“I want to start weight lifting after baby, but I don’t know where to start”
This is another super common inquiry I get, and it is one of my #alltimefavoritethings to teach moms (and other people who have made babies!) all about how to get into weight lifting!!
A week ago, I collaborated with one of my favorite human’s, Dr. Chrissy Clark (who also happens to be a board-certified specialist in Women’s Health–we studied together and (spoiler alert), we both passed!!!).
We talked about many things, but here is a 34-minute video about how to get started in CrossFit postpartum! Dr. Chrissy is a Level 2 Cross Fit Coach, but the recommendations are also good for any type of functional weight lifting!!
If you “don’t have 34 minutes to watch this”…there is a less than 5-minute read below, and if you’d rather watch…remember, if you click on the cogwheel, then you can replay it at 1.25 or 1.5 speed!
CrossFit, or other weight lifting after baby!
In general, people who are postpartum have different barriers that “regular” people
Barriers to Weight Lifting After Baby
- Energy availability: This person who just had a baby…they literally just created a human inside their body. That’s a superpower. They also are healing from either a Cesarean Incision (check out this Instagram post or this blog post, for what happens in a C-section) OR ‘just’ the placental detachment, which is a wound that is about the size of a dinner plate, on the inside of the uterus. That’s a major energy drain…
- Energy availability: This person who is healing, is also likely sleep deprived. More on injury risks from sleep deprivation another time, but for now, suffice it to say that if you’re not sleeping well, you might not ‘feel like you have the energy’ to workout.
- Time Management: All of a sudden, this healing, sleep deprived person, is trying to manage new people in the household…and it’s not just the new baby…it’s the mom and the dad (or other raisers of the child). There’s more laundry, more cleaning, more complexity in general. And a person who has had a baby might feel that they ‘don’t have time’ to workout, in a different way than someone who has never had a baby.
Common Physical Limitations to Weight Lifting After Baby
In addition to the non-physical barriers to starting weight lifting after baby, there are also some common physical barriers.
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvic region: From direct wounds, incisions or tears, to indirect pain from nerve damage during pregnancy or delivery, postpartum people might have real, new, pain complaints than their non-postpartum counterparts. Go to a Pelvic PT (here’s a link to find one near you!), or buy one of my programs, to help with this pain, so that you can participate in class like you want to!!
- Weakness and incoordination of the core abdomen, pelvic region and back muscles. This can lead to pain, leakage, and ‘just feeling weak’ or ‘not confident’ in yourself, thereby limiting your participation. Check out this amazing Free IG Post about how to train your brain to figure out what is diaphragm (for breathing) vs abdomen (for supporting lumbar spine) vs pelvic floor.
- Stiffness in hip flexor (and pelvic) muscles. This happens as a result of #1 and #2…and as a result of the fact that during your 3rd trimester, your low back (lumbar spine) couldn’t move at all…and now that you are in your 4th trimester, your abs area ll stretched out…and your back is literally stiff…but you brain senses that you don’t have the muscles to ‘protect’ the back, so it asks the muscles it can find (the pelvic floor and the hip flexors) to ‘tighten up’ to stabilize the back. :(. This is not cool.
So should I avoid weight lifting after baby until I address those things?
Not necessarily. While I am clearly a huge advocate of EVERYONE receiving Pelvic PT AT LEAST once a trimester during pregnancy, and as a standard of care, AT LEAST 4-6 visits postpartum, if this really isn’t possible for you, then know that those are likely physical limitations that you ‘will have’, but discuss them with your strength coach, and work on them in a group fitness setting.
From my experience, which is 16+ years as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in the Pelvic Health Field, and the past 10 years as a Board Certified Specialist (and the past year as one of only 72 DOUBLE Board Certified Specialists), a key to focus on is “active core, relaxed pelvic floor”, or “active core, and breathe…”
For those of you that don’t know what this means…an active core is a ‘deep “zipping up” of your core muscles, wrapping the outer abs inward towards your belly button, and GENTLY pulling your belly button back towards your spine, AND slightly up towards your back bra line.’ Can you maintain this stabilization and NOT also clench your rectum? What about can you maintain this stabilization and still breathe?
This is vital to your recovery, as the ab muscles need to find their “new-old normal” resting place. Their old resting tone has been thrown out the window after being stretched out for 10 months. Now, you need to ‘do the work’ and up train those muscles for a period of 6-12 weeks.
“Do I have to think ‘active abs, relaxed pelvic floor forever?” Probably not. After an appropriate period of retraining, your “active tone” now…will eventually become your resting tone later, and THEN you can do exercises without focusing extra attention on your core.
Stay Fit, Don’t Stay Still
So what are good exercises to start with???
Both Dr. Chrissy and I have our favorites, mainly because they are easy to do, without extra equipment, and work a lot of muscle groups!
- Body Weight Squats
- Bent Over Rows
- Push Ups, or Plank, or Similar
The amount of variations on the above 3 activities are limitless. I’ll have other posts that go over variations in detail, but for now, know that these are the exercises that will work the biggest muscle groups, in combination, in a way to most effectively boost your metabolism and function strength!
Focus first on your body position, build up to 2 sets of 15-20 with good form, then start to add weight and challenge until you fatigue around 3 sets of 8-10 to build strength!
I hope this helps you understand how to get into weight lifting after baby!
My catalogue of courses currently includes The Signature Series, which is a full course of Pelvic PT, streamable from the comfort and privacy of your own home, to smaller courses on Push Prep & Diastasis Recti Recovery. Courses on Pooping Better, Male & Female Pelvic Pain, on Prostatectomy Prep (or Recovery), and YES, on just getting darn strong, are in the Pipeline.
These courses will help you hurt & leak less, and become strong and confident in daily (& nightly 😉 activities! What other motivation do you need?
Did I mention that for every 4 courses I sell, I will donate one to a person in need, through my People Before Profits Program. I am so proud of this. By buying my program you are not only helping yourself (or your loved one), but also someone in need.
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