You've got enough to worry about with a brand-new baby. Here's an easy way to get back into shape.
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.
good form * 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.
3. Side Leg Lift Draping your left side over the ball, put your left hand on the floor. Extend your right leg to the side, placing the foot lightly on floor, right hand on thigh, abs drawn in, shoulders relaxed. Keeping your hips and shoulders square, inhale, then exhale as you lift your right leg to hip height (shown). Hold for one full breath. Lower foot to floor, complete reps, then switch sides. Strengthens upper hips.
4. Bridge Lying on your back with your legs straight, place your calves and heels on the ball, arms at your sides, palms down. Inhale, then exhale as you squeeze your buttocks and press your lower legs and heels into the ball, lifting your hips until your body forms one straight line from shoulders to heels (shown). Hold for one full breath. Slowly lower your body to starting position. Strengthens legs, buttocks and back. 5. Reverse Curl Lie on your back with your legs farther than hip-width apart, gripping the ball with your legs. Arms are extended at your sides, palms down. Draw your abs in so your lower back is in contact with the floor [A]. Inhale, then exhale as you use your abdominals to lift the ball, gripping it with your legs [B]. Slowly release the ball to the floor, keeping your abs drawn in and your lower back in contact with the floor. Strengthens abs.
6. Mermaid Arc Kneel on your left knee next to the ball and extend your right leg out, foot flat, left hand on the ball, right hand on right thigh [A]. Inhale, and as you exhale, draw your abdominals in and lean your torso onto the ball. As you reach your left hand over the ball to touch the floor on the other side, reach your right arm up and over your body in an arc [B]. Hold for one full breath. Inhale and return to starting position, complete reps on this side and then switch. Strengthens and stretches the entire torso.
This workout is killer for flattening your belly and making you strong all over.