Having a baby will completely change a person’s life. New moms have so much to adjust to: lack of sleep, a body traumatized by pregnancy and the birth process, a new family dynamic, a new life to care for, a new identity to embrace.
For the moms who have the wherewithal to prioritize fitness when they had been previously inactive, be sure to first offer your constant support and enthusiastic congratulations for making such an important decision to protect her health and longevity. This mom will require continued encouragement and celebration of successes no matter how small in order to reinforce their choice to commit to exercise.
Programming for New Moms
When working with a new mom who is also new to exercise, the key is to start slow and work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise. Always start with medical professional clearance and fitness assessments to include diastasis recti screening, posture (especially lumbopelvic hip dysfunction), and cardio endurance.
The first few sessions can be 15-20 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercises and core work. Keep an open line of communication, let your client know she is in charge and to trust her body and listen to her instincts. Let her know that warning signs of overtly high-intensity include dizziness, feeling deeply exhausted, and light-headedness.
Many women who have had children tend to have new problems they didn’t have before pregnancy such as low back or hip pain, often a result of a weakened core. The pressure of a growing baby stretches the transverse and rectus abdominus so that both need much attention and coaxing to return to their normal strength and positioning.
Start every session with core connection and activation exercises and then add a basic strength circuit of squats, pushes, and pulls, and end with some light cardio. Follow this format for two weeks before adding in some core training. After 4-6 weeks reassess your client’s strength and core control to move on to core training.
- Joints will have increased mobility due to a greater release of the hormone relaxin that prepares the pelvis for birth. Keep joint stability in mind and avoid exercises that require excessive balance, agility or high impact exercises at first.
- Note that many moms may have gained a lot more weight than they would have liked during their pregnancy and this may be their prime motivation for working with you. Remind them that they need to be patient with their body and then slow and steady wins the race!
When working with pregnant or new moms who are also new to exercise a lot of my workouts maintain a standing position or modified floor exercises. Here are some examples:
- To strengthen abdominals without crunches or lying on one’s back can be tricky but definitely doable. Try having the client do various plank exercises with the modification of hands on a box of 12” or higher. When I have my client do Mountain Climbers she likes to pull the leg into the body at a slight external rotation. So instead of my usual cue, “Draw knee towards chin” I direct her to “Draw knee towards elbow”. This feels better on her bump and hips.
- I also like to use Bird-Dogs to help strengthen the core muscles
- Since lying down is out of the picture second trimester on, I use single hand standing cable chest press.
- When working on squats I usually keep the weight held in front of the body, this also helps to strengthen the abdominals as well as the usual musculature that squats are prime for
- With back lunges I have my client use a TRX or any other sort of hand support to provide balance assistance
- Within the first few sessions I use resistance bands for rows, leg abductions and kickbacks, overhead presses, chest press and chest flies, and lat-pull downs. Especially if the client is starting their exercise routine while pregnant, resistance bands are a great tool to start with to learn form and how to push on resistance before introducing light to moderate free weights.
There’s never a “bad” time to start an exercise program unless medically prohibited. New moms certainly have a lot on their plate, but for those who have taken the initiative to prioritize their health, will surely handle their new lifestyle with more strength and ease.