardio into your workout routine: Try to get in some kind of cardio (such as walking, swimming, biking) at least 3 times a week for at least half an hour. If you include intervals of higher intensity (getting your heart rate up) you will increase how much fat you burn and help your body become leaner.
- Keep good form: As you go about your day, try to remember to engage your TA muscles as you lift and carry objects. Stand with correct posture, keeping your back in neutral position and your chest lifted. Having good form as often as possible will not only protect your body from injury but also keep the right muscles strong and encourage a leaner/stronger looking body!