3. WALL ABS Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, heels as close to the wall as possible. Place your fingertips behind your head. (As your pregnancy progresses, place feet farther from the wall.) Inhale, then exhale fully, pressing your navel back toward your spine (A). Hold this position and breathe for 10 seconds, then release. On the last rep, hold the position and round your upper torso into crunch position, keeping your lower back against the wall (B). Inhale, return to starting position and repeat. While you’re resting between sets, do 10 Kegel exercises (see page 94), holding each for 10 seconds. Strengthens abs.
Option: As your pregnancy progresses, do this exercise seated in a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
4. STRETCH COMBO Stand facing the back of a chair. Hold chair with both hands, elbows bent. Place your feet in a modified lunge position, left foot in front of right, hip-width apart. Inhale, then exhale and round your spine (A). Inhale, straightening spine; then shift your body weight to your back heel and lift the toes of your front foot. Pull back on the chair lightly and “sit” back, stretching your hamstrings (B). Exhale, rounding spine. Repeat combo 5–6 times, then switch legs and repeat. Stretches back, shoulders and hamstrings.
Everything probably feels different to you now: your schedule, your house overrun with baby paraphernalia, your body. Especially your body. The muscles you used to hold your baby in and the ones you used to push her out no doubt feel overstretched and sore. These exercises recondition and strengthen muscles that have taken the brunt of pregnancy and labor. Most likely you’ll be able to start them at 6 weeks (or earlier) after delivery, depending on how quickly you heal. Before you begin, check with your doctor.
Do the following 6 exercises in the order listed 3 days a week, with a day off in between. Do 1–2 sets for each exercise, resting 30–45 seconds between sets. Begin with the lowest number of reps listed and progress 1 or 2 reps at a time to challenge yourself.
1. CHAIR SQUAT WITH ALTERNATING KNEE LIFT AND PRESS Stand with your back to a chair seat, feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell on each shoulder, elbows bent. With weight on your heels, bend knees into a squat until back of thighs barely touch the seat (A). Using your buttocks and legs, return to standing, lift left knee to hip height and press arms overhead (B). Use abs to stay balanced. Lower arms, put foot on the floor and repeat the squat, alternating knee lifts. Do 10–16 reps.
Recommended weight: 3–5 pounds in each hand.
To progress: Extend foot so lifted leg is straight as you press up. Strengthens buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulders and abs.