Strengthen Your Abs With This Gentle and Effective 15-Minute Postnatal Workout

If you've had a baby, you're more than likely familiar with all the changes your body goes through, like morning sickness, heartburn, an aversion to all scents and foods, sciatica, expanding hips — you get the point. Another common change you may have experienced is the separation of your abdominal muscles, called diastasis recti.

"Diastasis recti occurs when pressure from the growing uterus causes the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles) to spread sideways, overstretching the connective tissue that runs along the center of the abdomen," Leah Keller, ACE-certified trainer and creator of the Every Mother EMbody Program told POPSUGAR.

According to Leah, diastasis recti can leave women with "bulging" or "coning/protruding" abs, back pain, incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. While you may be tempted to return to ab-strengthening exercises like planks, "To safely rebuild core strength and restore function, it's important to pivot your approach to core training," Leah said. This means avoiding exercises that "bulge the abdominal wall forward or thrust the rib cage apart," like a crunch, until your abs have healed.

To help you rebuild your core strength, Leah created a quick and gentle 15-minute ab workout. Before performing this workout, or participating in any postnatal exercise, be sure to get cleared by your medical provider. For more workouts from Leah, check out her exclusive pre- and postpartum workouts on Glow.

The 15-Minute Postpartum Ab Workout

Equipment needed: one lightweight dumbbell; 2.5 to five pounds is a good starting point.

  • Waist anchor in twist: complete slow, controlled repetitions for one minute on each side. Complete this sequence three times.
  • Single-leg lift: complete slow, controlled repetitions for one minute on each side. Complete this sequence three times.
  • Waist cincher: complete slow, controlled repetitions for one minute with your left hand on your stomach. Repeat for one minute with your right hand on your stomach.
Waist Anchor in Twist
Every Mother

Waist Anchor in Twist

Instead of doing a bicycle crunch, Leah said to do the waist anchor in twist.

  • Begin lying on your back with both of your knees bent and a light weight — 2.5 to five pounds — by your right hand.
  • Lower both knees to your left side while keeping your shoulders square to the ceiling. Your right shoulder should not lift up off the ground.
  • Grab the weight with your right hand and extend your right arm toward the ceiling.
  • Take a full breath, letting your stomach rise as you lower the weight toward your head. Your arm should be fully extended.
  • Exhale, and draw your belly button flat toward your spine as you lift the weight up and over your body, returning to the starting position.
  • This counts as one rep.
  • Complete slow and controlled reps with the weight in your right hand for one minute. Then, bring your knees to the right side of your body and move the weight to your left hand and repeat for one minute.
  • Complete three rounds total.
Single-Leg Lift
Every Mother

Single-Leg Lift

Instead of doing double-leg lifts, Leah recommended a single-leg lift. Here's how to do it:

  • Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent.
  • Fully extend your right leg and place your right hand on your abs.
  • Take a breath to relax your abdominal muscles.
  • Exhale as you flatten your abdomen into your spine and lift your right leg straight up. This movement should come from your abs, so be sure to recruit your ab muscles before you lift your leg.
  • Inhale, and lower your leg to the ground.
  • This completes one rep.
  • Complete slow and controlled reps with your right leg extended for one minute. Then, repeat the same movement with your right knee bent as you lift your left leg.
  • Complete three rounds total.
Waist Cincher
Every Mother

Waist Cincher

  • Begin lying on your back with your knees bent.
  • Place your left hand on your stomach, directly over your belly button.
  • Place your right hand underneath your head.
  • Take a breath and let your stomach expand.
  • Exhale and draw your abs flat to your spine as you simultaneously tuck your chin toward your chest. Think about nodding "yes." Avoid bulging your abs forward and keep your shoulder blades on the ground throughout the entire movement.
  • This completes one rep.
  • With every rep, be sure to bring your abs toward your spine and contract your pelvic floor (think about "pulling" it toward your head). Then, relax your abs and pelvic floor as you take a diaphragmatic breath (a deep breath from your diaphragm).
  • Inhale and return to the starting position.
  • Perform slow and controlled reps for one minute with your left hand over your belly button, then switch and repeat with your right hand over your belly button.
  • If you have pain in your neck or shoulders when you lift your head, keep it on the ground.