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Right now you have a million things going on: A new baby, swings from exhaustion to exhilaration, a schedule from hell. Taking care of your body might just be the last thing on your mind. But what if we gave you an at-home routine that will strengthen all your muscles (especially your abdominals), improve your posture, relieve your backache and help you get back into prepregnancy shape fast?
The secret weapon is a stability ball. Having to balance while you work out with a ball forces all the muscles in your torso to support you. You work not only the targeted muscles, but also the large and small stabilizers throughout your body. This improves your posture, overall strength, balance and muscle coordination.
The following six moves incorporate the entire core of the body—your abs and back—with special emphasis on the abs. In fact, this workout is killer for flattening your belly. Doctors usually recommend waiting six weeks postpartum (longer if you’ve had a C-section) before starting this or any other exercise program, so get your physician’s approval first. Perform 8–10 repetitions of each move in the order shown, and increase to 15 reps as you become stronger. Do this workout 3–5 times per week, alternating with 2–3 days of light cardiovascular workouts such as walking, swimming or dancing with your baby.
* Warm up with 5–10 minutes of light bouncing on the ball followed by figure-eight hip circles and shoulder rolls.
* Keep your abdominals drawn in to stabilize your body, strengthen your core muscles and protect your back.
* Cool down by stretching all your major muscle groups and then relaxing on your back for a few minutes, breathing slowly.
1. Ball Plié Hold the ball in front of your hips and stand tall with knees and feet turned out from hips and placed farther than shoulder-width apart, legs straight but not locked, abdominals drawn in, buttocks tight [A]. Inhale, then exhale and slowly bend your knees, keeping your tailbone pointed down as you raise the ball above your head [B]. Inhale and slowly straighten legs, lowering ball to starting position. Strengthens shoulders, upper back, legs, hips and buttocks.
2. Superwoman Kneel facing the ball and drape your torso over it. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of the ball, neck in line with hips [A]. Inhale, then exhale as you extend your left arm in front of you and right leg behind you [B]. Hold for one full breath. Inhale and lower to the starting position, then exhale as you repeat with the other arm and leg (this is 1 rep). Strengthens back, buttocks and shoulders.