Kick-Ass Mom and Baby Workouts You Can Do Together
Getting back into a workout regime after pregnancy can feel like a much-needed step towards recovery and returning to your pre-baby routine. Postnatal exercise helps you lose your baby weight with time, but the benefits go far beyond weight loss. It can also relieve stress, energize your body when you’re sleep-deprived, help your body balance those post-baby hormones, combat anxiety and depression and strengthen your body for the physical demands of motherhood.
When it comes to postnatal exercise, though, there are some things to keep in mind. Going through pregnancy and labor is traumatic for the body, and every experience is different. There could be potential lingering issues like pelvic floor dysfunction, a split in your abdominal muscles (called a diastasis recti) and pain that can occur in your shoulders, neck and lower or upper back as a result of structural changes and tightened or weakened muscles. Many of those can be addressed with exercise or physical therapy, but they can also be worsened by the wrong type of exercise. Listen to your body when you start working out again. And even one informational session with a certified postnatal specialist could be extremely helpful. Never feel like you have to exercise the same way as anyone else (even if they had their baby at the same time!), and listen carefully to the messages your body tells you.
Despite the incredible benefits that postnatal workouts can offer, reality can make exercising feel daunting. One of the biggest deterrents to exercising as a new mom is time. After all, it’s hard enough to take a shower, let alone set aside time for a fitness session. And so many moms put their well-being far behind that of everyone else in the family.
The good news: Instead of having to squeeze in a workout while baby naps, you can actually include baby in your exercise regimen! It’s easy and it can be fun for everyone involved. Seeing you move around can be mesmerizing for your baby, and the experience can promote bonding for the two of you. It can also feel more energizing for you than grabbing a cup of coffee or even taking a nap.
There are a variety of ways to exercise with your baby, from using a stroller to putting them in a baby carrier or working out with them next to you on a blanket. Always pay attention to the way your body feels and avoid anything that is painfulful or uncomfortable. If you have a diastasis or serious pelvic floor issues, get clearance from your doctor before trying any of these exercises. You may ultimately need to avoid some of these exercises altogether, or try them with some modifications (offered below). You might also want to consult a postnatal exercise specialist to help determine your personal limits.
Ready to dig in? Here are several mom and baby workouts that can be fun, challenging and help promote bonding. Know that your strength will increase with time, but incorporating your child into your wellness and fitness routines at whatever level can establish a healthy family pattern that lasts a lifetime.
It’s always important to start your mommy and me workouts with a dynamic stretch as your warmup. The term “dynamic stretch” refers to light, dynamic movements that echo what you’ll be doing during your workout to help warm up your joints and muscles. No need to worry about how many reps to do, but try to address your whole body and give yourself at least three to four minutes to go through it.
Here are some warmup ideas:
• Shrug and relax your shoulders
• Reach each arm above your head and across your body to warm up your arms, neck and shoulders, repeating each a few times
• Circle your ankles
• Do light lunges forward and backward and side to side to loosen and warm up your knees and hips
• Do a few roll-downs and roll-ups with slightly bent knees to warm up your back and hamstrings
• Lunge with both hands on the ground and your back leg straight, either holding this position to stretch your hips and hip flexors or tapping the back leg in and out to build heat and warm up the lower body
Looking to get some fresh air while you exercise? Take baby for a spin in the stroller and get your workout on with these baby-friendly moves.
Jumping leg curls with lift intervals
Targets your thighs, hips, glutes and abdominal integration.
This section is a timed circuit. Alternate between a jumping interval and a leg lift interval, each 30 seconds long and executed consecutively on each leg. Complete the circuit three times on both sides. Note that jumping after baby can take a while to get used to again for some, while for others it can feel natural and stable. If you feel unstable or experience incontinence while jumping, execute the movements as steps rather than jumps.
• Start in front of the stroller facing baby. Unlock the stroller wheels but make sure you’re on level ground so the stroller doesn’t roll while you’re jumping.
• Do 30 seconds of hopscotch jumps, alternating between jumping on two legs, jumping with one leg bent behind you, jumping back to two legs, and jumping with the other leg bent behind you. (If you’re stepping this, start with both feet on the ground, followed by lifting one leg behind you, placing it back down and lifting the other leg.)
• Start standing upright with your hands on the stroller. Balance on your left leg with your right foot lifted up and touching your left knee. Bend forward as you push the stroller forward and extend your right leg straight behind you. Pull your leg back in to the knee and return to the upright position as you pull the stroller back to you. If keeping your right leg above the ground the whole time feels too intense, you can tap your foot down to the ground before leaning forward and extending your leg behind you. Repeat for 30 seconds.
• Repeat the circuit of hopscotch jumps followed by the leg raises on the other leg.
Targets your thighs, calves and obliques.
• Lock your stroller and stand in front of it with both hands on the handle. Stand with your heels together and toes pointed out at 45-degree angles.
• Lift your heels high, maintaining the connection between your heels. Bend your knees, keeping the knees over the middle toes of each foot. Pull your low abs into your spine and don’t let your pelvis tilt forward. Your upper body should be upright with your chest lifted and shoulders down. Don’t let your rib cage splay open.
• Holding on to the stroller in this diamond position, pulse up and down 10 times quickly and then 10 times slowly. Repeat this pattern three times.
These exercises can be tons of fun, but baby carriers can be the trickiest to incorporate correctly into mommy and me workouts. It’s a good idea to see a specialist to find the best carrier for you; the carrier should take pressure off your back and distribute weight evenly over your hips. A soft wrap can also be used for these exercises.
Targets your deltoids, triceps and biceps.
The great benefit of using a carrier when you exercise is that it can free up your arms! This exercise can be done with 2- or 3-pound weights or two water bottles. Note that you shouldn’t do these exercises if your carrier strains your neck, shoulders or back.
• Holding a weight in each hand, stand with your legs hip-distance apart, pull your low abs into your spine and keep your knees soft. Stand with your ribcage aligned over your hips and your chest lifted, not hunched, with your shoulders down.
• Reach each arm straight out to the side with the elbows slightly bent and the arms slightly in front of you. Do 20 small circles back and 20 small circles forward. Repeat two times.
• Bend your elbows by your side and hold the weights with your palms up. Reach both arms out to the sides while twisting the hands so your palms face down once the arms are outstretched. Twist back, pulling the elbows in again with palms up, and repeat 20 times. Keep your shoulders stable without rolling them forward when you reach your arms out.
You don’t need a stroller, carrier or any other special equipment to enjoy mommy and me workouts—you can lift baby in your arms, or simply place them on a blanket next to you. As baby grows, just be mindful that they can become difficult to hold while you exercise or too mobile to hang out with you on a blanket, so use your best judgement.
Leg raises on the back
Targets your abdominals and arms.
Note: This exercise can be problematic with a diastasis. If you have an abdominal split, consider placing baby next to you instead of on top of you and skip the upper body crunching section, keeping your head on the ground.
• Spread out a blanket on the ground and lie on your back with your legs hip-distance apart, your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place baby on your belly, either lying down on their stomach or sitting up with support. As you complete these exercises, be conscious of pulling your abs into the spine and exhaling as you exert effort.
• Inhale and then exhale as you pull your lower abs into your spine while lifting your right leg and then left leg to a tabletop position. Inhale and relax as you lower the right leg and then left leg back to the ground. Repeat four times, then do the same starting with the left leg.
• Inhale and exhale again, feeling your lower abs pulling into the spine on your exhale. Keep this feeling of the abdominals bracing into the spine as you lift your right leg to tabletop position and pulse it out from the hip 10 times. Return your foot to the ground and repeat on the left leg 10 times. Repeat both sides again.
• Lift both legs together, keeping them bent and a little higher than 90 degrees. Keep both hips on the ground while you twist your legs from side to side, creating a figure eight pattern with your legs. Complete eight figure eights.
• Stop with both knees bent to the right and pulse slightly up and down in this position 10 times. Repeat on the other leg 10 times, and complete this pattern again.
Targets your glutes and hamstrings.
• Stay on your back with your legs bent hip-distance apart and baby lying on your belly or sitting up. If baby is sitting, place them on or just above your hips.
• Lift your hips straight up to create a straight line from your knees down to your chest, then pulse up and down from this position 20 times.
• Keeping your hips in a lifted position, pulse your knees out to the sides 20 times.
• Alternate 10 hip lifts up and down with 10 knee pulses out to the side, and repeat this pattern four times.
Side seat work
Targets your glutes
This is a great exercise to do with a baby at any weight, especially if they’re a bit more mobile.
• Place baby on the blanket next to you with some fun toys, and lie to one side propped up on one of your hips and bottom forearm with your bottom leg slightly bent in. Make sure you don’t collapse your upper body into your bottom shoulder but rather lift under your ribcage and lengthen your neck.
• Align your top hip over your bottom hip and don’t let your top hip roll back during the exercise. Place your top hand on the ground in front of you for stability (or use it to play with baby!). If your bottom shoulder bothers you, lower your upper body to the ground and rest your head on your bottom arm.
• Extend your top leg straight out from your hip at hip level with your foot pointed, and pulse the leg up and down 20 times.
• Maintaining this extended position, circle the leg back 10 times, then forward 10 times. Repeat this pattern four times.
• Complete these exercises on one side, then turn over to repeat them with the other leg.
As a former professional dancer, Mahri Relin spent 12 years dancing around the world, and through dance discovered her passion for fitness. Mahri realized there were big gaps in fitness solutions for women going through their most significant life events and changes. She refined her own dance-inspired method through extensive research in and out of the studio and devoted her life to providing women with the most intelligent, personalized and joyful fitness experience possible. She’s the owner of Body Conceptions and a NASM certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, AFPA pre- and postnatal exercise specialist, and a certified wellness and nutrition consultant. Check out the Body Conceptions website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
Published October 2019
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.