Is your post-baby belly too much of a handful? Follow Deborah Mackin’s exercise plan and you too, can have the taut tummy of your dreams.
Celebrities can spring back into an enviable shape after having a baby, so why can’t you? Okay, most of them have youth and great genes on their side, but more often than not they also have an excellent exercise regime (and a highly motivated personal trainer) to thank. Remember that no matter how bad things look right now, your abdominals are never a lost cause.
Think about what your abdominals have been through during pregnancy. They stretched by about 60cm, and your uterus grew from the size of a plum to the size of a watermelon. The main stomach muscles become separated down the middle by as much as four finger widths. This gap doesn’t automatically close after birth – it’s a gradual process that occurs as the muscles slowly regain their strength.
Even if you’ve lost all the weight you gained during pregnancy, you’ll probably still have handfuls of flesh where your bump used to be. Even Victoria Beckham and Yasmin Le Bon had this and look at them now! But the good news is that your stomach muscles are very responsive, so performing the correct exercises slowly, employing control and good technique, will make a huge difference.
You can start following some of these basic exercises (see before the six week check) the day after you give birth, unless you’ve had a caesarean. In that case you should wait until your six-week check-up and ask your doctor first. Getting started is the tough part, especially when you feel fat, weak and tired after giving birth. But if you start with just two or three repetitions, you’ll be well on the way to a board-flat stomach.
Don’t expect to see instant results – you have to accept that your waist took nine months top get that big and it might take another nine months before it returns to pre-pregnancy size. And don’t worry too much about dieting – fat loss will come if you make sure you exercise and eat correctly.
Before the six-week check: Abdominal compressions are the most important exercise to do since it shortens and strengthens the transverse muscles which stabilise the spine and flattens your abs – which will enable you to get into your pre-pregnancy jeans quicker!
This is a very simple movement that builds abdominal strength while flattening your tummy and helping good posture. Like pelvic floor exercises, this can be done anywhere, anytime, so get going! Start off by standing up and pulling in your tummy – imagine you’re trying to stick your navel to your spine. Hold for five seconds (do not hold your breath), keeping the rest of your body relaxed. Repeat this four times. Increase the time you hold the compression to 10 seconds.
Doing these compressions every day will help to strengthen the stomach muscles and get them used to being worked. Once you have learned them, these compressions will prove invaluable. Do them on a regular basis and their effects will last your entire lifetime.
Do the pelvic tilt
This action also involves the muscles that aid good posture, standing correctly helps you look slimmer! A pelvic tilt will keep stress away from the spine by activating the abdominals
1. Stand with feet hip width apart and slightly bent knees and curl the pelvis forward – imagine pulling the lower abdomen upwards and pushing your tail bone down towards the floor.
2. Start by holding this position for ten seconds, you will find that your muscles get used to this position very quickly and you will be able to hold for a minute or more several times a day. This is the safest position for lifting, carrying, pushing a pushchair or standing for any length of time.
After the six-week check: For your abdominals to have visible definition, you need trained muscles and low body fat, while achieving a flatter stomach requires building stamina in the transverse muscle – the one that helps you pull your stomach in!
The basic crunch
Take time to learn this exercise correctly since you will probably be doing it for the rest of your life! You can intensify the movement by working at half the speed. Begin with 10 repetitions, one or two seconds up, one or two seconds down and aim for 25 repetitions.
|1. Lie flat on the floor with knees bent, feet flap and hip-width apart. Keep the knees a comfortable distance from your|
buttocks. Keep the shoulders relaxed and down. Support your head with your hands. Keep pelvis in neutral and your abs pulled flat as you inhale.
|2. Compress the abs and exhale as you lift your head, shoulders and ribs off the floor. Lift as high as you can, keeping the lower back on the floor, the hips still and the abs pulled flat. Lower and inhale.|
This yoga exercise targets your trunk muscles to increase in strength and stamina – all postural stabilisers. It is demanding movement that requires patience and skill.
|1. Lie face down on the floor. Lean on your forearms and look down.|
Compress the abs and relax the buttocks
|2. Lift your stomach and hips off the|
floor and hold. Lengthen the neck and spine and aim to make a straight line from shoulder to knee. There should be no movement apart from your breathing.
Aim to hold for 10-seconds.
Do it daily
Aim to exercise every day. Before you start, spend a few minutes warming up and energising. Exercise is always more effective if you warm up beforehand and cool down afterwards.
Before excercising, spend a few minutes:
- Stepping up and down the bottom stair
- Doing knee bends
- Marching on the spot (fast and slow)
After each session:
- Lie on the floor, pull your knees up to your chest and hold. Roll your knees round to release.
- Extend your legs and arms and let your body stretch out.
To find out more about getting back into shape after pregnancy, Deborah Mackin’s Getting Back (the complete exercise and diet guide to reshaping after children) is available on DVD, video or as a book. You can order your copy by calling 01865 558833 or online at www.gettingback.co.uk and for every copy of the video sold, Tommy’s will receive 20p!