Summer is upon us, which means pools and beaches and many other opportunities to don a bathing suit. Bikini season can be a real bummer for new moms who aren't pleased with the body changes leftover from pregnancy.
The good news is that there's a lot you can do to help yourself look and feel better when baring more of your body this summer!
One spot that bothers new moms most is the lower abdominal area. After over-stretching during pregnancy, the lower abs often don't easily bounce back into place, leaving a looseness that makes moms shy away from low-cut bikini bottoms. For moms who had a c-section, this can be even more pronounced. Exercises that target and isolate the lower abdominal muscles can help tighten the area and shrink the "mommy pouch."
Follow the four exercises below, also explained in the video, to help firm the lower abdominal area in just 10 minutes a day :
1) Modified Hinge
Lying flat on your back with your knees bent, press your lower back flat (in a pelvic tilt) and lift the feet so that the shins are parallel to the floor (the table top position). Keep your low back glued to the floor as you inhale deeply, then exhale as you press the legs out straight, reaching up and out with the heels. The lower you go, the more difficult the exercise. But only go so low as you can maintain that flattened low back. Repeat for 10 reps.
Again, flat on your back with the pelvic tilt engaged and shins parallel to the floor in table top position, bring your hands to touch your ears (no pulling from behind the neck!) and inhale deeply. As you exhale, extend the right leg and draw the left knee inward while lifting the head and shoulders and reaching toward the left knee with the right elbow. Inhale to switch sides, extending the left leg, and exhale to crunch the left elbow toward the right knee. Keep your low back glued to the floor to engage the pelvic tilt throughout the movement. Continue with the breath, inhaling on the switch and exhaling on the crunch, for a total of 10 reps on each side.
3) Single Leg Extension
From the same table top position, press your low back flat and extend the right leg straight up with toes pointed, then extend the left leg to a position about 45 degrees to the floor. Keeping the low back flat, lift the head and shoulders and take hold of the right leg behind the calf (pilates pump). As you exhale, pull the right leg toward you for two pumps. Keep your head and shoulders up off the floor and both legs straight as you inhale and switch legs, moving the right leg downward toward the floor and pulling the left leg in toward your chest for two pumps as you exhale. Always keep your low black pressed flat into the floor throughout the movement. Repeat for a total of 10 reps on each side.
4) Full Hinge
From the table top position, press the low back flat and straighten the legs to press upward with both heels. Take at least five deep breaths to slowly lower the heels toward the floor, taking care to keep the low back flat. Only go so low as you can maintain the flattened low back, stopping at the point where you feel your low back start to peel up off the floor for a full deep breath. Then bend the knees in to start again. Repeat for 5 reps.
Start with one series, which should take you 5-6 minutes, then repeat. If you are too weak to maintain the pelvic tilt for a second set, give it a rest and repeat the set later in the day until you build strength. C-section moms: Be sure you are at least two months post-cesarean and have doctor approval before attempting these exercises!