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Top 5 Exercise Considerations for Postpartum Weight Loss

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Filed Under (Fitness, postpartum weight loss) by Rick Kaselj on 27-07-2011

More great information for you, this time on postpartum weight loss.

It is from my friend, Sara Dean, who is a personal trainer in Seattle and she focuses on postpartum weight loss.

Take it away, Sara…

I love training postpartum moms.  They are extremely motivated and they have great stories about mommy life that totally crack me up.  They can be such a fun and rewarding population to work with.  And, if you can give them their pre-baby body back, they will be your biggest fan, cheerleader and word of mouth marketer for years to come.

But, there are a few challenges in working with new moms.  I know it can be especially daunting for male trainers to deal with this population, as they aren’t quite sure how to relate to some of the unique lady issues that occur postpartum.

The main thing to remember is postpartum moms feel out of control of their bodies and they are DESPERATE to recognize themselves in the mirror again.  They want results YESTERDAY and they have only moments a day to focus on themselves.  On top of all that they have some special needs that must be addressed when it comes to workouts – like how to NOT pee their pants while doing jumping jacks.

It is our job as trainers to give new moms HOPE. They do NOT need to settle for a mommy body.   They CAN get their bodies back.  They CAN get excellent results in a short amount of time.  They CAN be Hot Mamas!

You have a special opportunity to give moms their bodies back if you are smart with their training programs.   Training programs for new moms must be quick, efficient and specific to postpartum needs.  Moms who train smart are able to get away with as little as 2 hours a week of exercise (provided they are keeping their nutrition really dialed in, of course.)

When designing programs for new moms, there is definitely a hierarchy of needs.  You must have them start at the very bottom and work their way up, or they will almost certainly run into injury at some point and have to regress their program, which is no fun for anyone….

Here is what you need to address, in the order in which you should address it:

1. Pelvic Floor

It is no secret that everything down south is completely out of whack after giving birth.  The pelvic floor has been stretched to the max and everything above it is not appropriately supported.  Reconditioning the pelvic floor is the first step to getting back into shape for moms.  Without this step, the core is compromised, which means not all movement/exercise is completely safe or effective, as the client is at great risk for injury.

Moms can start pelvic floor re-conditioning right after birth.  They do not need to wait for your 6 week postpartum check up to do Kegels and Elevators .  They can do these right away, every day, without any equipment or planning. Moms who do this before getting back to their normal exercise routine are leaps ahead in postpartum training.

2. Extremely weakened core/Low back risks

It is pretty obvious that any mom’s core has been stretched beyond belief prior to childbirth.  Along with reconditioning the pelvic floor, it is essential to recondition the core as soon as possible postpartum.  Similarly, there are a few things moms can do immediately to get on top of this conditioning.  They can start with isometric holds of the TVA and Zippers right away.  I recommend moms practice these and Kegels/Elevators while nursing/feeding.  That gives them an assigned time to do this everyday.  Every time they nurse they can do a few sets.

 

These simple core exercises give moms some “homework” when they can’t actually do full workouts and that is empowering.  It also gets them in the mindset to focus on themselves a bit here and there (even if it is amidst feedings…)

Additionally, the extremely weakened state of the core creates a major risk for moms’ low backs.  Moms are constantly bending over – diapering, putting baby down, picking baby up, nursing….. It’s ALL about bending over ALL day.  Add to this excess belly weight and a severely de-conditioned core and you have the perfect recipe for a major back injury.  This is all too common for moms.  So, the quicker you can get them reconditioning their cores, the better.  I’ve known new moms who have been bedridden with back trouble and unable to care for their brand new babies.  It is heart breaking.  It’s our responsibility to educate new moms to recondition asap!

Note: Once moms can come back to full workouts and training, be sure to have them check for diastasis recti before giving them any ab exercises.  Many, if not most, moms have this and need to modify core exercises accordingly. Moms with Diastasis Recti should stick to core exercises like pelvic tilts and planks so they are never pushing their belly out.  These means crunches and sit ups are a huge no no!

Once moms diastasis is 2 cm or less they may resume regular ab work.  Here is a sample workout.

3. Scapular protraction/exceedingly tight chest

 

In addition to the low back being at high risk for injury, many moms are almost stuck in scapular protraction.  Given their posture in nursing/feeding and cuddling, it’s easy to see how this can happen.  So exercises that open the chest and retract the scalpula are highly important.  In fact, I have moms do very little chest work.  We do mostly back work, or two back exercises for every chest exercise.

 

4. Jumping

 

In a 1:1 setting you may not be incorporating much jumping with new moms (smart move!)  However, many moms looking to lose baby weight will join high impact classes

in order to expedite results.  I get new moms in Boot Camp all the time. Invariably, they modify some, if not all, of the jumping exercises.  This is because they are trying with all their might to not pee their pants.  Many moms have come up to me after classes, and sheepishly explained why they modified jumping jacks and jump squats and even running in place.  It’s because it doesn’t take much impact to make that de-conditioned pelvic floor completely disengage.

 

These days, I warn new moms when they come to class they might want to take some of the suggested modifications as we move through higher impact exercises.  I also occasionally cue people to engage their pelvic floor, which typically elicits some laughter, but ultimately reminds everyone, especially moms, to tighten up the entire core.

5. Body Image/impatience

 

This may be the biggest challenge for you as a trainer.  Like I said above, postpartum moms want their bodies back yesterday.  So they are very hard on themselves at every turn.  They will point out all the negative changes in their body and they will constantly ask you how long it will take them to lose all their baby weight.

It is your job as a trainer to listen to them, as we must provide a safe place for women to vent about body image.  From there, educate and empower them.  Be honest.  Tell them they MUST clean up their diet (get rid of all that crap people keep dropping of at their front door!)  and they MUST move.  And, they MUST be very consistent about both of these things.  One without the other will likely not give them the results they are looking for.  However, diligence and discipline will.  If does not need to take nine months to lose baby weight (I detest the saying, “It took nine months to put it on, so it’ll take none months to take it off.”)  However, it can take years without the proper focus and training.

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