Reclaiming Your Prepregnancy Body: Toning Your Chest, Thighs, and Tummy
Pregnancy can create a very particular physical stance: a big belly, rounded shoulders, and a curved back. And despite your best efforts, you too may develop just such a stance. But you’re not alone. Many women find it difficult to escape the strain of a belly’s added weight and suffer from that recognizable pregnancy posture. These changes, along with internal changes, don’t allow the body to just snap back after giving birth. So after delivery, in addition to having a new baby—you’ll have a new body. One that you’ll need to retrain to breathe, stand, and sit. However, with some work, you may be able to bring your body back to its prepregnancy shape—or even surpass it.
BabyZone talked with some of the leading Body Sculpting, Pilates, and the Tupler Technique fitness experts to find a variety of exercise options safe enough to begin shortly after delivery. The following exercises will help to retrain and gently rebuild your body, especially those trouble spots that suffer during pregnancy—the chest, thighs, and tummy.
Each of these exercise routines is specifically designed for target spots and should be done in conjunction with cardiovascular work—something as simple as going on a long walk.
Body Sculpting with Weights
Brad Schoenfeld, author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect and the best-selling book Look Great Naked, believes that many women short-change the benefits of weight training, thinking that it will leave them looking bulky and masculine. “First of all, it’s virtually impossible for a woman to bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” says Schoenfeld. Instead, he contends that weight training helps a woman be in charge of how she wants to sculpt her body. Weight exercises not only define muscles, but they also increase a woman’s metabolism, meaning that you’ll be burning fat and shedding pounds long after your workout.
When to begin: With a doctor’s permission, beginners can start weight training with 3- to 5-pound weights, four to six weeks after delivery.
How Often: Weight train three days a week with a rest day in between and two recuperation days. For each of these exercises, strive for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions and take a 30-second to one-minute rest period between each set. Complete this group of sets before moving on to the next exercise.
Chest: Seated Row
For this exercise, you’ll need strength bands. You can purchase strength bands at sports stores and health clubs. The exercise may also be done without bands or, when you become more comfortable, with minimal weights such as one to 3 pounds.
Sit with your back straight and your legs together in front of you, so that your body forms a 90-degree angle. Position the middle of the band across the bottoms of your feet (at the arches) and grasp the handles with your hands. Start the exercise with both arms extended straight forward, toward your feet and parallel to your legs and the floor. While holding the band handles, pull both arms back in a smooth motion towards your chest. Focus on your shoulder blades coming together. Gradually return your arms to the starting position. For modifications, you can place your back against a wall or bend your knees.
Stand with your right foot forward and in front of your body, just as if you’ve taken a big step. Bend your right knee, bringing your body towards the floor, allowing your left foot to flex as you keep your left leg straight and parallel to the floor (your left knee should almost touch the floor). Push away from the floor with your right foot and return to the starting position. Remember to keep your front knee in line with your foot as you bring it forward. Complete the three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions before alternating to the other side. If this is too difficult, complete as many repetitions as you can, working up to three sets of 15. For added intensity, grasp a weight in each of your hands while your arms hang at your sides.
Abdominal: Side Twist
Grab a broomstick or similar object and hold it behind your neck with your arms comfortably holding it up, elbows bent. Keep both your lower and upper body strong and straight, looking forward throughout the exercise. Begin by twisting your body using your arms to bring the broom end forward, but striving to have the motion powered by your side abdominals (obliques). Gently twist to the other side, again using your abdominal strength as the driving force. Your head should not move with the bar. This exercise not only opens the chest but also trims your waistline.
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