Postnatal exercise mistakes


Avoid these top 6 postnatal exercise mistakes!

Given how precious few minutes mothers have to themselves, we can’t afford to waste precious workout time! These 5 moves achieve minimal effect or even worse, do more harm than good… Keep reading to avoid the 6 most common postnatal exercise mistakes.


A majority of childbearing women suffer some degree of abdominal separation that lingers after pregnancy, and sadly many conventional core exercises strain the connective tissue in the abdomen, inducing or worsening the condition. Diastasis recti has real health implications, including back pain, urinary stress incontinence and pelvic dysfunction, not to mention the cosmetic nuisance of a stubborn pooch. Exercises to avoid include crunches, bicycle crunches, reverse crunches, sit-ups, and even some classic moves in yoga (boat pose, for instance) and Pilates (roll-backs, double leg lifts, scissors...). The very exercises you might be doing to “get your body back” can actually exacerbate the problem you’re trying to fix. To state it as simply as possible: any movement that bulges the abdominal wall forcefully forward will further separate the abdominal muscles, making an existing abdominal separation worse, and possibly even causing one in a previously healthy abdomen. Always engage your abdominal muscles in a flat-to-flatter contraction as you exhale. Never brace, barrel or flex the abs forcefully forward in a bulging action.

So what can you do instead of conventional abs exercises? A great alternative workout for core strengthening and toning is our Core Compressions™ library, and our core intensive workouts. These challenge you to work every core muscle synergistically for comprehensive and effective core strengthening. And when you've resolved abdominal separation and established a solid baseline of core strength, you can move on to our progressive and very challenging Surpass program.

Rib thrusting

A sneakier mistake involves repetitive over-stretching of the lower ribs, which can happen when doing chest openers in yoga, performing strength moves like reverse flies with momentum, or lifting heavy weight overhead while over-extending the back. All of these moves open or splay the lower ribs, which separates the upper rectus abdominis. Check yourself while doing these moves, and either modify the range of motion to keep your ribs anchored in neutral, or skip the move if you cannot perform it without opening your lower ribs. To learn more, watch a video that explains more about healthy posture and exercise tips to protect your core in our Foundational video library.

All or nothing… which usually means nothing

Don’t wait for that elusive opportunity when you can get away for an hour at the gym! You could be waiting for a very long time, which will get in the way of meeting your postnatal exercise goals. Each step forward is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. All it takes is less than 30 minutes of exercise a few days a week to radically improve your fitness (and only 10 minutes daily to restore your core!). Squeeze in what you can, when you can. It might be the final minutes of your day, after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. It might be the first thing in the morning, or even a lunch break at work if you can swing it. Figure out how you can carve out a mere 30 minutes as a gift to yourself 3-4 days per week – put it on your calendar, and keep that appointment.

Stuck in a rut

We all have favorite activities or routines, but we have to keep challenging ourselves in new ways so the body continues to respond and improve. Definitely include a couple different resistance workouts each week. Take your workout outside for a refreshing change, or inside. Try increasing the weight you lift and decreasing the reps, or vice versa. Follow our full 12-week Reclaim program with variety and dynamic challenge built in, rather than sticking to your few favorite workouts over and over. Even your foundational, daily core compressions can benefit from new body positions – try them in a side plank, while lying in fetal position (be sure to do it on both sides), in a wall-sit or on all fours. The key is to keep mixing it up to stay focused and challenge your body in new ways, getting the most out of each minute.

Cardio crazy

Are you sticking solely to cardio for every single workout? Whether it’s running or elliptical, cycling or swimming… a cardio-only workout routine will not serve you in the long run (pun intended!). To keep your metabolism revving, to build strength and improve posture, and to improve muscle tone, you must incorporate strength training! This can include body weight exercises, free weights or resistance bands – or all of the above. Strength training is vital. It will do more than you realize to achieve your aims…and no, it will not bulk you up! Our EMbody workouts offer a great combination of resistance and aerobic moves to efficiently achieve your health and fitness aims.

Boot camp beware

I know you’re eager to get your body back, and a super intense, sweaty all-out effort can feel like you’re really doing something. Well – you are doing something, but it probably won’t achieve exactly what you hope. All boot camps are not created equal, and and not every boot camp class is necessarily injurious… but I will warn you that injuries are common, and new moms are especially at risk. The fast, power-based moves that define boot camp style classes place excessive pressure on the abdomen and the pelvic floor. This stress further separates post-pregnancy abs and further weakens the pelvic floor. Note: if you feel bladder pressure or experience “leaking” while performing any exercise, you should not be doing it!

Harness the power of science to achieve the body you want without collateral damage. Don’t just work hard; work smart.

By Leah Keller, Founder of the EMbody Program. Learn more about Leah here.

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